This isn’t a post to blame to City of Austin bicycle program – they’re doing great things. Or to blame any of the folks out there trying to make things better for cycling in Austin. It’s not really looking to blame anyone, but I do sincerely wonder – does someone have to get seriously injured or worse before the city fixes the Pleasant Valley bridge for cyclists?
Update: Looks like someone just got hit n’ run there the other day. Here’s a gofundme to help with their hospital bills. And where did it happen? That shittiest part of Pleasant Valley, just south of the bridge where there’s no bike lane, no shoulder, and suddenly a 45-mile-per-hour speed limit for some ungodly reason.
With the new boardwalk open, we’re no longer talking about just folks on the southeast part of town trying to cross – it’s tourists and kids and likely every social ride in town for the next three months. (The Yoga Ride brought about 40 people down the boardwalk and over the terrible crossing yesterday.)
Note the bicycles taking up all avenues of travel…
Things like Hike n’ Bike trails and boardwalks bring out the novice cyclists in droves. It’s great – they have a place where they can ride a bike and not get creamed by cars. And when they see that bridge, if they decide to keep going, they’ll take it nice and slow over the sidewalk, for sure. My concern isn’t for them, it’s for the transportation cyclists who aren’t going to wait for a family of five to waddle across or an entire social ride to pass.
As KUT notes:
People who use the bridge frequently call it a notoriously tricky crossing. The generally spacious hike and bike trail narrows to around four feet on its western sidewalk. Cyclists and pedestrians squeeze past each other with a chain link fence on one side, a three foot tall railing and water on the other.
“If there’s a runner, I’ve had it happen before. They wait for me to come through on my bike and then they keep running.” says Lydia Palazzolo, who crosses at least once a day.
Now, there’s going to be a runner far more often. Or a group ride. Or someone on one of those awesome yet supremely wobbly B-cycle bikes. And that transportation cyclist is going to start taking the lane over a bridge with no room that empties into a high speed situation headed south or a similarly high-speed, congested, impatient (and uphill) situation headed north.
Bridges are somewhat notorious for being deathtraps for cyclists in this town. It’s where cars finally escape the downtown congestion and get to rev their engines and let out a little stress. Heck, pedicabs (though far slower than bikes, I agree) are made to take the sidewalk over the Congress Bridge and did the same over South First until the bike lanes were added because there were so many accidents.
What’s the speed limit south of the Pleasant Valley bridge? 45 miles per hour? So that means you’re taking a lane in a situation where cars are common going 50+ mph and have often just left the congestion of downtown and are in no way wanting to wait behind your 15-20mph self.
Again, as KUT notes, “Once a plan is finalized it still needs to be funded –meaning a long-term solution to the bottleneck is probably years away.”
Well, a short-term solution is needed then. Those concrete barriers need to come off the sidewalk and into the lane to make room. Or a lane diet needs to happen to make room for bike lanes. (Maybe divert some of those novice cyclists over a sweet floating bridge?)
Years away isn’t good enough. This city is growing rapidly, as is that part of town, and cycle traffic is going to increase quickly. Let’s not wait for someone to die – there’s certainly no room for a ghost bike on that crossing too.