Searching the web today for work comps and I ran across some of the new stuff happening in Austin. Austin implemented a new two-way, buffered bikeway on Bluebonnet Lane and Melridge Place, which runs about seven-tenths of a mile from near Rabb Road (up the hill from Zilker Park) to near South Lamar Boulevard. The track, installed by the city of Austin a couple of months ago, is a harbinger of what is likely to be many such segregated bike lanes around the city. Right now, Austin has three of them — Bluebonnet, Rio Grande Street for five blocks near the University of Texas and the off-street portions of the Lance Armstrong Bikeway.
But another is under
construction on Barton Springs Road, the Rio Grande track will be
extended another four blocks, and more are planned over the next year or
so for Rainey Street, South Congress Avenue south of Live Oak Street
and Berkman Drive in Mueller. The city is working on an overall network
of “low stress” bicycle tracks. The thinking is that many more people
would use a bike for basic transportation — including getting to and
from work — if the element of fear could be removed from cycling. Cycle
tracks, which separate the bike lanes from car lanes with a series of
plastic pylons rather than merely a 4-inch strip of white paint, are
seen as a way to provide that comfort.
Based on a U.S. census
figures, about 1.9 percent of Austinites used a bike regularly to
commute in 2011. That number might seem small, but it is about twice
what census numbers have generally shown for Austin and three times the
national average. It puts Austin in 11th place among U.S. cities.
The city’s goal is to have cyclists make up 5 percent of commuters by 2020. Thus the cycle tracks.
The four types of cyclists: less than
1 percent fall into that “strong and fearless” cohort, 7 percent are
“enthused and confident,” 60 percent are “interested but concerned” and
33 percent say “no way no how.” It stands to reason that making biking
safer would increase the commute percentage. Portland, which has
installed an array of bike facilities over the past generation, saw the
portion of commuting cyclists go from 1.2 percent in 1990 to a
best-in-the-country 6.3 percent in 2011. But to get this perceived and actual bicycle safety, and the resulting increased use, motorists will have to sacrifice.
Grande between Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and West 24th Street
used to be a two-lane street, with parallel parking on both sides. Now,
with the cycle track, it has either two lanes and no parking or, for
several blocks, one lane and parking on just one side of the road. On
Bluebonnet and Melridge, parking has been lost on the west side of the
street where the track runs. But there was no loss of driving lanes, and
lightly traveled streets like these are probably well-suited for giving
cyclists an alternative to a harrowing trip on South Lamar. The trade-off could be worth it. And not just to the enthused and confident.