Austin cyclists flag mobility, safety concerns in newly installed bike lanes

Austin

UPDATED: July 22, 4:55 p.m.

Officials from the Austin Transportation Department announced Thursday the completion of bike lane reconstruction efforts at the intersection of North Lamar Boulevard and Morrow Street. Cyclists raised safety and mobility concerns of physical barriers impeding the bike path.

ORIGINAL STORY

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Native Austinite Brian Nunnery has spent the past 10 years as a permanent bike commuter. He says a decade of time spent solely riding a bike to work has revealed evolutions in Austin’s cycling mobility — as well as some personal frustrations with city biking infrastructure.

“I think that cyclists are often second class — you know, we have a transportation system that is designed with cars being the dominant class in the social, almost caste system of transportation types,” he said. “I think if you want to understand what systemic injustice means, ride a bike full time. Because you will see this parallel of society in the way that we build our transportation grid, where cars are the dominant class and everything else suffers for it.”

A reddit thread posted in an Austin cycling group last week highlighted infrastructure concerns in the newly installed bike lanes at the North Lamar Boulevard and Morrow Street intersection. The thread depicted a bike lane that crossed over a storm gutter, as well as an electric pole located within the cycling right-of-way.

The intersection is one of the latest projects constructed as part of the city’s Vision Zero transportation plan, which highlights key safety improvements within bicycling and pedestrian facilities .

In a statement, Austin Transportation Department officials acknowledged the concerns surrounding the N. Lamar Boulevard and Morrow Street intersections, and said crews would be heading out to reconstruct portions of the shared use path in the coming days.

Austin Transportation Department is making safety, mobility and multi-modal improvements to the intersection of North Lamar Boulevard and Morrow Street in North Austin. We are aware of a few issues with the recently installed Shared Use Paths on a section of Morrow, west of North Lamar. Currently we are working with our engineer, inspector and contractor crews to address some of the critical changes needed to make the Share Used Paths safe and fully functional to serve the needs of pedestrians and bicyclists traveling through the intersections. We are reconstructing portions of the Shared Use Path where needed and we will be re-installing the Shared Use Path markings to provide intended functionality and positive guidance for the active modes. We anticipate this construction activity to address these changes will take another 2 weeks to complete; we appreciate the community’s understanding as we work expeditiously to address the issues that have been flagged.

Austin Transportation Department officials

Austin resident and avid cyclist Kat Steele said that when it comes to the future of Austin’s cycling infrastructure, its success is reliant on a combination of planning ahead and giving more cyclists a seat at the table during these planning sessions.

“I think doing planning infrastructure now is really, really important,” Steele said. “Not every infrastructure plan has to involve more lanes for cars, more parking, more anything that is solely dedicated to one thing of a car moving from place to place.”

While Nunnery noted the growth in Austin’s cycling community and concerted efforts on the city’s behalf to incorporate more infrastructure into transportation initiatives, he said infrastructure upgrades like the ones at North Lamar and Morrow Street are the tip of the iceberg for all-too-common frustrations.

“Austin is one of the best cycling cities in the country. From my experience, I think our thinking about cycling has evolved from something that’s recreational to something that’s useful in the past 10 years, which is really exciting to see,” he said. “I also think that the infrastructure has evolved in a way that suggests that the transportation department is understanding cycling more. But there are obvious examples like the Morrow [Street] thing that you saw that show that some transportation designers have no idea what’s right.”

In order to help make these improvements most effective, he said solutions need to be informed by actual cyclists.

“I think they need to get cyclists directly involved in the design of the solutions. It’s very clear that no cyclists have any input in some of the projects that are showing up,” he said, adding: “We need to be involved because if you, if you only drive cars and you don’t actually commute on a bicycle, you will not be able to perceive the space in the same way.”

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