TYLER (TYLER MORNING TELEGRAPH) - The 12-member North East Texas Regional Mobility Authority board voted 7 to 2 to allow bicyclists to ride on Toll 49 between Texas 110 South near Whitehouse and Texas 155 near Noonday.
The Authority has prohibited cyclists on all other parts of Toll 49.
The NETRMA assumed control of Toll 49 from the Texas Department of Transportation on March 2. State law does not prohibit bicycles or pedestrians on state controlled thoroughfares.
Local bicycle enthusiasts say there is a growing trend among residents across the country to use bicycles rather than cars to get between Points A and B.
Bicyclists already use thoroughfares in and across Tyler for short trips to grocery stores, daily commutes several miles to and from work and 50-plus mile endurance rides more and more each year, bicyclist Mike Butler said.
Butler said better, safer access for bicyclists is a "quality of life issue," which can be tied to higher property values and healthier, happier residents.
To bicyclists, Butler said, Toll 49 is the safest connection route available because it has limited access, wide shoulders and open stretches with good visibility for motorists and bicyclists.
Gary Halbrooks, vice chairman of the NETRMA board, said safety is the No. 1 concern for the board.
Halbrooks said Toll 49's original concept was to move cars and commercial trucks from Interstate 20 to southern Smith County and connections along the way, at a high rate of speed.
Traffic on completed portions of the toll road has increased as each segment opened, but the connection to I-20 is expected to draw 60 percent more traffic when it opens Thursday.
Butler and other cyclists said if safety is the No. 1 priority, they should have access to Toll 49 because to them it is the safest option.