Austin officials host bike path open house


by ASHLEY GOUDEAU / KVUE News and Photojournalist DATHAN HULL

Bio | Email | Follow: @AshleyG_KVUE

Posted on November 12, 2013 at 11:15 PM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 12 at 11:20 PM

AUSTIN -- By day and night Austin streets are full of cyclists.

"I've been here about three days. Austin has great bike paths. I've lived in Madison, Milwaukee, Northfield, Minnesota, Baltimore and by far [they're] the best I've seen," said bicyclist John Sharpe.

But there's one thing stopping more people from trading in their four wheels for two.

"A lot of people would like to be biking out on the streets but just don't feel safe," said Austin City Council member Chris Riley.

"One of the best ways to make things safer for all cyclists is for there to be more cyclists," added Lane Wimberley, who rides his bike daily. 

Officials with the Public Works Department agree and are working to create "Your Path to Austin." It's a network of bicycle paths made up of on-street lanes and off-street lanes called urban trails.

"Both of them will form what we call the active transportation for Austin, which is an all-ages network for everyone to get around Austin," explained City of Austin Public Works Department Acting Bicycle Program Manager Chad Crager.

Tuesday night Austinites got the first look at the plan during an open house. There are dozens of proposed trails including paths along Mopac, Highway 290, the Colorado River and through downtown.

"Most people will ride a bike three miles or less if there's a safe facility. And so what we're doing is concentrating on this ring of congestion in the central city and looking three miles outside of that," said Crager.

The plan includes intersection improvements and cycle tracks, or barriers, on select streets. In the long-term plan, bike paths will connect across the entire city. But the focus now is on projects that can be completed in five years.

The final plan will be taken to the council for a vote in Spring 2014.

Officials don't know exactly how much the project will cost, just that it will be millions. Urban trails cost $1.5 million to $2 million per mile to construct. On-street lanes cost $50,000 to $500,000 per mile to construct. If the council approves the plan, the money could come from transportation bonds and federal grant programs.

City officials hope to have the proposed maps online by the end of the week. In the meantime people can attend an open house on Wednesday, Nov. 13 from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Lanier High School (1201 Payton Gin Road).

Another open house will be held Thursday, Nov. 14 from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the First Evangelical Free Church of Austin (4220 Monterey Oaks Blvd).

For more information on the bike plan, click here.

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