Hey Austinites! Advocate for Protected Bike Lanes on Burnet Road and Congress Avenue

The advocacy and education organization with which I’ve volunteered over the last four years, Bike Austin sent out two recent messages about protected lanes on two major streets. Regular bike lanes are just painted lines on the road. As such, they provide only some protection from cars only if the drivers respect them. (Many do, plenty don’t.) Lanes that use some sort of barrier to separate cars and bikes offer riders protection. For many riders, that is the difference between riding their bike on the street or letting it collect dust in the shed. Because car drivers cannot be trusted, I’m generally for protected lanes, even when they aren’t the most fun or convenient. While they may not be as urgent as other issues, bike lanes can also be a matter of life or death.

Burnet Road is a street I use frequently, and even more now that I live near it. There is a long-term plan for this busy street. It’s also near Sun & Ski Sports, a bike shop I frequent. The bike lanes are very narrow, and include the concrete bottom portion of the curb. The City of Austin has plans south of Highway 183 to have shared use and separate bike lanes. So it’s no surprise that the heavily pro-car Texas Department of Transportation wants to make the road north of 183 unfriendly to bikes. Here’s more information and a way to take action if you live in the area.

  Real change for the better is possible, but not guaranteed. Ever gone for a pleasant bike ride on the northern part of Burnet Road? We haven’t either, but that could change before long, with your help.

A virtual public hearing is now underway regarding improvements planned for the northernmost part of Burnet Road: the 2.5-mile stretch from 183 up to Mopac. This road currently has no bike facilities at all, but change is in the works. You can review the current plans and watch a video of the city’s presentation here.

The currently planned, funded improvements look pretty good:  They include bike-ped facilities along both sides of the road all the way from 183 to just short of Mopac. In most places, there would be a 9-foot-wide shared-use path on each side, separated from car traffic by an 11-foot-wide landscaping strip. The number of car traffic lanes wouldn’t change.

Unfortunately, the city’s longer-term vision looks much worse. The planned but currently unfunded “improvements” would add a car lane in each direction, making this a 6-lane divided roadway. It would also put people on bikes much closer to the cars:  the bike lanes would be 2-3 feet from the car traffic, with no landscaping in between. The city would accomplish this plan by taking space that was previously planned for transit and instead devoting it to cars.

We should expect better than this. Join us in speaking up now to support well-designed bike paths, and to oppose the car-centric plans that are planned but unfunded. Your comments could read something like this:

I support the addition of shared-use paths or separate sidewalks along the whole stretch of Burnet Road from 183 up to Mopac, separated from car traffic by an 11-foot-wide landscaping strip. I do NOT support the planned, unfunded improvements that call for adding car lanes and placing people on bikes closer to car traffic. Bike facilities in this area should always be separated from car traffic by a landscape strip at least 10 feet wide, which should include street trees. And all intersections should be bike-friendly, so that people on bikes can safely cross any car traffic lanes. 

Act fast! The public hearing closes at 5:00 pm Friday, June 5. Responses to comments received before the deadline will be posted on the project website.   SUBMIT YOUR COMMENTS HERE  

Responses to verbal and written comments received will be available online at AustinTexas.gov/BurnetENV once they have been prepared. If you have any general questions or concerns regarding the virtual public hearing, please contact the Communications Liaison for Burnet Road in the City of Austin Corridor Program Office at 512-974-7751.

As for Congress Avenue, this is the main north-south street that ends at the Texas Capitol. Buses were moved off it a couple of years ago, but there are no bike lanes and (usually) three lanes of busy car traffic. Having safe cycling there would be amazing, but it won’t happen without a fight.

This is incredible. Protected bike lanes may be coming to Congress Avenue! But it’s not a done deal. We need your help to win this.
Sign our Congress Avenue petition    
BIG news. On June 11th, Austin City Council may approve temporary protected bike lanes on Congress Avenue north of Riverside Drive to enable safe bicycling during the pandemic. If things go well, Council may ask for the bike lanes to remain long term.

In recent months, more people than ever have realized bicycling’s importance for essential trips, errands, and socially-distanced exercise. But bicycling north-south downtown remains unsafe. Protected bike lanes on Congress will allow more people to use bicycling to address needs exacerbated by the pandemic.

However, some are calling for the lanes to stop at 3rd Street, which would leave the rest of Congress in the same dangerous state as today. Sign our petition before June 11th and tell Austin City Council: “I want protected bike lanes from Riverside ALL THE WAY to the State Capitol!”

In difficult times, this is something to celebrate. Lets make sure we all sign the petition and get the City to do the right thing. Thanks for your support,

Bike Austin
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Bike Austin improves quality of life for all of Austin and Central Texas by growing bicycling as a form of transportation, exercise, and recreation.

Source: BikeAustin.org

The deadline for this is June 11. Here’s the link, if you live in Austin. We need 182 more people to reach our goal! Congress Avenue action link

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