Sections

About Us

 
Make a Donation
Fully-Local • Non-Partisan • Public-Service Journalism
 

Bicyclists show up to support bike plan; one neighborhood has concerns

Tuesday, May 26, 2009 by Michael Mmay

The City Council held a hearing on the updated bike plan on Thursday, but could not vote on it due to some technicalities. Still, the excitement over the plan gave the council meeting a celebratory feel. It was evident before you even walked into the Council chambers – there were rows and rows of bikes locked to temporary racks set up in front of City Hall. Inside, the chambers were a rainbow of spandex. Hundreds of cyclists signed up to talk, although most of them donated their minutes to a few key speakers. 

 

The goal of the updated bike plan is ambitious. The city plans to spend $250 million on bike paths and other facilities over the next ten years, with a goal of increasing the number of Austinites riding their bikes from the current one percent, to 5 percent by 2020. The city plans to build 900 miles of bike lanes, 9 miles of bicycle boulevards and 107 miles of multi-use paths.

 

Tommy Eden, a longtime bike advocate, summed it up: “This plan will make Austin a better place to live,” he said. “It will improve people’s health, the air quality will be better, and it will be safer. Thank you city staff for all your hard work.” 

 

There were a small handful of speakers from the Heritage Hills neighborhood who had a problem with the plan. However, their objection was to just one small aspect of the bike plan. They were concerned about a bridge, for bikers and pedestrians, that would cross a creek to connect Park Plaza to Hermitage Drive in Northeast Austin. “We support the bike plan,” said Heritage Hills Neighborhood Association President Lowell Rice, a bike commuter himself. “The problem is that this bridge would connect our pocket neighborhood to the high crime area to the north of us.”

 

Rice gave council members a sheet that showed there were 505 crimes committed in North Plaza in the last six months, compared to just 63 in Heritage Hills. He described the area where the city wants to put the bridge as a dimly lit park and creek bed strewn with condoms and syringes. “It’s a place people go to do things they would rather do in the dark,” he said. 

 

Instead, Rice proposed building the bridge over the creek next to I-35, where a path has already been created and is being used to connect the neighborhoods. “This is a much easier place for the police to patrol,” he noted.

 

Outside the Council chambers, Rice conferred with Austin Cycling Association President Stanton Truxillo, who is a major advocate of the bike plan. Truxillo immediately offered to help Rice work out a solution. “We’ll get behind you,” he said. “I have complete faith that the city has the brain power to work out a solution to this. The devil is in the details.”  Rice seemed encouraged to hear this. “We need a show of cooperation from the bureaucracy,” he said. “Some people in the neighborhood are starting to feel like it’s a lost cause.”

 

The city council did not vote to approve the plan – that will happen on June 11 — but the members that spoke were enthusiastic about it.  Mayor Will Wynn talked about how land use and biking go hand in hand, and said that “virtually everyone” in his downtown condo building rode a bike, and they had to install extra bike racks. Council Member Laura Morrison spoke about how they could build the entire plan, for the cost of “two lousy flyovers.” Council Member Sheryl Cole also spoke out in support of the plan.

Join Your Friends and Neighbors

We're a nonprofit news organization, and we put our service to you above all else. That will never change. But public-service journalism requires community support from readers like you. Will you join your friends and neighbors to support our work and mission?

Back to Top