Naked City

Envision Cycle Texas?

Are cyclists and pedestrians taking a back seat to motorists in the Envision Central Texas regional planning process, currently under way? Texas Bicycle Coalition Legislative Director Robin Stallings, himself a member of the ECT board, says the transportation modeling conducted thus far hasn't sufficiently weighed the costs and benefits of increasing the number of pedestrians and cyclists, even though many communities in the five-county region have asked for additional facilities. "It concerns me if the final models people vote on don't incorporate these things," Stallings said. (The ECT process will culminate in citizens being able to vote on different long-range growth scenarios for the five-county area.)

Some ECT higher-ups justified the project's bicycle strategy by emphasizing that as a regional plan, roads and highways naturally form the basis for whatever transportation options are to follow. Bikes have always been included in the ECT planning, says ECT Executive Director Beverly Silas, but planners won't know where bike lanes can be installed until they know where the roads will go. Starting in September, she said, ECT will begin holding workshops where citizens can outline on maps what they want the region to look like -- and where they think hike-and-bike trails should go. Meanwhile, Norm Marshall of the Vermont-based consulting firm Smart Mobility Inc., which is coordinating ECT transportation modeling as part of the team led by Fregonese Calthorpe Associates, acknowledges that while bike and pedestrian facilities are an integral part of the overall ECT program, his firm is nevertheless basing its work on a highway-planning model.

Worrying about how bikes will fit into the big picture is "premature," Marshall says. But Stallings says planning bike and pedestrian facilities should be considered sooner than later, because such facilities help reduce traffic -- making them just as beneficial for motorists, as well. "If we can plan for roads that don't exist," he said, "one would think we could plan for bike and pedestrian facilities that don't exist."

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