I saw some post in the Social Cycling Facebook group recently that got this thought process started. It was about how this person had heard rumor about or seen firsthand (either way) changes to Great Northern, which had in recent years received the two-way cycle-track treatment. So, I went to check it out today and, indeed, the rumors or otherwise were true – the two-way cycle-track now sports a person-walking-icon in the Western-most lane, nothing (other than a faded contra-flow arrow in the lane next to that) and then sharrows in the two main traffic lanes.
(Edit – I said “Northwestern” and meant “Great Northern”, concerning the street name.)
Here, just look:
Yes, the knee-jerk reaction in me wants to get all uptight about removing bicycle facilities. But there’s more to this picture than what was previously given to cyclists being taken away – it’s what was never given to people in the first place.
Austin is notoriously bad for pedestrians, starting with the basic fact that this city is missing something in the neighborhood of 2,200 miles of sidewalk. And what is a pedestrian other than a cyclist with a flat tire? Or even still, just a person who chooses to walk.
I guess my very basic point here is that we need to focus on mobility at the most basic level and only then can we really move up. We identify as cyclists and drivers, but we are all pedestrians. If you look at that picture again, you’ll notice no place for people. Just people. Who walk. Who wheelchair and crutch. Who ambulate in whatever way they are physically able or able to afford.
Now, I’m familiar with Great Northern as a road that people like to compete over Strava segments on (ie go as fast as possible to compete for the Internet pointz, for you n00bz out there) and I can only guess that there were some interactions on this section of road between angry cyclists yelling about pedestrians being in “their” lane that may have led to this current change. Or perhaps, even more simply, people made the very basic and justified request that they, too, have a place to exist. And so us cyclists are relegated to two sharrows and one bike lane.
Why don’t they put a sidewalk in? I don’t know. I didn’t take the time to ask anyone. I’m sure that’s a valid question and I’m equally sure there’s a valid response coming down to budget, or some other such thing.
It doesn’t really matter, because it doesn’t really speak to my larger point – while I too get annoyed with people walking in the fully separated bike lanes on 3rd Street, and may even tell them to please walk in their own, huge sidewalk area there – which is that we need to be sure to share our space, and not treat people on two feet (or less) like we cyclists feel we are often treats by those so-called “cagers”.
This is not to say that we should take this sitting down. We should kindly email the city, talk to our council members, volunteer with Bike Austin, what have you, and let them know that we demand space for all of us. We need to advocate for people, first and foremost, but we shouldn’t just accept the fact that the city takes away cycling infrastructure to make room for people. We should demand that they make room for people to start.