The Northeast Texas Regional Mobility Authority has voted to ban bicycles on Toll 49 in Smith County.
The vote came on Tuesday afternoon at a NET RMA meeting in Texarkana by a vote of seven to six. The ban will now be turned over to the Texas Department of Public Safety for enforcement.
Earlier on Tuesday, a NET RMA member proposed a resolution to allow bicycles on Toll 49 from Highway 110 to Highway 155 on Saturdays and Sundays from 6 a.m.- 10 a.m. This proposal would be in affect until another decision was made or until a separate bicycle path was built. The proposal would have required appropriate bike signs along the toll road and paint striping for the separate bike path.
Back in March, the NET RMA developed a resolution and told the Smith County cycling community they could continue riding along Toll 49 as long as they came up with $60,000 for striping and signage needed to create a designated bike lane.
At Tuesday's board meeting, cyclists announced they raised more than $65,000. However, NET RMA started second guessing that resolution and after about two hours of discussion, voted to ban cyclists from using the toll way all together.
"All of a sudden now they are backing off that completely. it's an old legal concept called detrimental alliance. Now, whether or not that is going to apply to a governmental entity or quasi governmental entity like we have here in the NorthEast Texas RMA, that's another question," said Robert Hindman, an attorney who attended Tuesday's board meeting in favor of cyclists on Toll 49.
"Without a doubt this is disappointing. To see something that the public is so behind, you know, has such enthusiasm for. You know, we calculate more than half the employment tax base of the county is in support for. You know, to be decided this way, it's just disappointing," said Tyler Simpson, a member of the Tyler Bicycle Club.
Those cyclists who attended Tuesday's meeting said they were disappointed, but hopeful.
"I was a little encouraged in that the vote was close. It was seven to six against us, or in favor of banning us. But that showed me that in addition to the support that we had from the community in raising the money, we had support on the board for looking at these alternate forms of transportation," said Mike Butler, who is in favor of cyclists on Toll 49.
So, what happens to that $65,000 the cycling community raised?
"That money will have to be offered back to those donators, because it's not going toward what it was initially intended to go toward," explained Simpson.
The next step for cyclists looking for a place to ride? The NET RMA said roughly $30,000 will need to be raised to pay for an environmental study for a possible bike or shared used path in a Toll 49 corridor.
"So, we are going to have to find those dollars somewhere. Then, we can move forward with a county assistance program, which would allow some funding, but primarily it's just surplus materials supplied by the state and it will possibly have volunteers involved. I think the cycling community will get behind it," Simpson said.
These cyclists said they will return home and share Tuesday's resolutions with their cycling community and together, they will decide where to go from here.
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