Shoal Creek Bike Lanes: Wheels Are in Motion

The Austin Transportation Department has made good on plans to enhance bike lanes on Shoal Creek Boulevard. This may not be earth-shattering news considering how the US — currently led by a sociopathic, deranged lunatic — may go to war with Iran at any moment over bombing Saudi Arabian oil production facilities. We may not be able to do much about that, but riding one’s bicycle down a safer street with a protected bike lane reduces dependency on those polluting, (ex)pensive petroleum products that seem to bring out the bellicosity in people. Let’s focus on the good news about the bike lanes, shall we?

Project News You Can Use

The City of Austin’s website for this project is helpful, as are their emails if you subscribe to such things (literally). Being a heavily managed, government-funded (through bonds), and vetted project, it’s been a long road to get here. Despite many property owners opposing changes to the streets especially the ones limiting parking, it was determined by a majority of the road users that it was unsafe to bicycle. Mostly in and out of parked cars. That’s another phase farther south.

This phase is the low-hanging fruit, a section of the road to the north of Foster Lane just south of Anderson. This image shows the striping, bollards and general look of the infrastructure. Unlike further south, the road was already wide enough to accommodate bike lanes on each side of the street. Since it’s strictly commercial on the west side, the issue will be cars coming in and out of the apartments on the east side. Eternal vigilance is required while operating a bicycle in Austin, Texas, as it is anywhere.

Here’s a look at the finished product for this section of the project:

Source: City of Austin Transportation Department

The Downside (There’s Usually One)

It doesn’t look very protected, right? Just some plastic sticks, white paint, and… well, that’s about it. No turtles or cement circles put down to discourage cars and trucks from plowing over the sticks and mowing down a cyclist. On the other hand, it’s something, and if people drive into the bike lane, most buffers can be added. Still, I would rather have the curbs like they do in Mueller which are common in Europe to truly divide cars and bikes. But no one really asked me to design this project. And I am grateful because something is better than nothing.

The other part of the City’s notice was about the Highway 2222 and Shoal Creek intersection. They’re actually going to tunnel under the former and add a way to continue on the latter by bike without ever having to interact with traffic. This is a feature that’s used elsewhere in Austin to good effect, notably on Lamar by 24th and again at 13th street. I imagine it will be a big dig, so don’t hold your breath on this one. Completion is slated for… we don’t know. The 12th of never is always an option except the money is there from the bonds so when they finish designing it, it’ll go in after that.

Safety First, I Forget What’s Next

I often ride up to the end of Shoal Creek before or after a visit to Sun and Ski Sports. So the new lanes will add safety and comfort. However, they City did not do a good job sweeping the street after a layer of gravel was laid down. And there is at least one egregious dip in the road that demands fixing, but is still there. I suppose if no one else has reported it I must, even if the 311 system appears to work not all the time.

The bottom line is that if more people feel safe, they will ride. And maybe if enough people really get into bicycling, the damned demand for that damned oil will decrease, and along with it, the stupid fighting and warring over it. A Dude won’t be holding his breath for world peace, but he will be doing what he can to move through time and space by bicycle. Right after the car-dependent job is over.

Meanwhile, wherever you are, bike lane or not, please BIKE RESPONSIBLY.

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