Cyclists demand change to UT campus and Austin city streets

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — There weren’t designated bike lanes where 39-year-old Tony Diaz was hit and killed by a bus on the University of Texas campus last week. University leaders say that’s top of mind, as they work to improve safety on campus. 

Student cyclists want to know exactly what they have in mind.

Cyclists scared to ride

“There’s a lot of places in the infrastructure that is extremely dangerous for cyclists,” said Hayley Bishop, a member of the Campus Bike Alliance. 

Bishop said UT students are fed up. “There’s abysmal lack of care on the existing bike lanes. There’s cracks in the pavement, there’s gravel, there’s plants growing in the bike lanes. It’s terrible.”

A lot of students say they are scared to hop on two wheels to get to class. 

“It’s such a shame that students don’t feel safe to bike on campus, to bike to campus, to bike around campus. They don’t feel like cars and buses are going to see them,” Bishop said. 

The Campus Bike Alliance said the need for the university to create safe streets is clear. It says “inaction risks lives.”

The alliance released a complete statement following the death of Tony Diaz on campus.

All around the UT Campus, people can see emblems painted on the streets, designating the roads for both cars and cyclists. But the cyclists KXAN spoke to expressed a desire to see more bike lanes with physical barriers protecting them from the traffic. That’s the type of project UT officials said they have in place for San Jacinto, the same area where Tony Diaz was killed last week while riding his bike. 

“When a tragedy happens, it starts to sharpen our thinking,” said Jim Walker, the director of sustainability at UT Austin. Walker wouldn’t give a timeline for the new designated San Jacinto bike lane. But the 2013 master plan he helped develop shows a completely redesigned street. 

It specifically states a need to integrate bikers in any long-term planning, campus and citywide. 

“We are constantly collaborating with the city of Austin on projects to maket transportation safer and more efficient,” Walker said. 

Cyclists just hope change comes before it’s too late. 

“The university has been pushing these issues to the side and this recent tragedy shows that these issues are not going away and they are only getting worse,” Bishop said.

Eight Big Ideas 

The 2013 UT master plan goes beyond transportation. 

It has eight big ideas for the university, including creating strategic partnerships, enhancing the learning environment and revitalizing the campus.

How you can make a recommendation 

If you have concerns about a particular area on the UT campus that doesn’t have a bike lane, here’s what you can do: 

All requests must be made through the Parking and Transportation department’s bike coordinator.  

A study would be conducted in the area to see what recommendations come of it. These recommendations are vetted with safety officials and other personnel on campus.  

If there is a recommendation, it would go through the Campus Master Plan Committee.

A statement from the city

The Austin Transportation Department seeks to improve travel for everyone, including advancing our City’s bicycle network to improve safety and comfort for people riding bicycles. That work includes coordination with regional agencies and institutions, including the University of Texas and many others. For example, the City is currently working with UT to help increase access to bike share, with several stations on campus and throughout the West Campus area. As well, ATD is working with UT to improve connectivity on the east side from Manor Road to Clyde Littlefield drive. –Austin Transportation Department

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