The Austin 2009 Bicycle Plan Update is making its way to City Council. It is scheduled for public hearings with the Planning Commission on May 12th at City Hall at 6:00 pm and with the City Council on May 21st at City Hall at 6:00 pm. The goal of the Austin 2009 Bicycle Plan is to
transform Austin into a world-class bicycling city. You can read a
recent letter sent to neighborhoods and interested parties about the upcoming hearings here.
Given the number of cyclists living in or passing through the neighborhood, I took a look at the Plan to see what is planned for streets in Allandale. You may be pleased to know there are no curb islands in the Plan – not on Shoal Creek or any other street within Allandale’s boundaries. Actually, Shoal Creek, which had curb islands on both sides of it for a short time in 2005, has protected status as a result of that failed experiment. No changes can be made to it without city council approval. If you were not in the neighborhood at the time, here is a summary of the project that is actually a part of the 2009 Bicycle Plan.
I met with Annick Beaudet, the City of Austin’s Bicycle Program Manager, a couple of weeks ago to talk about the Bicycle Plan and get her help in determining what is in it for Allandale. She brought a copy of the plan and told me about the 1 to 2-year long effort to update the Plan. You can see the full Plan here.
The focus of this article is on improvements to bicycle facilities, i.e., streets, roads, paths, etc., that are included in the Bicycle Plan. The Plan addresses more than making streets around the city more bicycle friendly but the surveys show the lack of facilities in a city are the primary reason people don’t bike. People won’t commute by bike to work, for example, if they do not have a safe route to get there.
Before getting into the specifics, it is important to note that not all of the facility improvement projects in the plan will happen in the next year or two. Some may not happen at all because of funding, the project’s overall priority relative to other bicycle projects/improvements in the City, or because after the experts take a closer look at the project they determined it’s not not feasible. A number of the simpler improvements that will make it easier and safer for cyclists to get around like bike lanes and signage will be put in place as streets and roads are resurfaced or
upgraded. The Plan is not limited to looking at where more bike lanes can be added (facility development), but addresses other efforts to boost cycling as well including: inter-departmental and interagency coordination, public education, enforcement, promotional campaigns, and supportive public policy.
The challenge for cyclists living in Allandale is traveling east/west. Shoal Creek, Great Northern and Bull Creek south of Hancock are pretty good for north/south travel. Both Great Northern and Shoal Creek are striped, however there
are not many east/west streets in the neighborhood with bike lanes. Shoal Creek is striped but it is designated as a shared use parking lane. That’s the designation given to streets where cars are allowed to park in bike lanes. These make for an uneasy pairing. Understandably, homes along the street want the ability to park cars in front of their house but it makes it dangerous for cyclists riding by those parked cars, particularly if someone is opening the car door to get out of the car as a cyclist rides by.
The easiest way to learn about what is being proposed for Allandale with regard to street improvments in the Plan is to show it. I have created a Google map with the current and proposed designations for many of the major streets in the neighborhood. I consider it a major east/west street if it spans the distance between MoPac and Burnet Road north of Allandale Rd and from Bull Creek to Shoal Creek south of Allandale Rd.
If it is east/west bike lanes that Allandale needs, what does the bicycle plan provide? Currently the only east/west
bike lanes in the neighborhood are Foster Ln on the north end that runs parallel with Anderson Ln. It goes from Great Northern on the west side of the neighbohood to Northcross Dr that crosses Burnet Rd. The other east/west bike lane in Allandale is further south on Hancock Drive. It goes from Balcones Dr west of MoPac to Burnet Rd. These remain as is in the Plan.
Some of the other east/west streets that may have some appeal to cyclist are Greenlawn Parkway that goes from Great Northern to Burnet Rd.; Twin Oaks and White Horse Trail, which run from Shoal Creek to Burnet Rd; and White Rock Dr that stretches from Great Northern to Allandale Rd near Burnet. All are currently designated as a wide curb
lanes and all but White Horse are being recommended to be upgraded to a bike lane in the Bike Plan. This is good because White Rock and Twin Oaks are part of the bike route for children riding their bikes to Gullett or Lamar.
South of Allandale Rd, there are three east/west streets that take you to Burnet Rd from Shoal Creek. They include Shoalmont Dr., Lawnmont Ave., and North Loop. Actually North Loop doesn’t go all the way to Shoal Creek from Burnet Rd. It ends at Woodview Ave but it is an important part of an east/west route for cyclists because it currently has a bike lane on it and goes as far east as Airport Blvd. No changes are recommended for it in the Bike Plan. Neither Shoalmont or Lawnmont on in the Plan.
Much of Hancock is currently a bike lane. The Bike Plan recommendation is to make the entire length of it a bike lane. Forty-fifth Street is currently not safe for cyclists. As appealing as it looks on the map for an east-west route,
it is too narrow for cars and bikes to share harmoniously. I rarely see cyclists on it. It is currently designated as a shared lane which means either you or the car gets the rightmost lane but not both. A bike lane on 45th St that stretches from Bull Creek to Airport is what is recommended in the Plan.
Looking at the streets just within the boundaries of the neighborhood is a bit myopic. The objective of the Plan is to get more people to bike for transportation. Laying out a network of safe routes to popular destinations like parks, shopping areas, restaurants, grocery stores or to work is what is needed. Cyclists need a safe route through and beyond their neighborhood boundaries. In Allandale, the streets with bike lanes that span from MoPac to Airport Blvd are best for east/west travel. Roads like Shoal Creek and Bull Creek on the west side of the neighborhood just south of Hancock are best for north/south travel. Most of my travels in and out of the neighborhood on bike involve Shoal Creek. I take it if I am going to Anderson Village or to an east/west road that I can safely take to my end
point which may include HEB on Burnet Rd., (Shoal Creek to Bull Creek Rd to Northland over to Burnet), to work downtown, (Shoal Creek to 31st St. and then onto the Lamar sidewalk to downtown, or to Central Market, (Shoal Creek to 47th, go left to Ramsey. Take Ramsey south of 45th and cross over on one of the side streets to Central
I did not read the entire plan (it’s a long document) but I hope it
addresses better signage/street markings at the intersection of
Woodview, North Loop, and Hancock. As you enter the intersection, there are 5 roads that come together making it harder for cyclists entering the intersection to make their intentions known on which street they intend to turn.
Taking into account the improvements I am already seeing within the central city and based on what I have read in the Plan and my conversation with Annick along, cyclists should be encouraged. If you would like to submit your feedback on the plan, you can contact her at %20annick.beaudet [Email address: %20annick.beaudet #AT# ci.austin.tx.us - replace #AT# with @ ]. Plan on attending one or more of the public hearings coming up in May.