Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Fort Worth Unseen

There’s a whole city out there that most people have never seen. I moved to Fort Worth in 1997. Having grown up in rural Missouri, my impression of Fort Worth was that it was a big city that wanted to call itself country. This was Cowtown and I went looking for cows on numerous occasions, without much success. What I did find was traffic. Lots and lots of traffic. Being the country boy that I am, I’m not a fan of this thing called rush hour. In the country, when you want to go somewhere, you go. It may take you an hour to get anywhere, but you go and the only thing that might slow you down farm equipment moving from one field to another. I learned to plan my life around traffic and discovered that the city folk did too. But what does that have to do with this unseen city?

Traffic in cities tends to flow in these channels that we call freeways. In Fort Worth, we also have these six lane streets that handle large amounts of traffic. Neighborhoods are connected to these major streets, so the typical person will drive a few blocks from their house to a major street, which will take them to the freeway, which takes them to another major street, which takes them to a lesser street on which they find their destination. People who navigate these channels and visit many of the venues around the city are said to have seen the city. These well-traveled channels will take you downtown, or the stockyards, or to the zoo, or to see the museums. They will take you to restaurants, to church, to school, and to work. Many destinations, but few routes to get there.

Most people, see the sites in Fort Worth as being these little pockets of beauty at the end of a concrete channel. So did I. My will to visit these places was tested by my desire to avoid heavy traffic and look for a parking space. But things changed one day when I picked a point on the map and asked the question, “What would it take to ride my bicycle to there?” Since I have even more of an aversion to riding a bicycle in traffic than I do to driving a pickup truck in traffic, the roads I would normally take became the ones that I sought to avoid. I found myself winding through one neighborhood and then another. I found myself seeing a Fort Worth that was very different from what I thought. This city wasn’t a bunch of venues connected by concrete chains. This city was much more beautiful than that. This city was quiet streets, filled with people out walking their dogs. This city had big houses with beautiful gardens. This city had parks that stretch for miles. This city had a river. This city had wildlife. Lots of wildlife. This city had tree-lined streets. This city had horses. This city had people in canoes. And yes, this city even had a few cows. It was there, mixed in among the beauty, that I found those venues that sit at the end of those concrete channels.

But here’s the thing. Without a bicycle, you won’t see it. If you walk, you’ll never get out of your own neighborhood. If you drive, your view is obscured by sheet metal and glass. I’ve tried. I’ve driven some of those same streets and there are things you miss. If people knew what they were missing, more people would stop saying, “I’d like to ride a bicycle,” and they’d go for a ride.