How to get Austin’s bike network up and running now

This is just a small sample of what you get EVERY weekday if you subscribe to the Austin Politics Newsletter

In November, voters have a chance to approve a historic investment in pedestrian and bike infrastructure that will allow the city to make serious progress towards building out the “All Ages & Abilities Bicycle Network.” 

There is a hierarchy when it comes to bike infrastructure. The ideal is a wide urban trail that is entirely separated from the danger, the noise and the pollution of car traffic. Even hesitant bicyclists are comfortable riding on that. Below is the Southern Walnut Creek Trail.

Next best are bike lanes along roads that are fully protected by a continuous physical barrier. Here’s a bike lane in San Francisco that is separated from the vehicle lanes by landscaping. The bike lanes downtown on 3rd St. are about the closest we’ve got to this setup.

Elsewhere in Austin we often see protected bike lanes with either these bumps, like the ones show below on Jones Rd, or “flexible delineator posts,” like the ones on S. Congress in the photo below.

Both of these options are OK. The bumps provide a visual barrier that will deter cars, although it’s not hard to imagine a number of clueless drivers thinking it’s OK to roll over them to park.

The value of the vertical sticks depends on how many of them there are. The more space there is between each one, the less impact they likely have, both in terms of keeping motorists out of the bike lane and in making bikers feel safe. This section of S. Congress shown below, for instance, leaves a lot of room for misinterpretation.

And last, there are the temporary bike lanes that the city recently set up on Congress with traffic cones. Obviously traffic cones aren’t permanent and can be stolen, fall over or blown away, but it’s an unambiguous visual cue to drivers to stay away. 

The city recently announced that the temporary protected bike lanes on Congress will be transformed into permanent protected bike lanes (with the plastic sticks and parking stops). Which prompted this brilliant idea from a citizen:

This seems like an idea at least worth exploring. I doubt the cost of acquiring enough traffic cones to do this is high enough to cause concern.

The greater concern would be political: will people get annoyed at having to look at temporary bike lanes on their streets for years? They’re not as visually-pleasing as a proper bike lane, and traffic cones are typically associated with construction, so it might create the perception that the city is not doing its job. Which may actually be a good thing for bike advocates, since it might create additional pressure on the city to build the permanent bike lanes!

This is just a small sample of what you get EVERY weekday if you subscribe to the Austin Politics Newsletter

Leave a Reply