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The CoA Bicycle Program is Kicking Ass (Plus New Bike Lanes on 38th!)

This post has been a while coming.

Despite my generally critical and cynical demeanor, I have to hand it to the City of Austin Bicycle Program – they’ve been doing a pretty damn good job at expanding bike lanes and facilities in this city.

Streets that desperately needed something done – such as the South 1st Street bridge, Barton Springs Road, Guadalupe and Lavaca – have finally had something put in place and it keeps expanding. Lately, I’ve noticed a couple fine places:

  • Heading to west on Barton Springs Road, at the bridge, the lane starts just after the bridge now, with sharrows on the bridge itself, instead of leaving you racing traffic uphill in the middle of the lane. In this case, I’d definitely say something is better than nothing.
  • The south exit from the Congress Bridge Sidewalk is big and wide and…almost, seemingly, meant for pedicabs! (Which are, by the way, mandated to ride on the sidewalk over that bridge.)
  • The north-headed entrance to the sidewalk on the Congress Bridge was just made as a straight-on entrance, instead of forcing you around that corner that cars always inevitably blocked.

Today, however, I saw some news in the ol’ inbox that truly excited me, as far as bike lanes go: bike lanes on 38th Street, all the way from Lamar to Red River.

Specifically, that one section of 38th between Duval and Red River has always been an adrenaline-packed portion of pavement. Currently, the road configuration has two car lanes headed east, and one headed west. During the restriping, a bike lane will be added on both sides, with just one car lane in each direction. At intersections, a left-turn lane will be added. Check it:

Screen shot 2014-04-08 at 2.28.15 PMOver by Red River, it will follow 38th 1/2.

Screen shot 2014-04-08 at 2.28.25 PMFrom the email: ”Bicycle lanes will be added between Red River Street and Duval Street and also between Duval Street and Lamar Boulevard. The new bicycle lanes between Duval Street and Lamar Boulevard will not involve any changes to the existing number of motor vehicle lanes. These reconfigurations will also allow for the removal of an existing turn prohibition for westbound left turns onto Greenway Street by installing a dedicated left turn bay.”

So that’s even good news for you car drivers out there – turning left from 38th onto Greenway! Hurray! (On first read, I saw “Speedway” and was more excited, but whatever…I don’t drive anyways.) And even better, these bike lanes won’t have parking! Woohoo!

Again from the email, “There will be an open house on April 16th, 2014, from 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm at the St Paul Lutheran Church Fellowship Hall, 3501 Red River Street. If you cannot attend this open house and have questions or comments, please contact Neil Kopper at 974-7166 or neil.kopper@austintexas.gov.”

The bike lanes are starting to form an actual network. It’s good stuff, I say. For those of you who poopoo on bike lanes, I think they’re better than nothing. I’ll take a road with a shoulder over one without any day,  just the same.

Keep up the good work, CoA Bicycle Program!

 

 

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More from SXSW: “Bike Lanes” = “Parking”

My ire first peaked as I headed north on Lavaca after the bridge to find a giant tour bus parked in the bike lane across from City Hall. As I passed, I found a limo following suit.IMG_0637

This, moments after receiving a text message from my pedicab shop owner informing me that, for some un-explained reason, APD had mandated that pedicabs are not allowed to operate on Cesar Chavez, at all, between Congress and I35. No start or end time. No reason. Just singled out and banned.

Sometimes, I feel like a second class citizen as a pedicab driver. Like I’m a teenager who broke curfew one too many times or got in trouble because my parents don’t like my friends. It’s absurd.

(Update: After some emailing with Place 1 Austin City Councilman Chris Riley, the pedicab ban has been lifted.  After some diligence on Riley’s end in trying to track down the origin of the order, none could be found and it was rescinded. Thanks so much Chris!)

Thus, perhaps I was a bit quicker to notice others treating cyclists and cycling facilities like mud, but the examples kept flowing.

This one, just up the road on Lavaca, was particularly special. A city truck – not there for maintenance or anything official, but rather to pick up lunch – blocking the bike lane again…and this time directly in front of a “No Stopping No Standing” sign.
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I missed an even better shot just a second earlier, that not only included this guy, but two more cars down San Jacinto blocking the rest of the bike lane…likely because they’d been valet parked there.IMG_0640

On a much more positive note, bike share seems to be doing well and I just had to get a pic of this guy. A bike share bike with a Tern foldable inside the basket? Sweeeet.

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I’m sure I could have found more examples, but I just had to come home, chill out for a bit, and vent on the Internet. Perhaps I’ll have more to say later, if I hear from Councilman Riley or APD.

I call this one “traffic signs in bike lanes”.

In front of Gingerman on Lavaca.

The first offending sign:
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I love how there’s an extra added layer of traffic thingies to make sure the entire lane is blocked.
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Why pull it all the way over, out of the way?
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Exiting the sidewalk headed north over the Congress bridge. A scattered smattering of thingies.
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Coming soon: hilariously locked bicycles, people standing in bike lanes staring at phones, pedicabs parked in stupid fucking places.

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The Drag is a Terrible Place to Ride a Bike

 

Recently, Austin’s newest separated bike path was lauded as one of the top ten such things in the country. After two recent experiences riding a bike on the Drag, I’ve come to a decently solid conclusion: it’s a terrible place to ride a bike and should be avoided at all costs.

Below is exhibit A:20140220-092342.jpg

What you’re looking at is the bent front fork of Meghan’s Long Haul Trucker. She was riding down the Drag on the separated path, carefully looking around for students and the like, when an SUV in a big hurry to park pulled directly in front of her.

Yes. On the green-painted, “separated” bike path.

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You mean, paint and little plastic pylon things don’t stop cars from pulling into the lane when they’re in a hurry to find a parking spot? Not at all!

This car pulled directly in front of her and she slammed into the front right bumper and went tumbling over her handlebars. Her fork bent. Her handlebars bent. Hell, her rear rack bent from the force of the pannier.

When she called to say she’d run into a car on the drag, I immediately imagined it was at an intersection, but no, this was right in front of the Co-Op, where cars should in no way be entering the bike lane.

And exhibit B?

Yesterday, I was cruising in the other direction on the Drag, headed north, in the bike lane when I got to 24th Street. The light was green but the traffic was stopped. I was being super careful, slowing and peering to the left at almost every big gap of cars to make sure I wouldn’t take out a mindless co-ed.

The thing about the Drag is, the traffic is so snarled and the opportunities to escape so few, people pull all sorts of bonehead moves (such as driving all the way into the bike lane to snag a beloved parking spot). Yesterday’s bonehead move was turning right from the left lane of traffic directly into me.

Luckily, they seemed to be paying some iota of attention (and I just happen to have Spiderman-esque reflexes), so I saw them, locked the brakes and jumped up onto the hood of their Subaru. They too stopped. They looked at me shocked and apologetic, and I responded with an angry thwack on the hood of their car with my open palm before resolutely continuing on my way.

I should note, both of these incidents happened during the afternoon rush hour, so if anything, I will avoid the Drag during that time at all costs. And likely in the morning too. And during the day.

It’s a lovely place to ride in the middle of the night, I hear?

Perhaps UT should spend some of that billions of dollars it normally spends on military and oil on a raised separated bike highway system through campus.

Alternate Routes?

There are some definite route alternates I’d take on this section. Heading north, go for the next worst thing and either cut straight through campus on Trinity/San Jacinto and meet up with Speedway, or take MLK over to Rio Grande and use the bike-lane-that-suddenly-ends. Headed south, avoid that mess of  a bike path at all costs and veer off when your bike lane disappears and spits you into traffic. Bear right just after Ken’s Donuts and hop on Nueces. Hell, take that all the way downtown and avoid the whole mess. Just be careful – it’s a land of police watching for rolling stops.

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Berms & Bike Blenders @ Yellow Bike

Man, what a great couple of days at Yellow Bike!

This past weekend was the Permablitz, the bike machine workshop and the Ride for Refuge, all of which seemed to be a sweeping success. I hopped on the bike yesterday and headed out (for the first time without crutches, mind you!) and had myself a bicycle-blended margarita and scoped out the scene.

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The whole back garden area has been transformed to a berm & swale food forest, with perennials, annuals and fruit trees.

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The base of the bike blender.

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The “drive” of the blender is a mish-mash of bike parts and ingenuity.

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The energy transfer happens much like with a Dynamo light.

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Another view of the bike blender, minus the blender or handlebars.

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Blend away!

(God damnit, how many times do I have to take an upright iPhone video before I learn my lesson. Well, you get the gist.)

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Behold, my crutch bike!

I haven’t had much good to say about bikes lately.

Until this weekend, that is.20140126-163303.jpg

Behold, my crutch-bike. I’m a (nearly) free man again!

The past six weeks has held a depressing amount of car usage and a whole lot of stir craziness. After getting the go-ahead to put a little bit of pressure on my broken leg from the doc, I “designed” this bike, which increases my world and mobility by…well, lots.

This weekend, I put in a grand 7 or 8 miles just puttering around the east side and downtown at an average cruising speed of nearly 7 miles per hour.

To put this into perspective, I previously crutched from the Farmers Market over in Republic Square Park to Jackalopes and it likely took me a grueling 45 minutes. At least it felt like it.

I mostly use my left leg for a bit of counter balance and keeping the body in the right motion, not so much for propelling. I’d tried removing the crank off my bike and riding one-legged and clipless and, while it was feasible, it was at best uncomfortable and oddly the least enjoyable bike riding I’d ever done. This? This riding on flat ground at mostly a snails pace?

Oh my. Wondrous.

20140126-163330.jpgSee? This is me, out in the world, in the sunshine.

Oh, and now I know about those allergies y’all have been complaining about.

Man, it’s good to be (even barely) on a bike again.