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City Bike-Ped staff commission committee to hammer out compromise on Nueces Bike Boulevard

Posted Jan 27 2010 5:46am

A model process for the future or the Son of Shoal Creek?

This week, City staff from the Bicycle and Pedestrian Program will begin convening a steering committee with the goal of creating a compromise solution on what has turned out to be a contentious proposal for Austin’s first bicycle boulevard. The committee will be made up of ten members representing various interests involved in this project:

Scott Sayers – property and business owner
Susan Harris – property and business owner
John Horton- property owner and DAA rep
Al Stowell – resident property owner
Renee Orr- Pease Elementary Parent
Andy Kim – ACC representative
Tom Wald – League of Bicycling Voter’s rep
Vince Lawrence – commuter bicyclist
Richard Hollenbeck – commuter bicyclist
City Staff – Mike Curtis/Annick Beaudet

In an e-mail to the committee members, Annick Beaudet from the City of Austin indicated:

The purpose of the Steering Committee will be to foster communication between representatives of various interest groups and formulate a consensus recommendation concerning the project. We anticipate that the Committee would meet at bi-weekly through the end of March, 2010, or at the Committee’s discretion.

The structure of the Committee is 10 people, including City Staff. The group represents a balance of various positions and interest groups. The goal and end product is to foster communication and to produce a consensus recommendation for the project, respectively. The recommendation of this Committee will be an important component of project moving forward.

This committee was suggested at the January 13 open house on the Nueces Bike Boulevard and was met with trepidation from leaders in the cycling community leery of a repeat of the Shoal Creek debacle. (See our last article on the open house for more on the progress of the bike boulevard and background on the ill fated Shoal Creek bike route.) Members of the League of Bicycling Voters have come out strong with a plan for a true bike boulevard on Nueces Street and a petition in support of this plan. The consensus coming out of the cycling community is the intense interest in getting a true bike boulevard, not a watered down compromise to appeal to everyone and to please no one, essentially Shoal Creek redeux. While we want to work within communities to make the best possible facility that respects the character of a neighborhood, good design and safety policy cannot be made with piecemeal compromises.

The selection of committee members raises some interesting questions as well. On the property owner side, we have members with a long history in real estate, a profession that is rooted in the art of negotiation. On the cycling community side, other than LOBV Executive Director Tom Wald the cyclists are relative newcomers to the city planning process. Indeed, Beaudet expressed an interest from the City in bringing fresh faces from the cycling community to the process. (Editor note: I volunteered myself for this committee and was not selected.)

While bringing more people to the process is an admirable goal, I would suggest we are rather late in the process for that. The news from the last two open house meetings is that we are at an impasse. If this committee is to hammer out an agreement that both sides can get behind, we both sides need to be represented by folks for whom this is not their first rodeo. It appears the property owners have seasoned negotiators while the cycling community is represented by individuals with much more limited experience in this regard. While a good outcome is possible and our community’s representatives will in no doubt fight for the best possible outcome, the committee membership selection does give some pause.

Will we see a model process that can be repeated in future creation of bicycle infrastructure or the Son of Shoal Creek? I am hoping for the former while bracing for the later.

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