The Austin Chronicle

Bike Master Plan Hits the Street

By Daniel Mottola, March 6, 2009, News

"Bicycles are an efficient and inexpensive form of transportation," reads the introduction to the recently released Austin 2020 Bicycle Plan, "and with increased use, they can reduce dependency on foreign oil, improve Austin's air quality, reduce roadway congestion, and improve the health and livability of our community." The plan, to be considered for adoption by City Council in May (after community feedback), strives to expand current usage of the bike network to create one that's "well-connected, safe, and convenient for all bicyclists." The stated mission is to transform Austin into a world-class bicycling city, promoting an alternative mode of transportation as well as a convenient and low-cost method of recreation and exercise.

The plan was last updated in 1998, and about 35% of those infrastructure recommendations have since been implemented. While that may sound minimal, Austin Bicycle Project Manager Annick Beaudet says the city's bike-lane miles have more than doubled since 1998. Bicycle planning began with the Proposed Austin Bicycle Plan in 1972, but political support for bicycling has been inconsistent. (For instance, the city bicycle program was dropped from 1984 to 1994.) Community advocacy for bicycle transportation is now stronger than ever, but the history reflects that political will for official support is unpredictable.

At a Feb. 26 bike plan presentation hosted by Mellow Johnny's Bike Shop, Marcus San­ford, co-author of bike-issues blog Austin on Two Wheels (also known as "A2W"), said, "The cycling community has to get organized in a much better fashion than in the past and apply consistent political pressure to City Council, keeping an eye on every development of this plan." A2W has collected thousands of online petition signatures calling for strict adherence and swift implementation of the bike plan. "We're not going to wait another 10 years to complete a third of this plan."

The 2020 plan creates specific benchmarks for each of its components, potentially powerful tools not only to guide implementation but to allow tracking by community advocates. The complete Austin 2020 Bicycle Plan is available at (or at any Austin library).

Key Benchmarks

Bicycle System

Complete 50% of bicycle network by 2012, 70% by 2020, and 100% by 2030. Eliminate parking in all bicycle lanes by 2020. Increase citywide work force commuter bicycle usage to 2% by 2012 and to 5% by 2020.

Provide adequate end-of-trip facilities (e.g., by employer, incentives to install showers and lockers) and provide 350 new short-term bike-parking facilities at existing developments by 2012.

Install "Share the Road" signs on all streets that are gaps in the bicycle network by 2012.

Safety and Enforcement

Reduce bicycle-motor vehicle crashes by 5% by 2020.

Ensure consistent interpretation of bicycle laws by Austin Police Department.

Train 100% of APD law enforcement officers in bicyclist-related laws and issues.

Education and Promotion

Educate 1,000 adult bicyclists and motorists about bicycle and motorist safety each year, distribute 5,000 Austin bicycle maps each year, increase bicycle commuting percentage of city employees to 10% by 2012 and 15% by 2020.

Educate 90% of school-aged children about bicycle safety each year and increase the percentage of bicycle-commuting schoolchildren to 25% by 2020.

Offer annual citywide event promoting utilitarian and recreational cycling.

Implementation and Funding

Appropriate at least $3 million per year for Bicycle Plan implementation, starting in fiscal year 2009-2010.

Expand program staff by one employee by 2012, two by 2015, and three by 2020.

Evaluate benchmarks annually for report to appropriate boards and commissions.

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