Downtown Deadly for Bikes?

Austin activist Keith Vick, aka "Slave," died last week after being hit on his bike by a truck at the corner of 10th and Guadalupe. He was 36. Vick had helped lead the October 2000 protests against the Fortune 500, was involved in Radio Free Austin and other radio projects, and was one of the original founders of Austin's Independent Media Center, whose Web site ( features a tribute including pictures, remembrances, and some of Vick's own e-mails. In one, Vick announces his plans to drop media activism as well as TV, newspapers, and computers: "I need to do something different all the way around."

Vick's death added urgency to last week's City Council discussion of proposed bicycle lanes on Guadalupe and Lavaca streets. The meeting got a little hot after Council Member (and cyclist) Daryl Slusher suggested that eliminating traffic lanes and parking on those streets would be too disruptive. "I would really encourage folks, if you're riding a bicycle, to take just a little bit more time and go on the safer streets. I think we would have less accidents," Slusher said.

But doesn't the city have the responsibility to make all streets safe for cyclists? Cycling stakeholders have long complained that city staff seemed more concerned about protecting "the convenience of motorists over the safety of cyclists," said city Urban Transportation Commissioner Tommy Eden. "I find it very disconcerting that our staff considers it more important to maintain the flow of traffic than to protect the safety of bicyclists, especially when earlier this week [Vick] was killed on one of the streets where we're trying to get bicycle lanes. I find this totally unacceptable."

Not everyone on the UTC shares Eden's opinions -- including Slusher appointee Mike Dahmus, who believes there isn't enough extra space to borrow from existing lanes to install one for bikes. In the end, the council voted to have staff provide them with a feasibility report regarding bike lanes on Guadalupe and Lavaca, due some time in January.

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