Best cycling routes and bike rentals
For Austinites accustomed to getting around by car, charting a safe, direct bike route from a neighborhood into Downtown sounds daunting. Fortunately, RideTheCity.com addresses that problem. Modeled on Google Maps, the interactive route-finder asks for a starting point and a destination, then recommends cycling routes – offering "safer," "safe," and "most direct" options. For example, from the Austin Convention Center to the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar (a SXSW Film venue at the Treadwell intersection), RideTheCity.com's recommended safer route goes west on the off-road Lady Bird Lake Trail and crosses the river on the bike-ped Pfluger Bridge. It then heads south on quiet Lee Barton Drive (along the pitch-and-putt golf course), jogging west over to the new "climbing" bike lane on South Lamar (uphill only) to reach the Drafthouse. Trip time estimate, 14 to 18 minutes; distance, 2.3 miles; elevation gain, 110 feet (I tried the route, and it was a nice ride). Especially helpful for nervous street-cycling novices, symbols show exactly which route portions are off-road bike paths or dedicated bike lanes. Symbols also mark bike repair shops and rental facilities along the way.
RideTheCity.com draws its data from the city of Austin's bicycle route map. It's available in printed form at bike shops or as a PDF from www.cityofaustin.org/publicworks/bicycle-resources.htm. It shows bike trails, plus street routes rated easy, moderate, or more challenging, based on lane width, presence of bike lanes, and traffic volume and speed. Heading south through Downtown to the Convention Center, for example, the recommended "green" routes include Trinity and San Jacinto streets – both have bike lanes. Sixth Street and Red River, where most SXSW venues are concentrated, are shown in red (beware of heavy traffic). But for four days during SXSW Music, much of the area is turned into pedestrian streets, closed to cars all day until 3am; that includes the 200-700 blocks of East Sixth and the 500-900 blocks of Red River.
To Rent a Bike
Barton Springs Bike Rental (1529 Barton Springs Rd. #31, 480-0200, www.bartonspringsbikerental.com) is offering a discount on weekly rentals during SXSW: $85/week for a single-speed cruiser, $105/week for a 3-speed, with free shuttle and bike delivery service. Closest to most SXSW venues is Mellow Johnny's Bike Shop (400 Nueces, 473-0222, www.mellowjohnnys.com). The cycling social center in a historic brick warehouse is co-owned by Austinite Lance Armstrong and is on the bikeway that bears his name. Its mountain and road bikes rent for $40 to $60 per day, or $20 to $40 for four hours. Also popular is the award-winning, locally owned Bicycle Sport Shop (517 S. Lamar, 477-3472, www.bicyclesportshop.com). Its rental fleet approaches 120 bikes; cruiser bikes ($22/day) are the most popular SXSW visitor choice and can be booked a year in advance. The shop expects to have mountain bikes ($32-58/day) and road bikes ($34-65/day) available for last-minute rentals. To find other rental outlets around town, look for the bike shops marked with an "R" on BikeTheCity.com.