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LOBV’s D’Amico: City has removed the bicycle from bicycle boulevard

Posted Apr 06 2010 8:06am

League of Bicycling Voter’s President blasts City of watered down bike boulevard proposal

Today, City staff will release the initial recommendation on Austin’s first bicycle boulevard, and League of Bicycling Voter President Rob D’Amico pulled no punches in his displeasure in the plan.

“First they took the word ‘Nueces’ out and began calling it the ‘Downtown Bike Boulevard Project,’ and now with the staff recommendation, they’ve essentially removed the word ‘bike’ as well,” said D’Amico.

In crafting its first bicycle priority street, City staff had presented examples of true bike boulevards from other cities which included traffic calming devices such as bollards, medians, and traffic diverters. These devices slow cars and discourage cut through traffic. Instead, the plan expected to be released today proposes possibly removing most of the stop signs on Nueces Street from 7th to 13th street and the addition of bike lanes.

“What once was a vision for defining a key corridor to move Austinites in and out of downtown by bicycles, has turned to a plan for pushing bikes to side to make sure cars aren’t burdened at all,” he continued.

Annick Beaudet, Project Manager of the City of Austin’s Bicycle & Pedestrian Program, disagreed with D’Amico’s assessment of the recommendations. “We believe we are creating great facilities to accommodate cyclists on 2 roads, Nueces and Rio Grande,” Beaudet said. “I think this is something we’ll get national recognition for. In my 13 years at the City, I’ve never been prouder of a project than this one.”

Echoing the discourse that has plagued national debate from health care to the carbon cap and trade, D’Amico criticized the city for caving to property owners who have used false statements and heavy handed threats to defeat the measure. “Death threats to a city official, nasty letters, misinformation printed and spread throughout the area, and threats of lawsuits all have taken their toll,” he said. “Our thought is, ‘Think big, get big results, follow through on our vision, let our leadership express confidence in what’s right, and do not stand for intimidation in civic life.’”

The soon to be released plan is expected to have some traffic calming measures on Rio Grande Street including traffic circles, cutouts for car drop-offs at Austin Community College and Pease Elementary, resurfacing the road, speed cushions to reduce auto speed and a bike/pedestrian bridge over Shoal Creek just south of 5th Street that will connect to the Lance Armstrong Bikeway, Shoal Creek Trail and Lady Bird Lake.

Beaudet thinks this will offer a best of both worlds for cyclists of all levels. “Experienced cyclists can still use Nueces while Rio Grande creates an environment welcoming to beginners.”

“The city plan does have a lot of great things going for it on Rio Grande, but unfortunately, it’s at the expense of doing what’s right on Nueces,” D’Amico concluded. “We love the idea of improving Rio Grande, but it’s still a no brainer that it’s a street with hills that will deter many beginning or young cyclists, while the perfectly flat corridor on Nueces, the obvious choice for a great bike boulevard, gets a bike facility that can be intimidating and is definitely less attractive.”

Beaudet encouraged cyclists to take a look at the plan to be released this afternoon before making judgment. There will also be 3D rendering of the proposal and an economic impact study starting with a presentation to the Downtown Commission on April 21. There are still opportunities for changes to the proposal though not substantial one. “We are within 90% of the final product so we can still make some tweaks,” Beaudet stated.

D’Amico thinks there is still time to salvage the plan if the cycling community remains unified and resolved to get better facilities. “Luckily we have thousands of bicyclists—including some 2,000 signing a petition for a Nueces bike boulevard —and a lot of momentum in our city leadership and planning to carry on the vision,” he concluded.

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