Austin’s Expanding Bicycle Infrastructure

Austin’s newly drafted Urban Trails Master Plan will go before City Council on August 28th. In conjunction with the pending updates to the Bicycle Master Plan, the Urban Trails plan lays the groundwork for connected and safe cycling infrastructure citywide.Screen shot 2014-08-18 at 1.09.50 PM

According to the city’s website, it will create “a system of connected trails and on-street bikeways that could get you from north to south, east to west and everywhere in between. Now imagine these paths as protected areas away from cars – increasing safety so you can get there by bike, or on foot – regardless of your age or ability.”

Go here to see the latest drafts of the plan and read answers to some FAQs.

Sometimes called “multi-use” or “shared-use” paths, Urban Trails are used by bicyclists, walkers, and joggers for both recreation and transportation purposes.

There are currently 123 different hike or bike trails, most of which are shared between bikes and pedestrians, in the Austin Trail Directory. The latest additions to the network are the Boardwalk along Lady Bird Lake and the Southern Walnut Creek Trail running from Govalle Park to Old Manor road on the east side of Austin. The Urban Trails Master plan aims to expand what’s already on the ground, making it easier to get around the city by bike and foot. It also means it will be easier for people to choose bicycling as a transportation mode over driving alone.

While Austin, like most sun-belt cities, is viewed as car dependent, these changes will help more people safely and easily choose cycling as a transportation mode. Perhaps it will be the beginning of an even larger shift toward bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. That same transition has happened in another city: Copenhagen. The Denmark city is now world-renown for its robust cycling culture, but it wasn’t always that way.

After World War II, Copenhagen families began buying cars and traveling by car more and more, and planners designed streets around cars more and more. By all accounts, Copenhagen was a very car-centric city. But by the 1970’s, Danish citizens began pushing for a return to infrastructure that supported pedestrians, cyclists, and transit – much like Austin’s Complete Streets policy. Today, the city continues to add new cycling infrastructure that makes it easier for Copenhagen’s residents to get around by bike.

If Copenhagen can make the shift from car-centric to streets that accommodate many modes of travel, so can Austin. We’re already off to a good start with the Complete Streets policy and with the connection the Urban Trails Master Plan and Bicycle Master Plan will bring to pedestrian and cycling paths.

photo courtesy of the City of Austin




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