The Commish Talks Bicycling

Movability Austin attended three events on cycling’s Super Tuesday, November 12th. Officials with The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) were in town with the Cities for Cycling road show highlighting trends and best practice design from New York City to Portland.

A large number of people attended – both the morning Issues and & Eggs meeting (you can watch it here) and the evening public session were packed. However, it didn’t escape our attention that most of the attendees where already fans of bicycling.

So we decided to interview one attendee who was likely listening without an existing allegiance to all things cycling, Travis County Commissioner Gerald Daugherty.


What brought you to the event?

“I am on the Downtown Austin Alliance board and it caught my attention that the DAA – a business group – was hosting a bicycling event. So I was interested to see what it was all about. Most of downtown is now in Precinct 3 (The Travis County precinct which Daugherty represents) so I am also interested to see what is being discussed by or is important for the downtown area.”

What are your impressions of what you heard?

“It was our Court day, so I had to leave early and didn’t hear the entire presentation and discussion. I am always concerned about costs and didn’t really here anything about costs of investments.

“I also take New York City’s examples with a grain of salt. They are just so different in terms of their densities and numbers of people that have to move around with very little public right of way. But, what they have done is pretty cool and New Yorkers seem to think it is very beneficial. They are changing the public landscape.”

What considerations do you think needs to be addressed when it comes to bike commuting in Austin?

“I am not opposed to cycling at all and I don’t think most people are. It is great exercise. There are some things that most people need to hear discussed.

“Safety is a big issue. Bicycling is probably different in downtown where traffic is moving at slower speeds than on Loop 360, but most people really worry about keeping cyclists and motorists safe. There are many scenarios that lead to accidents. There is something appealing about New York City’s separated lanes with parked cars between people cycling and driving. It concerns me when it gets mixed up, putting bicycles in lanes with buses or cars as we’ve done here.

“I think most Austinites are recreational cyclists and they aren’t using a bicycle to get to their job. So I am skeptical of people arguing that a lot of people will give up their cars and start bicycling to work.

“The big problem is getting people into work now and even more so in the future. Most people drive. Most people are frustrated with traffic. So these are the big problems people want fixed. Spending money on the little stuff, especially if it reduces parking or driving capacity, just doesn’t make sense without a lot of education and discussion.

“If the City wants to do a big push to change how transportation works – more multi-modal, more bikes, and fewer people driving – then someone in authority needs to be up front about that. They can’t dance around. They need to say publicly and strongly, ‘we need fewer people driving downtown’ and then face the serious questions and push back that will come.

“On Tuesday, it seemed like most people in room ‘want most people to stop driving.’ If that is going to be transportation policy, then we owe it to the large portion of community affected the most – drivers – to be up front about it and give them a chance to weigh in.

“I’m am also concerned that this kind of policy will mess with dynamics and economics of downtown, so we also need to give downtown businesses and properties the opportunity to understand and engage in their future.”

2 Responses to The Commish Talks Bicycling

  1. dcrites says:

    So can we get a dedicated group of commuters to start a write in campaign (or star sending physical cards) into this guy? Something along the lines of “I ride my bicycle to work, and I vote”.

  2. Rob D'Amico says:

    Thanks for letting us know that the Road Warrior isn’t open to changing his views on much of anything. His worn mantra that bicyclists are out to declare that everyone give up their cars shows that he hasn’t a lick of sense in working with what the vast majority of us see as the real need—adding balance to our options with strategic investments in alternatives to SOVs. His message of “Bike are for exercise, and get them the hell out of our way” has waned to the point that it’s a raspy yelp–lost in what our community has established as a more unified voice for a more sustainable and livable vision for transportation. Oh, and you need to replace “here” with “hear” in graph 5.