Interview with Austin Bicycle Program Manager Annick Beaudet
Posted Jan 14 2009 6:55pm
Annick Beaudet, the Bicycle Program Manager for the City of Austin, was nice enough to answer some interview questions for us. We think she is doing a great job, and wanted to give her an opportunity to talk directly to the cycling community on some issues that are important to all of us. Here’s what she had to say:
On a related note, I also recommend Rob D’Amico’s post at the Bicycle Austin Blog about infrastructure requests for cyclists.
Will the City of Austin be participating in any way to encourage better funding of bicycle and transit infrastructure in the Federal Transportation Bill next year?
Currently the City of Austin has included bicycle projects for consideration in several “stimulus” packages being generated for congressional presentation. We hope to see some of this funding directed to our programs.
Also, the City employees our government relations staff to lobby on our behalf for federal funding of a multitude of projects. John Hrncir is our government Relations Officer. (974-2285)
What do you think the city has done best in terms of cycling in Austin? What do you believe needs the most improvement?
The City has becoming more efficient each year in dove-tailing our everyday processes to integrate bicycle planning and bicycle facility construction. This results in increased installation of new bicycle facilities and improving existing ones. We also constantly strive for open communication and feedback between the Bicycle Program and our citizens.
We continue trying to do better in the area of the promotion of bicycling for both transportation and recreation. Cities with high numbers of bicycle commuting state that the use comes not only from good infrastructure, but from good promotion as well.
Can you explain the difference between the Street Smarts Task Force Report and the next Bicycle Plan, and their relationship?
The Street Smarts Task Force (SSTF) Report is a report created by a citizen task force pulled together by Mayor Will Wynn and professional bicyclist Lance Armstrong in an effort to address the status of bicycling in Austin. The task force held several open meetings over approximately one year and reached consensus on the recommendations found in the report. The report aims to “transform Austin into a World Class Bicycling City”. City Council reviewed the report and approved a motion for City staff to “study and report back to Council with recommendations for inclusion of the Street Smarts Task Force findings into the Austin Bicycle Master Plan as part of the Master Plan update process.”
So, the SSTF report has a major role in shaping the Bicycle Plan update and will be included in the plan as an Appendix for future reference and guidance for bicycle planning, promotion, education and enforcement, as well as bicycle facility construction.
The Austin Police Department has greatly increased their enforcement against cyclists of late. Is there a push for “carrots” to go along with this “stick”? i.e. is there going to be increased driver education, subsidized cyclist education, or anything else, to go along with this increased enforcement?
The Bicycle Program is working with the Austin Police Department (APD) currently to partner on the issues of both pedestrian and bicyclist safety. As we are still in the process of coordinating, we do not know the exact design of final programs and initiatives. Our idea is to be well rounded with enforcement and education. The Bicycle Program and APD both subscribe to the “5’s philosophy” for bicycle safety and use: Education, Engineering, Enforcement, Encouragement, and Evaluation. We agree it has to be two-fold, aimed to both bicyclists and to motorists.
During the time of stepped up enforcement of bicycle violations, the Bicycle Program worked to incorporate bicyclist and motorist safety into City of Austin employee required Defensive Driving courses. So we continue to approach the issue from both sides within our organization and with our citizens.
What do you see as your biggest accomplishments since becoming Bicycle Coordinator?
Michael Curtis is the Pedestrian, Bicycle, and Child Safety Program Manager for the City. I work for Michael, and as the Bicycle Program Manager I am responsible for the bicycle portion of the program. I also work on other planning related items for the program, including the City’s Sidewalk Master Plan.
Since taking responsibility for the Bicycle Program in August 2006, I believe my biggest accomplishment is the revitalization of the Bicycle Advisory Council (BAC). There has always been a lot of citizen energy in our community with regard to helping the City implement its Bicycle Plan. The revitalization of the BAC created a platform for folks to get involved, have input and really make a difference. As a planner, I know citizen involvement is key, so I am very proud of that effort and it has greatly paid off. The group is very organized, has by-laws for decision making, is diverse, and has been instrumental in assisting the work of the Bicycle Program over the last 2 years. The BAC provides a platform for open communication between the Bicycle Program and the bicycle community; it’s our “face time” and I look forward to each meeting. The effort definitely spearheaded a newfound interest for civic involvement among many bicyclists, which is great.
The other really great thing is a dorky planning thing, but since you asked…in 2007 the Program was successful in having the first ever bicycle facility requirement on a subdivision plat. The subdivision plat note reads “… A Bikeway, as defined by the Transportation Criteria Manual and the Austin Bicycle Plan, built to City of Austin standards, is required along the following streets as shown by a dotted line on the face of the plat:… Failure to construct the required sidewalks or bikeway may result in the withholding of certificates of occupancy, building permits, or utility connections by the governing body or utility company.”
The significance of this effort is the integration of bicycle planning with the development process, which will serve as a key tool for implementation of the Bicycle Plan into the future. This accomplishment was made possible not only by the Bicycle Program, but also in coordination and cooperation with the Neighborhood Planning and Zoning Department, the Watershed Protection and Development Review Department, and of course the developer.
Portland has recently presented research on dividing their city into zones, and assigning a quality index score to each zone, so that the city knows where improvement is most needed. Is there any similar method being used to evaluate “bikeability”in Austin?
Without being an expert on Portland’s method, I can say the Austin Bicycle Map is a good indicator of the “bikability” of sections of Austin. The routes are color coded as to “ease of use”. Additionally, bicycle transportation will be included in the City’s new strategic plan for transportation which will help shape priorities and assess needs.
We will be establishing benchmarks with regard to bicycle counts at key locations across town to track bicycle use over time. This will give us good data on bicycle use and assist the Austin Bicycle Plan efforts with prioritization of projects and efforts.
Any news on an Austin bike-share system, since they seem to be “all the rage” in many cities these days?
The City’s Climate Protection Program is the sponsor program for a possible Austin bike-share system. They are currently spearheading a City employee bike-share program, which is going to be awesome; I’m so excited about the roll out of that program, which is planned for January 2009.
Is there anything else you would like our readers to know?
Everyday approximately 3,486 City of Austin citizen’s use there bike to get to work. Source: US Census Bureau, 2006 American Community Survey
The City of Austin is dedicated to making Austin a great place to choose a bicycle for transportation and/or exercise. We look forward to great things in the future with regard to an effective multimodal transportation system and we are going to count on the will, patience, and involvement of Austinites to help us get there. Thanks!