But the Tyler physician said he's clocked countless miles and hours on Toll 49 because it's likely the safest place he's ridden.
In fact, he estimated that it makes up 50 to 75 percent of his rides.
“The main reason I consider it safe is it does have wide shoulders …” he said.
There also is “limited access and controlled access (and) visibility. You have long stretches where you can see. Occasionally, you will have a rise, but you're not hidden behind a hill more than a moment or two. In our (bikers') minds, Toll 49 is probably the ultimate in safety. We don't have a better environment.”
Gaddy was one of about 10 people who weighed in Tuesday afternoon before the North East Texas Regional Mobility Authority board considered banning bikes on the road. The issue was tabled so cyclists could provide more information.
NETRMA Chairwoman Linda Thomas said the Texas Department of Transportation has owned the road, but with the completion of Toll 49 to Interstate 20, the authority will take over. Therefore, she said it must establish its rules for the highway.
Everett Owen, project director for the mobility authority, told board members Tuesday that a proposed ban was brought up solely because of biker safety.
He received about 34 emails on the proposal — four of which were in favor of banning bicycles on Toll 49, and the rest were against it.
He said there were common threads in the public comments — people indicated that there is little traffic on the roadway and it is one of the safest areas to ride in Tyler, cyclists don't have to compete with fast-moving traffic and enjoy wide shoulders.
“All those things are true today, but I think the point is at some point in the future, those aren't going to stay true,” Owen said.
“As the road gets more traffic, it's going to become less safe for bicyclists so we brought this resolution to proactively say at some point in time, this road is not going to be safe for bicycle traffic.”
For instance, he said close to a ramp section, where the lane actually crosses the shoulder, a motorist may not know where a bicyclist on the shoulder is going to exit, and the bicyclist may not know where the motorist will exit.
According to traffic data presented by Owen, there were more than 1,100 transactions per day when Toll 49 first opened. That number went up as other sections opened. Last year, when Segment 3A opened from Texas Highway 155 in Noonday to Texas Highway 31, that number jumped to about 10,000 transactions, data showed.
It is estimated that Segment 3B, which will connect Texas Highway 31 and Interstate 20, will cause that number to jump to more than 16,000 transactions a day when it opens in the coming months. In 2020, more than 26,000 transactions per day are expected, Owen said. He estimated that 2 percent of the traffic is truck traffic but expects that number to rise. Ms. Thomas estimated that 50 to 60 trucks will go back and forth on the road per day solely for the Target Distribution Center.
When asked about adding a bike lane adjacent to the road, Owen said there is plenty of right of way for it, but the revenue is not there to build it. He noted that there is the option for a bike lane in the future.
So, “I think the options are to practically say bikes are going to be prohibited. I'm quite confident if we don't pass the resolution that as time goes by people make that determination on their own, and the real question is, 'Is anything tragic going to happen to drive that point home?'” he said.
But one-by-one, residents at the meeting told board members why they enjoyed the road.
John Adair, of Jacksonville, said he understands that safety is a concern, and it certainly is for cyclists, which is why they gravitate to roads with wide shoulders and safe environments.
However, he said the traffic volume argument, to him, doesn't substantiate that position because if they can't go to Toll 49, they will be forced onto other roads that in many cases will have much higher volumes of traffic.
“We find it much safer on (the toll road), and it will be a long time before traffic exceeds (U.S. Highway) 69 or (Texas Highway) 110,” he said.
“In my thinking, especially considering the fact that this mission statement for (the regional mobility authority) is to enhance mobility — to me that contradicts that.”
Adair also encouraged authority officials not to vote yet and to consider other information instead of going on “gut feel” or “perception of danger.”
“I ride highways all over this country and even in Europe, and I will tell you there are safe ways to accommodate all kinds of mobility,” he said.
She said it provides a healthy way to exercise.
“I know for myself that being out there and just having the freedom to ride on such a beautiful landscape, it makes exercising not only accessible, but you want to go out there. It keeps you wanting to be healthy,” Ms. Lewis said.
David Gersch, of Tyler, echoed Adair, saying a lot of new cyclists gravitate toward the road because it is safe.
“There are no intersections to worry about,” he said. “Until recently, there's been almost no traffic. Even with increased traffic, it's safer than alternative roads.”
He added, “The main thing (Toll 49) offers is a safe, smooth road that gets access to communities. You can … do rides on (there) and get back to your house safely. It's been a big component in increasing cycling in the Tyler area.”
Tyler Simpson, owner of Simpson's Fitness & Adventure Sports in Whitehouse, said the toll road was a factor in where he built his business, and he sees it as a connector for commuters.
“It connects South Broadway (Avenue) to (Texas Highway) 110. I see people coming in from (Toll) 49…They're using it as a connector to get somewhere…,” he said. “I would hate to see that safe connector closed to people trying to get around.”
Instead he suggested the possibility of signage to improve safety.
Tyler resident Mike Butler agreed, saying cyclists should be able to stay on the road and noting how the availability of cycling venues can improve a community's quality of life.
Kent Johnson, of Tyler, left the regional mobility authority with one comment: “There will probably be more lives saved (from a health standpoint) by allowing cyclists to ride on Toll 49 than there ever will be tragedies.”
Anyone with information for the North East Texas Regional Mobility Authority may contact Erin Lavender at 903-509-1552 ext. 4481229 or email@example.com.