August 31, 2012

Jen Reel

I love seeing kids on their bicycles, especially when they are free to enjoy themselves and not be saddled by the fear of traffic. I grew up on a farm and rode my bike in wide open spaces without the worry of automobiles (aside from the occasional tractor) so I always marvel when kids are willing to throw on their helmet and navigate the streets of a city.

Fortunately the city of Austin considers kids on bikes, too, as I discovered last week while witnessing the ribbon-cutting ceremony of Austin’s most recent Green Lane project?a new green lane on Bluebonnet Lane that extends along Zilker Elementary school. There was the typical fanfare for all ribbon-cutting ceremonies: speeches made by representatives of the community like Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo, who emphasized the rules of the road and the safety of our children by describing how a green lane can support both; city council member Chris Riley, who talked about Austin’s progress in being a leader of bike-friendly cities; and Zilker Elementary Principal Randall W. Thomson who praised the bike lane’s safety for a school plagued by risky student drop-offs due to limited parking.

Check out what Ken Anderson, father of four and Zilker Elementary parent had to say about the bike lane:


Zilker Elementary celebrates a new protected bike lane in Austin from Green Lane Project on Vimeo.

What stands out to me are the small details in the big-picture thinking of our city transportation planners. Not only did they implement the green lane in a space that desperately needed it, but they also considered potential problems and provided solutions. Principal Thomson stated that before the posts were added, the old Bluebonnet bicycle lane was often used as a parking space by parents who were dropping off and picking up their children, rendering the lane unusable during those hours before and after school was in session. Since the new posts discourage cars from entering the bike lane, the city proactively added new crosswalks and crosswalk attendants to help alleviate the congestion during these high-traffic times. Parents who drive can now feel confident their children can safely walk to school if they legally park a block away or behind the school.

It’s not surprising to me that Austin was chosen as a Green Lane Project city. There’s a long history of bicycle mentality if you delve into the archives of our transportation planning, found in the introduction pages of the city’s 2009 Bicycle Master Plan. In 1972 the Austin City Council adopted its first ever proposed Bicycle Plan that envisioned bike-friendly routes that would link homes, schools, parks and shopping areas. By 1980, 36 miles of Austin were bike-friendly, including 4.2 miles of multi-use paths, 27.7 miles of bike lanes and four miles of dsignated bike streets. Today, Austin boasts hundreds of miles of bike-friendly roads and continues to build.

The next project will be on Barton Springs Road, between Lamar St. and Congress Ave. Over 25,000 cars and 500 bicycles share this section of road on a daily basis without a bike lane. Some people brave the street, while others take to the sidewalks. Most likely the majority of people whose direct route include that section of road opt for a safer path all together. That’s about to change. Stay tuned.

See all Protected Bike Lanes blog entries

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