The Politics of Biking: News About Bicycling in Austin, Texas

There’s always something going on in the world of bicycling in Austin.

  • For example, a City Councilmember known for bicycling to work won the runoff I just worked (against his sister, no less!).  I mentioned Pio Renteria in my post Presentation by Jim Sayer, Director of Adventure Cycling Association (Part 2).

    City Councilmember Pio Renteria e-bikes to work.
  • The City of Austin’s Active Transportation Department is often holding meetings about street improvements, like to Slaughter Lane or the Longhorn Dam even.
  • Starting just a few days ago, Austin Parks and Recreation is now allowing electric bikes and scooters on certain trails.  A pilot project will track speed, complaints, and the inevitable crashes.
  • The upcoming Texas Legislature meets in downtown Austin in the state capitol building.  Folks will be advocating for bills for Safe Passing, Safe Routes to School, Distracted Driving (a ban on cell-phone use while driving) and Slower Neighborhood Streets.  (I wrote about the latter in 2018 World Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Traffic Violence: Texas Vision Zero Vigil.)

As a public service – a big part of what we’re about here at and on WordPress – I thought I’d touch on a few of these issues for your reading pleasure.  A Dude ain’t nuthin’ if not educatin’ the masses ’bout bikes n’ stuff!

Transportation by Bike is a Radical Political Act

The politics of dancing   biking
The politics of, ooh, feeling good
The politics of moving, aha
If this message’s understood

Re-Flex, from The Politics of Dancing

“It’s not a war.  It’s a city.”
Aline Cavalcante, Brazilian bike activist

The arguments about bikes versus cars was covered up beautifully in the documentary titled, appropriately enough, Bikes V. Cars. I won’t spoil the film, but Aline is talking about the death of cyclists and how the city of Sao Paulo should respond to them.  When I saw the film and heard her say that line, “It’s not a war, it’s a city,” I teared up.  Because she’s right:  we have to share the road.  It’s the law.  If I ever meet her, I will give her a grande abraço e beijo because she summed up so beautifully the struggle we cyclists even here is so-called progressive, “bike-friendly” Austin live with every day.

But I can tell you as someone who rides a metric shit-ton of miles around this fair city:  It sure as hell feels like war alot of the time.  War is waged against bikes by cars which literally are weapons, and we people on bikes are basically cannon fodder trying to dodge the huge bullets.  It’s no accident there’s a huge truck called a Dodge Ram:  as in, you better dodge, or it’s going to ram you!  (An unknown comedian said that.)  Anyway, you should go out and buy the film on I-Tunes or DVD right now for the holidays!

Feminism is credited with teaching us that the political is personal.  Well, riding a bike is certainly that.  We are using our bodies to move ourselves, reduce carbon emissions aka greenhouse gases aka pollution, exercise, improve our moods, reduce cars on the road, and yes, have some fun.  But it comes at a huge risk.  I suppose that’s why to me, biking is a political act, and in some ways quite radical.  Biking and being car-free* as I have for 13 years backs that up.  (*I have borrowed and driven cars, so by car-free I mean not owning one or using one as primary form of transportation.)

bike capitol
Finish line of the MS 150, which I did in 2017; the Texas Capitol is behind.  Source

I have not yet had the experience of making contact with a car, fortunately.  Although two came very close to killing me last week — while I was a pedestrian, in the crosswalk, with the white guy telling me it was my turn, both times.  It’s a visceral feeling when you come close to getting maimed or murdered.  One tends to take that personally.  And it’s political, because who has all the power?   Cars.  And it’s Texas, so don’t forget the oil business.  Correction:  My bad; it’s prononunced awl bidness.  (Hey, I’m a native, and can twang it up with the best of them, although I had my Texan accent surgically removed by a sophomore French teacher.)

A Long Way To Go ‘Til It’s Safe to Bike in Austin

Sorry, I went astray there for a moment.  Despite the best efforts of all kinds of people, from politicians, City planners and engineers, advocates from Bike Austin and Bike Texas, every day citizens and more, there is still alot of work to be done.  Bike lanes stop, start, end, don’t connect, don’t get cleaned up.  Some, never.  Car drivers are reckless, distracted, impatient and sometimes just bad.  Highways and roads that were designed for a certain number of vehicles now have far too many of them and often have to be retrofitted for bikes.

Mayor Adler on a bike
Mayor of Austin, Steve Adler, on a dockless bike for Bike to Work Day.  Source:  Jana Birchum, Austin Chronicle

Austin has a Gold Rating as a Bicycling Friendly Community, which is got in 2015 from the League of American Bicyclists (of which I am now a member, as you will recall or learn from my posts A Dude Attends the League Cycling Instructor Seminar (Part 1) and its sequel,  Platinum is the best.  You can review Austin’s score card here at this link.  Frankly, I don’t see us meriting the gold rating from either the score or my experience.  (Let me remind or if you’re new here, inform you, that I’ve logged over 14,000 miles in three years.  Here’s a link on 10,000 of those miles.  You can always find me on Strava, too.)

But this isn’t ain’t about just me.  It’s about the thousands of kids, college students and adults commuting to school and work, on errands, going on joy rides with their friends, or the more serious riders who go on shop and training rides.  Whatever laws, rules, infrastructure, penalties etc. the powers that be make happen (or more likely, don’t), the fact is that biking is dangerous.  I wouldn’t be surprised if I became a casualty of a bad driver’s mistake.  I can be as careful and defensive as I am, but all it takes is one moment of inattention and I’m roadkill.  Let’s hope not, but hey, if it happens, at least I’ll be out there doing something I enjoy (usually).

Until the day that everyone is safe on a bike, we have alot of work to do.  Stay frosty out there, my friends, whether you’re in a car, on a bike or on foot!

So Many Errands.png
Another 20+ mile day running around doing stuff.  Towards the end I was just wishing for some peace.

Link to my recent rides

Summary of the week on Strava







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11 thoughts on “The Politics of Biking: News About Bicycling in Austin, Texas

  1. If it makes you feel any better, Madison no more deserves its platinum rating (in my experience) than Austin deserves its gold (in yours.) That probably shouldn’t make you feel better, but make both of us feel worse. The bar seems pretty low.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a very cool thing of you to say. And absolutely correct. Help spread the word! Wanna share the permalink to this list with title and also my URL with all your politico friends? And then go time to do so. You can be my hype man. Gonna dust off my musical instrument too. Maybe jam to Take 5. No fixed goal for now, just will see where it goes. Thanks for the support and inspiration, dude!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting in many ways. In rural Texas, people are very disrespectful of cyclists or runners. I do believe they see how close they can get to me in the pickups without actually hitting me. Sad that it’s not much better in Austin.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Nowhere Tribune and thanks for reading and commenting. I’ve experienced some rural riding and it can be way scary. Austin at least does have bike lanes,shoulders to ma y streets, and mire people are used to it. Where is your nowhere exactly? Hope you stay safe.

      Liked by 1 person

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