This week there’s going to be three public meetings regarding the future of Shoal Creek Blvd from 38th Street to U.S. 183.
Right now, 38th is where the beautiful Shoal Creek trail ends, forcing bikers onto Shoal Creek Blvd. At first glance, you might think that Shoal Creek Blvd has two very wide bike lanes. But then you notice there are cars parked there. Indeed, cars are allowed to park in the bike lane on both sides of the street. As a result, bikers are threatened by drivers coming into the bike lane to park as well as parked cars driving off. It’s an extremely dangerous situation.
The good news is that, despite bellyaching from some residents of Shoal Creek Blvd, parking on at least one side of the street is most likely going to disappear to make way for a game-changing piece of bike infrastructure.
ATD won’t provide specifics yet, but the word is they’re going to offer a few different alternatives. The one that has been tossed around for a while is a two-way protected bike lane on one side of the street, which would allow parking to remain on the other side. The other option, favored by bike advocates, is to get rid of parking on both sides and put one-way bike lanes on both sides of the street. There’s also been some talk of putting in place a two-way protected bike lane in the center of the street.
Anyway, I don’t have strong feelings about which option they go with, as long as the result is protected bike lanes.
It’s hard to understate the importance of this 5.3 mile stretch. Getting protected bike lanes here will allow the city to complete a 30-mile loop of continuous bike paths: from the Shoal Creek Trail at the Central Library, past US-183 to connect with the future Northern Walnut Creek Trail, the Southern Walnut Creek Trail and ultimately the Town Lake Trail. I don’t know all the details but you get the idea –– this will be a continuous infrastructure providing safe, pleasurable bike travel through a huge part of the northern half of the city.
Essentially, this is the beginning of an attempt to build a coherent, connected bike network, much in the same way we’ve built a continuous system of highways for cars. Shoal Creek is to bikes as Mopac is to cars. The best part is that it only costs a fraction as much.
Here are two big questions:
First, is the decision going to be made by transportation staff or City Council? Staff has the authority to reallocate the right-of-way on its own, but that’s not always an authority it enjoys exercising in the face of political resistance. Second, Council can always interfere and block staff plans if it chooses. There are likely some on Council who would be happy to leave the decision to staff and not deal with the issue, others who may want to take the issue out of staff’s hands to block it and there may even be some multi-modal advocates who really want to force the tough debate and deliver a big win for bike infrastructure.
Second, if Council takes up the issue, how will it vote? If this Council can’t get this bike lane approved, its members really can’t pretend to care about reducing car dependence or climate change. The fruit doesn’t hang any lower than this.
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