Waltons fund big push for bike infrastructure

In my inbox this morning:

MoveATX, a new community organization, will launch their advocacy efforts for
more multi-modal mobility infrastructure on Thursday, March 28. MoveATX
recently conducted a community survey on mobility and will release results at the
press conference.

MoveATX is getting $2 million from PeopleForBikes, a group based in Boulder, CO that is supporting a number of similar campaigns in other cities: Denver, New Orleans and Providence so far. PFB is getting much of its money for this effort from members of the Walton family (Walmart), two of whom live in Austin and are apparently big supporters of multi-modal transportation.

Screen Shot 2019-03-27 at 5.02.54 PM
Cars have been so good to the Waltons. And this is how they repay them?

In Austin, the group’s near-term focus will be to push the city to spend money that has already been authorized in the 2016 and 2018 bonds. The goal is to build out a bunch of the bike infrastructure in two years, rather than in four or five years. That is part of a long-term goal of showing the public how much of a difference the (relatively) small investment can make and generating enthusiasm for even more aggressive steps to reduce car dependence.

The effort, which is being run by Jim Wick, Adler’s former strategist, coincides with a resolution that Council will vote on tomorrow that instructs city staff to accelerate the completion of bike projects.

The campaign has already done polling on transportation issues and plans to invest in a variety of paid media and canvassing, says Wick. That could potentially include: billboards, pedicab, BCycle advertising, digital ads, direct mail, social media.

I’m excited to see how this plays out. While most elected officials in Austin have professed support for pedestrian and bike infrastructure in recent years, there simply hasn’t been enough pressure on them to commit to the goals they have set –– with the Bicycle Master Plan, the Urban Trails Master Plan and the Sidewalk Master Plan.

Back in 2014, the authors of the Bicycle Master Plan estimated that about 40-45% of this city has absolutely no interest in ever riding a bike. Meanwhile, about 17% said they felt comfortable riding bikes around town, whether or not they did so regularly. The report estimated that if we built a true “All Ages & Abilities Bicycle Network,” that allows bikers to get around the city via quiet streets, protected bike lanes and urban trails, the percentage of people willing to bike would increase to 55-60%.

Of course, the master plan was done long before electric scooters came to town. Which raises the question: what percentage of Austinites would be willing to bike or scooter if there was adequate infrastructure in place?

The estimated $150 million price tag for the bike network would be a bargain even without the scooters, but their existence makes such an investment even more compelling. The benefits in terms of reduced congestion, air pollution, affordability, safety and overall quality of life would be enormous.

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