AUSTIN (KXAN) — In late August, the Austin Transportation and Public Works Department reduced Barton Springs Road from two lanes to one between South Lamar Boulevard and Azie Morton Road. That created a dedicated and protected bike lane for cyclists on the right lane of Barton Springs both eastbound and westbound.
“It’s a much safer experience and much more calm experience for such a dense pedestrian-heavy zone within our city,” Lewis Leff, with the Austin Transportation and Public Works Department, said.
Leff has been watching the flow of traffic on Barton Springs Road since the change went into place.
“What we were aiming for was a reduction in high-end speeding, and we’ve seen over an 80% reduction of high-end speeds, which is 10 miles an hour or above the speed limit. So what we’ve seen is a real significant reduction in high-end speeds and with really minimal impacts to travel time through the corridor,” Leff said.
Austin resident and transportation expert Meg Merritt does her best to use alternative transportation whenever she can. Merritt and her daughters got to enjoy the new bike lane during the Austin City Limits music festival.
“And it was a true game changer. I have a cargo bike, which means that my bike has a spot in the back for two or more kids. And it’s a lot of fun, but I’m really careful about where I take them,” Merritt said.
She’ll only take her daughters in her cargo bike on a protected bike lane.
“And frankly, in the time of climate change, and with kids and the future generations to think up, I want to be that example. But it’s hard if it doesn’t feel safe,” Merritt said.
The city is monitoring the change and flow of traffic in the morning, afternoon and evening.
“And for five of those six periods on eastbound and westbound, we’ve seen a reduction in travel times. It’s more efficient to get through in the single lane, with the one exception being westbound, there’s about 10 seconds of extra delay in the morning. So what we’ve seen is really significant safety results that we were trying to achieve with minimal impacts of travel time through the corridor,” Leff said.
The Austin Transportation and Public Works Department will provide public updates early next year at the project’s sixth-month mark and again next August at the year mark. The findings will help determine if the lane reduction will become permanent and if it could be extended to the west of Zilker Park.
“What I like about it as a driver is that everybody has their own space. I’m no longer nervous if a cyclist is not going to have enough room,” Merritt said.