Almost two years ago, as Austin was considering its new Bicycle Plan, starting Austin B-Cycle and building major improvements in downtown, Movability Austin commissioned research to understand what business and civic leaders thought about bicycling as transportation. The goal was to understand the basis of support and opposition for designing streets to better incorporate bicycling in Downtown Austin’s transportation mix.
Some of the participants voiced real frustrations that should be addressed. M. Crane & Associates, Inc., the independent Austin-based market research and strategy firm that conducted the focus groups and interviews noted that participants commented:
“Bicyclists are unpredictable and they’re vulnerable. That worries me.”
“You can’t isolate the bike issue.”
“We have to have much more aggressive bus and rail transportation to really add capacity. It all has to fit together.”
“Sweat’s a problem. I don’t know how it could work for professionals. Guess it requires access to showers.”
A lot can change in two years.
Bicycling in Central Austin has doubled in just the last few years. In some neighborhoods and in downtown as many as 10-15% of trips are by bicycle. Austinites are choosing cycling as a way to get around and commute, either as part of their trip, or for the entire trip. Part of attractiveness of bicycling may be avoiding the frustrations of driving, but more has to be going on. Is it an increase in bike lanes? Is it the popularity and easy of new options like B-Cycle? Is the growing prevalence of a more active and “flexibility” loving younger work force?
Laura Dierenfield, manager of the city’s Active Transportation Program, sees the need to understand what is powering the growth. She told KUT Austin, “This is a real shift in our strategy. It’s not really about what we can do for biking, but what biking can do for us.”
photo via RideScout