AUSTIN (KXAN) — As the Austin Transportation Department’s Corridor Program Office continues work on the $720 million 2016 mobility bond, the program is homing in on bike infrastructure upgrades to better connect the city’s cycling network.
But how does the city decide which corridors receive which updates? The decision is threefold and based on available resources, project timelines and safety, said Laura Dierenfield, division manager with ATD.
“What we’re trying to do with physically protected bikeways is to offer a level of comfort and safety for people on bicycles, as well as pedestrians,” she said.
There are several forms of protective infrastructure the city uses for its bicycle lanes:
- Flexible posts that are bolted or screwed into the ground
- Concrete domes or “turtle bumps,” often paired with the flexible posts
- Planters, or potted plants used to separate vehicle traffic from bicycle lanes
- Concrete curbs, used as a more permanent barrier to separate cyclists from vehicle traffic
ATD’s Corridor Program Office is currently constructing curb-protected bicycle lanes along two sections of Slaughter Lane in south Austin, between Menchaca Road and Cullen Lane, as well as between Brodie Lane and Menchaca Road.
With Slaughter Lane’s traffic volumes, current speed limit and classification as one of Vision Zero’s high-injury network roads, Dierenfield said that designation helped inform where substantial bike infrastructure improvements were needed. Recent bike infrastructure upgrades included enhancements to other high-injury streets like Pleasant Valley Road, between Cesar Chavez Street and Elmont Drive.
“There are concentrations of crashes on a certain amount of streets that really demand an investment of multimodal infrastructure so that everyone can be safer,” she said.
Other areas might also require a different infrastructure upgrade, whether because of a higher number of mail and trash trucks passing through a residential area or a business corridor with several entrances and exits along the roadway. She said ATD is working to enhance street designs that best serve bikers while also streamlining how they interact with the greater environment.
“A change to a street can have both real and perceived impacts,” she said. “And we want to explore the range of those and understand how that street space can be best transformed to serve the safety and mobility needs of the city.”
Dierenfield said it becomes a balancing act between servicing the entire cycling network and trying to create access points citywide, while also acknowledging some regions require more investments because of their safety concerns and high traffic volumes.
“We try to take that network approach to get as many streets as possible as comfortable as possible, so that more people are invited to try bicycling,” she said. “And then, therefore, we kind of create a more balanced and resilient transportation system for everyone.”
Bike upgrades along Slaughter Lane between Menchaca Road and Cullen Lane are expected to be completed this winter, while the segment between Brodie Lane and Menchaca Road is expected to finish in the next four to six weeks. A reflective paint treatment will be added to the curbs to help drivers adjust to the new infrastructure.