Rider Profile, Couples Edition: Melanie and Sean Clancy
Melanie and Sean Clancy epitomize the active lifestyle in downtown Dallas. Melanie is the editor of the fitness website Active.com and an avid runner, cyclist, and triathlete in her free time. Sean is the Vice President of the Dallas Bike Coalition, certified running coach, spinning instructor and bicycle event planning specialist. He also has great hair. They moved to Dallas a few years ago and immediately immersed themselves in the urban bike culture by getting involved with the Deep Ellum Community Association then eventually taking over Bike Friendly Deep Ellum and making it the group it is today. Bike Friendly Deep Ellum has over 1,500 likes on their Facebook page and around 40 people consistantly showing up for their group rides every Thursday while the sun is still out after 5 pm. Their passion for living healthy runs deep and is contagious. If you don’t already have bike dates and volunteer in your community, you will after reading their profile.
Q: You two can be seen riding around town on all different types of bikes, why did you take up bicycling and what drives you to continue riding?
Sean: Cycling entered my life as I struggled to rediscover my passion for distance running at a time when I had relocated for jobs a few times. I was feeling less and less attached to each new city, but I found that cycling connected me to passionate locals and active lifestyle communities, while also keeping me fit and in-tune with experiences that allowed me to grow personally and professionally. Since picking up cycling in 2006 the bicycle has never left my side. It was the focus of my master’s thesis and continues to drive my passion and vision of a connected and cycling friendly future for Dallas.
Melanie: Initially, I took up cycling because I was worried I’d never see Sean again. Haha. We had just moved in together, and he was always leaving for hours at a time to go ride—I knew if I asked him to choose between me and his bike, I was going to be pretty lonely. But what keeps me riding is something different entirely – I genuinely fell in love with the sport on my own. Actually, not just cycling as a sport, but the act of getting on two wheels and just going. It’s one of the purest acts of freedom we have these days, and it’s addicting.
I know a lot of women who started riding for their partner, but riding for someone else doesn’t make a lasting habit. You have to create your own relationship with the bike, and for women I think that can be pretty intimidating. I’m lucky to be surrounded by a group of supportive women who love to ride and love to get others riding, and a lot of guys willing to be patient and teach without being condescending (including Sean!). At the end of the day, the awesome people I ride with are what keep me doing it.
Q: Give us your top bike date suggestions?
Sean: There are so many exciting and safe routes to numerous date destinations via bike in and around Dallas. The considerations we take into account during our bike date planning are distance, attire, and cuisine. My favorite current plans have been a ride to Jimmy’s Food Store to get snacks and a bottle of wine, and then a casual ride to White Rock Lake via the Santa Fe Trail. The east side of the lake has a stunning view of downtown and is a perfect picnic spot! (Another great location is Flagpole Hill). Evening date plans on the bicycle would take us down the bicycle sharrows on Main St. through downtown to Houston St. and then over to Trinity Groves across the pedestrian bridge to visit one of the many amazing concept restaurants there.
Melanie: One of my all-time favorite bike dates was Valentine’s Day a couple of years ago. Large Marge (the Margaret Hunt Hill bridge) was complete, but it wasn’t open to traffic yet. For once I planned the bike date instead of Sean, and I led him on this pre-planned route to throw him off the scent. When we reached the bridge, I pulled out chocolate covered strawberries and local craft beer and we had an impromptu picnic on the bridge with the best view of the skyline in town. Of course, if you did that today you’d get run over in a second, so these days I’d say exploring a few trails you don’t normally ride. The Trinity Skyline trail is way underused and has great views of downtown (when it’s not underwater). You could start there, then jump over to the Trinity Strand Trail and end at Rodeo Goat for a Fainting Goat drink. Another great one is taking the Continental Ave pedestrian bridge over to Trinity Groves and Four Corners Brewery. They have a great little tap room that’s open at night and on the weekends.
Q: What is your experience living in a single car household in Downtown Dallas?
Sean: Our experience has been extremely successful but it definitely takes a bit more communication on pre/post-work workout plans, mid-day meetings and who’s cooking dinner. The convenience of having a bicycle makes taking DART easier, especially when you want to extend your trip or personalize your schedule. We love walking places downtown—sometimes we’ll even walk from downtown to Deep Ellum, taking our chances that I-345 won’t collapse on us!
Melanie: I thought it would be tougher than it is! But going down to one car has taught me to actually use DART, walk more and of course, ride. When you’re forced out of necessity to reconsider Dallas as a pedestrian-friendly, mass transit-friendly city, you actually discover it’s not so bad out there! For instance, one day I had a bike fit out at Richardson Bike Mart (the Richardson location), and Sean had to work. He drove me out there, and then when I finished, I rode my bike to the closest DART station and took it back to downtown. I was SO proud of myself for just figuring it out and navigating the situation. It doesn’t sound like much in retrospect, but it was so empowering to know I could do it!
Q: With the Dallas Bike Coordinator, Ashely Haire, leaving the City of Dallas, what can the riders do to fill the gap until the position is refilled?
Sean: First: As dumb as this may sound – STRAVA! As we continue to grow as a city with new ideas, relocating company headquarters and cycling thoroughfares through the city we need to know where people are riding. This new technology allows city planners the ability to look at heat maps and commonly used streets. Second: help with a Bike Friendly organization (shameless plug coming) like Bike Friendly Deep Ellum, Bike DFW, Cycle Savvy DFW, Dallas Bicycle Coalition, or what Elbowz Racing team and Texas Department of Transportation has been doing with #ElbowzBikeSafeTxDot to bring more safety, awareness and participation to childhood cycling. Third: don’t talk down about our cycling culture. Every city has cyclists riding on the street and irate drivers but the collective and positive voice always prevails. Oh, and venture out further than White Rock Lake!
Melanie: Bike Friendly Deep Ellum and the Deep Ellum Community Association hosted a panel discussion recently about the current state of cycling in Dallas. I remember really distinctly Patrick Kennedy telling the crowd that if you don’t like something, the only way to get it changed is to do something about it. I think sometimes we can be too content to complain about something without taking real action. Or we expect/hope someone else (like Ashley) to fix it. The fact of the matter is that if you sit around waiting on things to get better, you’re going to be waiting a long time. Get involved, attend local events on the topic, and most importantly get in touch with your city council person. If you don’t know who that is, you can find out here. A lot of the transformative projects around Dallas right now started with one individual willing to take action and be persistent. Angela Hunt’s work on Lower Greenville is a great example of that. Hell, I used to complain that the city needed to put in a crosswalk across from our old apartment building in Deep Ellum. One day I thought, “maybe I just need to request it.” A little bit of Googling and filling out a few forms, and voila! A few months later we had a crosswalk. Even the smallest things can be changed with a little bit of action on our part.
Q: You’ve been organizing Bike Friendly Deep Ellum for a few years now, what does the next year have in store?
Sean: Bike Friendly Deep Ellum has been under our leadership since 2013 and started by another Cajun (Paul Adams) who relocated back to the bayou. We couldn’t have grown without the help of the Deep Ellum Foundation, Deep Ellum Community Association, Belmont Icehouse and the growing family of BFDE enthusiasts. We have a great model to follow thanks to the work of Bike Friendly Oak Cliff and some very influential individuals who use the bicycle as a vehicle of change and awareness for local community concerns. We look to do just the same and with a great bike shop (Local Hub) opening up in the neighborhood, our 3rd year is poised to be the best and brightest. We will start off the 3rd year with the first ever Bike Friendly Deep Ellum cycling kit, new logo thanks to Belmont Icehouse and established partnerships that will bring more events to the casual cyclists. If you are a road cyclist wanting more miles, a new resident looking for new social experiences or an established professional wanting to engage deeper with your city – we look forward to seeing you in 2016!
Melanie: Well Sean is the real brains of the operation! But we’ve started to slowly expand beyond our Thursday night rides with events like Cranksgiving, which we were lucky to partner with Local Hub on, and the upcoming Bikes vs. Cars movie screening/social ride. Active transit is so vital to the health of Deep Ellum, so we will begin to focus a little more on civic endeavors and charity opportunities. BFDE is only as good as the neighborhood we serve, so we have an important role to play in the long-term health of Deep Ellum. No more bust and boom cycles, we want to have a sustained, healthy, walkable, bikeable neighborhood.