Getting Connectivity Right: San Jacinto vs. Speedway

This fall the City’s Active Transportation staff put the finishing touches on bicycle improvements along San Jacinto Blvd. between Speedway and Duval Streets. Those improvements include parking-protected bicycle lanes in the southbound direction and paint-buffered bicycle lanes in the northbound direction.

The changes were made without taking away any on-street parking; the City reconfigured the street from one lane northbound and two lanes southbound to one lane in each direction. Turn bays at intersections with Speedway, Duval Street, and Dean Keeton Street are still in place. The reconfiguration also added a median island, which will help improve pedestrian safety by reducing the crossing distance across San Jacinto and Duval.

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Photo courtesy of the City of Austin

Let’s compare that with another change that’s slated to take place, not far from this area. The UT System Board of Regents recently gave its approval to a plan to remake Speedway into a pedestrian mall. For about half a mile between the Blanton Museum and Dean Keeton, parking spaces and motorized vehicles will disappear from the street. The plans for Speedway’s conversion also include spaces for food trucks, picnic table, and more trees.

Given the high number of pedestrians and cyclists already using this stretch of Speedway, the transformation makes sense. But a number of cyclists are less than thrilled with the changes. There are no plans for a bike lane in the new pedestrian corridor; officials have said designated bike lanes could promote faster cycling which is a hazard to pedestrians, the Austin American-Statesman reports.

Not including bicycle connectivity in and through campus is a break from the Complete Streets vision that is already transforming many of our city’s streets. One can only wonder why UT is designing bikes out of the campus grid, with so many people using bikes to get to, from, and around campus.


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