Bike Plan Passes: 2020, Here We Come

Austin can peddle unfettered toward its bright, bikeable future

As thunderstorms rumbled last Thursday night, rain soaked the bikes parked outside City Hall. They belonged to cyclists braving the elements to see City Council take action on the landmark 2009 bicycle plan update (aka the Austin 2020 Bicycle Master Plan), which aims to make Austin a "world-class bicycling city." Longtime bike advocate Pete Wall gave no repeat performance of his Jennifer Gale-esque rendition of "This Little Bike of Mine," which he'd crooned in support of the plan at council's May 21 meeting, when nearly 300 supporters had converged to see the plan pass, but a legal snafu prevented council from voting.

This time around, the 20-year, $250 million plan – which seeks to more than quadruple the number of Austinites who bicycle for daily transportation – passed with little turbulence, with the exception of some controversy over placement of a Northeast Austin bike/pedestrian bridge dubbed "the conduit to crime."

"I appreciate what the city is doing for the bike plan," said Northeast Austin resident Margaret Russell, addressing council. "I think it's a great idea, except I've been a neighbor in the Woodbridge neighborhood for 24 years, and ... we're at risk of being overwhelmed by adjacent conditions." Little Walnut Creek, which the proposed bridge would span, separates "a neighborhood of 41 crimes in a year [from] a street of over 500 crimes" to the north, she said. Russell and many other neighbors from the Woodbridge and Heritage Hills communities asked the city to relocate the bridge to the edge of the neighborhood. Council ultimately halted the bridge project until the issue can be revisited separately.

"Each project ultimately comes back to the council in some form or fashion," said Mayor Will Wynn, explaining that the plan's major expenditures must be individually approved by council. While some worry the economic downturn will affect long-awaited bikeable improvements, the plan's passage sets into motion a series of clearly defined, date-specific benchmarks for increasing bicycle ridership by adding facilities for cyclists of all ages and experience levels. The benchmarks will make it hard for future councils to shortchange bike mobility, especially under the watchful eye of a local bike community that's larger and more diverse, dynamic, and organized than ever. The bike plan update was put to the public at 25 open meetings, and its scope and budget were approved by every applicable city department and advisory commission.

Prior to council's unanimous vote to pass the plan, Council Member Randi Shade said: "I just want to make sure everybody in the bicycle community knows how many notes and e-mails we've gotten from people who really want to raise awareness on safety rules. ... A lot of people were not in favor of the plan simply because they feel like they've been treated badly by cyclists running stop signs, that sort of thing."

Breeze through the full 2020 Bicycle Plan and a map of bike routes at

Bicycle Plan Highlights

Seventy percent of the proposed bicycle network is to be complete by 2020, 100% by 2030. Today, about 35% of the 1998 plan is complete.

The plan recommends using bike boulevards, park trails, and utility easements to create crosstown bike facilities separated from cars – a strategy proven to attract novice cyclists; a bike boulevard on Nueces, where auto traffic will be limited, is already being planned.

The plan calls for Austin's first programs for public education and promotion of bicycle transportation, which could include pamphlets advising cyclists and motorists of rules and safe riding considerations; the plan also makes recommendations for safe behavior and law enforcement.

Got something to say on the subject? Send a letter to the editor.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More by Daniel Mottola
Bicycle Master Plan Gets a Tune-Up
Bicycle Master Plan Gets a Tune-Up
If it's May, it must be Bike Month

May 22, 2009

Critical Mass Arrests
Critical Mass Arrests
Pride or policy?

April 10, 2009

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle