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#1 2010-01-27 10:03:47

m1ek
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Registered: 2008-06-02
Posts: 153

Time to draw a line in the sand

On the Nueces Bike Blvd; this 'compromise' committee, if allowed to proceed with the implicit endorsement of the bicycling community, will inevitably result in Shoal Creek Part Deux. It would be far better for the LOBV and other cycling interests to refuse to participate, as the most likely 'compromise' outcome is some kind of 'bicycle boulevard' in nothing but name; i.e. maybe some signs on poles, which is arguably worse than simply not doing it at all.

Will anybody have the guts to listen to the guy who was right on Shoal Creek Debacle Numero Uno?

- MD
i.e. That Guy Who Was Right

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#2 2010-01-27 18:10:50

rich00
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Registered: 2010-01-18
Posts: 166

Re: Time to draw a line in the sand

You can't really compare Shoal Creek Blvd to Nueces, they are VERY different. If there is no comprise on the cyclist side this time, it's very likely it will never become anything, or if it does, there will be serious negativity towards cyclists from a lot of the opposition.

Tom can better represent the cyclist opinion and direction than I can, he is much more knowledgeable and experienced than I am on the matter. I can only offer my personal opinion as an "A" cyclist.

So, in my opinion, 3500 cars a day, which is approximately 1 car every 12 seconds or 1 car every 24 seconds each direction, is not negatively impacting cycling use on the street. That's why I question whether we should really include diverters and make a goal of only 1000 cars a day - which brings immense opposition and negativity.

At the steering committee today, Susan Harris (representing mostly commercial real estate interest) made a valid point that we shouldn't necessarily target just one street for improved bike-ability. She suggested looking at right-of-way changes and possibly cutting out sidewalks on one side of the streets to make more room for adequate bike lanes - an improvement to the whole downtown area, not just one street.

I always think the idea of beautification should be part of a compromise since all sides would welcome that. A greener and more natural street would also slow traffic down.

Comprise is not always a bad thing. And from what I read, Shoal Creek Blvd was not a comprise at all, it didn't really consider cyclists at all.

I hope I'm not ruining the LOBV proposal, but I honestly just don't think a full fledged bike boulevard is exactly the right decision at this time, and on either of these two streets (Rio Grande or Nueces).  They have the right idea, but I think it just needs to be altered to accommodate the police/fire stations and commercial-ness of the area. On my research of bike boulevards in existence, they seem to always be in extremely residential or very small-time commercial areas (mom and pop type businesses).

Again, I can't speak for first time cyclists or 10 year olds, but I still can imagine that Nueces and Rio Grande are really some of the safest roads to bike on in the city as it is. Riding at 15-20mph I barely had any cars pass me on these roads as it is.

I don't want the cycling community to misdirect it's efforts and be completely against compromise at the expense of zero progress and negativity.

Last edited by rich00 (2010-01-27 18:13:50)

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#3 2010-01-28 11:53:31

damicoaustin
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From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-27
Posts: 143
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Re: Time to draw a line in the sand

Richard, there are already ongoing efforts to put in bike lanes and remove gaps/barriers all over the city, so Susan's comment about singling out a street is just a red herring. Take a look at the bike plan and the downtown plan to get an idea of the multitude of work that is ongoing and needs to be done. These plans call for bike lanes and/or sharrows on most downtown streets.

This project is an opportunity to do something much more meaningful than just a bike lane or sharrow. First, it's a conscious decision to do something significant to boost the "presence" of bicycling in Austin. This is about putting bikes smack dab in the middle of the lane and letting them ride down a nice straight, flat corridor (eventually from 29th and parts far norther' to downtown). It's about creating a place where bikes know they are not only welcome, but celebrated. It's about letting families ride down the street knowing that they have the preferential treatment and can expect that motorists won't honk and harass them.  It's about letting motorists know that they must drive with a different set of expectations, slower and with more care.

The Susan Harrises of the world want to continue the status quo of marginalizing bicycles, putting them to the side, giving them their own little space to ride. It's really an attitude of, "It's nice that you ride a bike, but stay out of our way because we need more space for our cars."

That attitude will do nothing for Austin's livable future. If now is not the right time, then when? Maybe wait a few years while Austin get's more car choked, obese, polluted. Nueces is a building block for our goal of shifting more people to the benefits of bicycling. And quite frankly, we are WAY behind many other cities in these efforts. Shoal Creek was about the minor inconvenience residents could face over parking issues. The "inconveniences" for businesses on Nueces are even less significant.

The property value issue for me is strange. On one hand, I understand the perspective of developers who don't want to gamble. The status quo of car capacity is a known value for them. But on the other hand they are swimming against a tsunami. All of the planning efforts (and the leadership at the helm of these efforts) have a foundation for making streets more bicycle/pedestrian oriented with calmer traffic and less reliance on auto access. Additionally, there is a wealth of information and experience that shows that these types of cities prosper, and that their citizens are healthier and value their communities more. On the simplest level, Austin has always celebrated its laid back attitude. What's more laid back than riding a bike (unless you're fighting aggressive motorists)?

Finally, to end in a much less dramatic tone...what's the big deal? Quite frankly this is some simple traffic calming, all of which can be negotiated. The real meat is in the identity, the place making and as you note...tying it all together with all Austin bike planning. Bike boulevards are nothing new and they are being used successfully all around the country. Sure, most are residential oriented, but why doesn't the concept apply to a commercial area? Why can't we do something different in Austin. For example, it was LOBV that pushed the notion that a sharrow isn't just intended to get you outo f the door zone. Design standards and original intentions called for them to be drawn a minimum defined distance necessary to get the cyclist out of the door zone. We said, "Put them smack in the middle of the lane, because that's where you're safest riding."

Rich, you may be offering your opinion as an "A" cyclist commuting on Nueces today, but expand your imagination. Put yourself in the place of a "B" or "C?" or a 10-year-old. Put yourself in Austin 30 years from now, and what do you want to see?

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#4 2010-01-28 11:59:13

damicoaustin
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From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-27
Posts: 143
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Re: Time to draw a line in the sand

m1ek wrote:

It would be far better for the LOBV and other cycling interests to refuse to participate, as the most likely 'compromise' outcome is some kind of 'bicycle boulevard' in nothing but name; i.e. maybe some signs on poles, which is arguably worse than simply not doing it at all.

Will anybody have the guts to listen to the guy who was right on Shoal Creek Debacle Numero Uno?

- MD
i.e. That Guy Who Was Right

Mike, we will enlist you again for the real Shoal Creek deux. As for LOBV participating...Well. I'm very skeptical as well. But it's hard to argue with having discussion. And since this isn't a majority rules idea...well I'll just leave it at that.

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#5 2010-01-28 17:53:37

bikinpolitico
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From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-09-04
Posts: 78
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Re: Time to draw a line in the sand

Rich,
Be careful with what Susan Harris is saying because it is a red herring. First of all, bike boulevards are designed to calm traffic and accommodate BOTH cyclists and pedestrians. The key here is creating public space for other modes of transportation other than cars. Susan's stated in meetings she wants to maintain as much space as possible for cars to accommodate higher density of vehicles. She's attempting to pit facilities for cyclists versus pedestrians to maintain that real estate for cars. Remember, bike boulevards are designed to make cycling appeal to the people that are not currently cycling. Safety is a huge issue with these users and making space for them and reducing the number and speed of cars is the only way to address that.

Secondly, she is throwing out the idea of all roads having improvements to get this particular improvement off this particular road. While I would love to see bike boulevards and bike paths all over the city, we must pick a street and start somewhere. Look to the example of Copenhagen where the population embraced car culture until the 1970s and planners slowly converted streets to space for pedestrians and cyclists one street at a time over the last 40 years. Today, 37% of the population bikes to work and over 50% use a bike for errands. This did not happen by creating watered down infrastructure all over the city, but with streets that truly elevated bikes and pedestrians to equal if not higher importance than cars. If it is only one street to begin, that's fine. Requiring a proof of concept is prudent, and once built, I expect other areas will want these facilities for the positive effect on property values and creation of place they make.

If we are really serious about getting more than the hard core cyclists choosing bikes as a valid form of transportation, we cannot compromise on this. Compromise will not yield the results we need and frankly will be a waste of your and my tax dollars.

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#6 2010-01-28 18:01:59

bikinpolitico
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From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-09-04
Posts: 78
Website

Re: Time to draw a line in the sand

To followup on what Rob is saying, the smart money will want at bike boulevard as a hedge for the future. All the data out there on the effects of traffic calming indicate they increase property value and help business. Probably the worst you can say is that it will have a neutral effect on these things. And that's with decades of cheap gas. Now think about peak oil.

To anyone who things the gas spikes of 2008 were an anomaly, there are over a billion Chinese and a billion Indians clamoring to buy automobiles right now. This is a very sobering trend. Gas will only get more expensive in the future making places that prepare with alternative all the more attractive and profitable. The smart money should be running towards this, not away.

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#7 2010-01-28 19:32:24

rich00
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Registered: 2010-01-18
Posts: 166

Re: Time to draw a line in the sand

You guys make very valid arguments, and don't want to hinder them. I am going to take a step back and let Tom, Rob, and the other cycling support members of the steering committee lead the way with this. I'm there to offer my opinion on specific design regarding usage as a cyclist, but that is where my expertise ends regarding this project.

I'm behind you guys for a full bike boulevard from here on in.

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#8 2010-01-29 14:35:46

m1ek
Member
Registered: 2008-06-02
Posts: 153

Re: Time to draw a line in the sand

Bear in mind the following cautionary tale excerpted from the original Shoal Creek debacle page here:

http://bicycleaustin.info/roadways/shoalcreek2.html

"Simply put: The City Council's job is not to tell people to compromise. A chimp with a tape recorder could do that. Their job should be to make decisions when choices must be made between competing interests, whether it's about zoning/infill/NIMBY, or parking-vs-bike-lanes.

Their abrogation of responsibility here is primarily to blame - although I also blame the rest of the UTC for their vote for providing at least some apparent cover for the consensus-compromise-plan."

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#9 2010-01-29 21:37:07

bizikletari
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Registered: 2009-03-18
Posts: 223

Re: Time to draw a line in the sand

Well, it seems that one point is clear: A significant section of the bicycling community agrees we should not compromise the Nueces Bike Boulevard and this only means that all efforts are to be directed towards the goal of achieving it. The CoA has put on the table the proposition that they are interested in creating a Nueces Bike Blvd with the provision of not placing bollards in it. This is major blow to the whole boulevard concept, but despite being a hefty one it is an acceptable compromise. And this compromise should be the last one, 'the line on the sand' as the only one who was right rightly says.

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#10 2010-01-30 09:22:22

MichaelBluejay
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From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-26
Posts: 1,338
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Re: Time to draw a line in the sand

The CoA has put on the table the proposition that they are interested in creating a Nueces Bike Blvd with the provision of not placing bollards in it. This is major blow to the whole boulevard concept, but despite being a hefty one it is an acceptable compromise.

Not to me it isn't!  How exactly is it a bicycle boulevard *without* bollards?  It's just like, how is it a bike lane *if cars can park in it*?

I'm not super-excited about a Nueces bike boulevard for the reasons I've already mentioned, but if the bike community is gonna push for this project, that damn it, push for it!  Every time the bike community immediately capitulates it reinforces the idea that, well, we're always ready to capitulate.  Mike Dahmus is right, draw the line, and let's not *us* be so eager to leap over it.  Good grief.

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#11 2010-01-30 15:46:13

m1ek
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Registered: 2008-06-02
Posts: 153

Re: Time to draw a line in the sand

I think the LOBV proposal, if it had any diverters for southbound traffic, would be an acceptable compromise facility - enough of a bike boulevard to be worth the name and the trouble. Bollards should have been the initial proposal, though; midblock bollards are the fundamental concept behind most of these things in my reading.

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#12 2010-01-30 16:15:48

dougmc
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Registered: 2008-06-01
Posts: 591

Re: Time to draw a line in the sand

The reason that bollards are out is that the fire department is right there at the north end, and they would prevent fire trucks from going down Nueces (unless the fire department could lower them as needed, which I guess isn't an option).  That is one advantage that Rio Grande would have -- for Nueces, anything that burdens the fire department or jail is immediately out.

But yes, the LOBV plan is a big-old compromise already, and we shouldn't be willing to give up too much more.

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#13 2010-02-01 23:43:20

bizikletari
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Registered: 2009-03-18
Posts: 223

Re: Time to draw a line in the sand

I wish I could be totally sure of how things will go. But I can't be.
I reluctantly accept the bike boulevard without the bollards, but I am willing to admit its lacking them for I see the need of creating the boulevard.

I don't believe the AFD would be unable to respond to emergencies if the boulevard has bollards or diverters. Accepting such argument will mean bending the reason to believe that a bicycle or pedestrian boulevard would be impossible on any street on any city of the globe, for any such boulevard will render unsafe a portion of a city. No, the most superficial reasoning will dismiss such assertion at once.

Why I consider important the boulevard? Call me naïf if you please, but I think that the boulevard means on one hand that Austin has decided that even its less apt bicyclists are an important part of its community; that the safety of its children is more important than the convenience of someone who sells real estate or legal advice or corporate clothing. On the other hand the boulevard could be a catalyst to start thinking seriously on building a grid of alternative transportation.

I know that there is a great abundance of well intentioned people working for the city, for us. But they need to know we care for them to be able to rid themselves from the pressures coming from a handful of well-connected dinosaurs —and I say dinosaurs not only for their dubious cognitive capacities but for their nostalgic need of being amidst fossil fuels.

Creating the Nueces Bike Boulevard is the real line in the sand, the moment when Austin could convince itself to become a better place. When I've read the bike community archives I can recognize a plethora of disparate attempts to turn Austin into a great bicycle city.

I trully hope this battle turns to be the tipping point to convince its elected officials once and for all that we care, that we want Austin to be one of the best cities for sustainable living —and bicycling, of course.

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#14 2010-02-02 00:35:23

dougmc
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Posts: 591

Re: Time to draw a line in the sand

> I don't believe the AFD would be unable to respond to emergencies if the boulevard has bollards or diverters.
> Accepting such argument will mean bending the reason to believe that a bicycle or pedestrian boulevard
> would be impossible on any street on any city of the globe, for any such boulevard will render unsafe a portion
> of a city. No, the most superficial reasoning will dismiss such assertion at once.

Well then, by all means, you need to contact the City of Austin, and warn them of their shortsightedness!

But do be aware that the fire department has a station right at Nueces and MLK.   (Check it out here and here), which would be right at the North end of the boulevard.   While I do imagine that they'd still be able to respond to fires if they couldn't go down Nueces, it seems likely that in a significant number of cases, Nueces is the quickest route for them to take.

You may not buy the reasoning, but as I understand it, the city is taking any reduction in the effectiveness of this fire station very seriously, and that's why bollards are off the table.  I guess the LOBV and others could have pushed harder on the issue, but it sounds like a losing battle to me.  ("My house was burning down, and the fire department was delayed by several minutes because they couldn't use Nueces because it was blocked off so only bicycles could use it!" ... likely to be very compelling, even if the delay didn't actually exist.)

Now, if the boulevard were moved to Rio Grande, this problem would be very much minimized and bollards could perhaps be put back on the table, but of course that has it's own set of shortcomings.

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#15 2010-02-02 06:12:09

MichaelBluejay
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From: Austin, TX
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Re: Time to draw a line in the sand

Didn't I start this whole discussion by wondering what we were doing trying to put a bike boulevard on Nueces anyway?  Our choices are to either capitulate on the bollards, or else piss off the City and property owners by insisting on the bollards.  If we choose the latter course, the City will likely ax the bollards anyway, so we've angered various parties and *still* got nothing.  In that case what we've shown is that we're a bunch of losers.  Of course, if we take the other route, to capitulate, then all we've shown is that we're meek and we're quick to negotiate away any meaningful change (i.e., we're Democrats).  We're in a lose-lose situation.  That's why I wished we'd never gone down this road (no pun intended).

Rio Grande isn't a better option, because of the hills.  The UT fitness testing lab says that my body's ability to use oxygen is in the top 5% for my age and gender group, and I still find the Rio Grande incline to be annoying, and I take Nueces specifically because of that.

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#16 2010-02-02 12:18:18

damicoaustin
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From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-27
Posts: 143
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Re: Time to draw a line in the sand

We knew long ago, when the idea for a bike boulevard came up, that "bollards" for southbound wouldn't be accepted by COA. And by the way, we wouldn't be using bollards now--with the idea that southbound isn't going to be blocked--but diverters. The LOBV plan has northbound diverters at 5th/6th, 12th and 15th.

For AFD, I think the proposed bike boulevard could actually improve their response, since the biggest obstacle to response time is traffic congestion, and if you're going to--theoretically--reduce auto counts on Nueces, then you're improving it. None of the traffic calming proposed should create any serious obstacles for them.

Would southbound bollards/diverters would be ideal? Yes, but again, we knew up front this wouldn't float. Nueces is different than most bike boulevards in that it's in a downtown area and isn't primarily residential. And we value AFD's need to get "downtown" quickly as well.

Additionally, I don't think southbound auto through traffic is as important as northbound. With the opening to Cesar Chavez and the redevelopment there, there's going to be autos that want to skip the hassle of using Guad/Lavaca or Lamar and get the hell out of Dodge on Nueces. I don't think promoting Nueces as this "outlet" is a good idea, and I think the bike boulevard could address that issue with northbound diverters.

So in summation, not diverting southbound traffic is not a compromise for us, because we never came in with that expectation. Losing northbound diverters will be the issue. We're open to discussing everything, but with the intent that the final product be significant and designed to allow beginning and advanced cyclists the ability to safely and conveniently get from North Austin/UT to downtown and back. Most important, I envision a bike boulevard where a bicyclist will never feel threatened, intimidated or inconvenienced, and in fact is encouraged to travel at their leisure down the middle of the street.

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#17 2010-02-06 02:44:17

rich00
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Registered: 2010-01-18
Posts: 166

Re: Time to draw a line in the sand

I'm hearing a lot of opposition towards the boulevard, from the community.

In short, I feel the way this was presented, the number one thing it is accomplishing regardless of outcome is more negativity towards cyclists. I feel it is backfiring.


I'd love to see bike facilities in the city, that's why I'm on the steering committee. I just hope this doesn't turn into a disaster.

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#18 2010-02-08 10:58:31

damicoaustin
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From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-27
Posts: 143
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Re: Time to draw a line in the sand

Anything we promote is going to get a backlash. But I am quite encouraged by the people I meet that are in admiration of bicyclists. Remember there are lot of people out there who would love to be riding.

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#19 2010-02-10 01:19:00

rich00
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Registered: 2010-01-18
Posts: 166

Re: Time to draw a line in the sand

The reason it's been such a touchy topic with the general public and stakeholders near Nueces, is because it's called a Bike Boulevard. That alone sets off all these alarms and offensive opinions towards it. People don't care to really know the details - they hear "bike boulevard" and say "it's very arrogant of the cycling community to feel they deserve there own road when only 2 of 3% of traffic in the area is on bike".


I think we need to market the idea better. Although much of the harm is already done.

I'm trying to look at it from all perspectives, and I can see why the opposition says what they say. Each side makes at least some sort of valid point. That's why I thought a compromise wasn't a bad thing. Shoal Creek - the opposition didn't have a valid point - there should of been no compromise. That's why I don't like the comparison.

It's going to be a very hard sell, but I hope we do get some sort of road that is more than just 'bike lanes'.


In my opinion, if we don't get a full bike boulevard, but do get some decent bike facility - it doesn't automatically make it a 'failure'.

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#20 2010-02-10 11:04:32

m1ek
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Registered: 2008-06-02
Posts: 153

Re: Time to draw a line in the sand

Rich, there isn't a lot of room between "bike lanes" and "bike boulevard". And just putting bike lanes on Nueces would, in fact, be an utter failure of the concept.

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#21 2010-02-10 12:25:28

bizikletari
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Registered: 2009-03-18
Posts: 223

Re: Time to draw a line in the sand

You might be right about the name issue; but probably I would not be in this struggle had it had a different name.
I like to call a spade a spade and a bike boulevard a bike boulevard. It helps me clarify things.

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#22 2010-02-10 17:19:16

dougmc
Administrator
Registered: 2008-06-01
Posts: 591

Re: Time to draw a line in the sand

rich00 wrote:

I'm trying to look at it from all perspectives, and I can see why the opposition says what they say. Each side makes at least some sort of valid point. That's why I thought a compromise wasn't a bad thing. Shoal Creek - the opposition didn't have a valid point - there should of been no compromise. That's why I don't like the comparison.

So, what sort of compromise are you proposing here?

As m1ek said, there's not much to give up left.  The current proposed plan is already a compromise -- cars are permitted, fire trucks aren't blocked, etc.  And yes, bike lanes on Nueces would be useless.

The only compromise that I see that would provide any benefit to cyclists would be to change the stop signs north and south to also say "bikes may yield rather than stop" or something similar -- and even that wouldn't be worth much and wouldn't do all the grand things that people think this bike blvd will do.

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#23 2010-02-10 18:27:08

rich00
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Registered: 2010-01-18
Posts: 166

Re: Time to draw a line in the sand

If I were to design the bike boulevard (I still think a different name could be possible and beneficial - maybe Multi-use Corridor)

I would not have traffic diverters. The car volume on Nueces, even at rush hour is still not a major concern, even for young kids or new bicyclists.  Eliminating diverters would gain huge support from the opposition, while still only being a minor compromise. This would effectively make most of the opposition's argument null.

With diverters: 1 car every 36 seconds  (every 72 seconds each direction)
Without:          1 car ever 12 seconds   (every 24 seconds each direction)

I would definitely include partial road humps the entire way, which would keep traffic near 20mph and discourage thru traffic.

I would have center medians with landscaping periodically to improve the aesthetics and naturally slow traffic without impeding it.

And, of course I would use traffic circles where most appropriate, with low level landscaping.

Other than that, I would keep the design the same as LOBV's. There would be ZERO restricted access, parking could be kept nearly the same. The opposition would lose much of it's argument, and all cyclists would gain a very easy and safe route.

Tom, and anyone else who is on the steering committee, I'd love to discuss this more with you at the meeting tomorrow. I do support the bike boulevard, but it's just not exactly how I would design it. I'm 90% with you guys (LOBV) on all your points.

Last edited by rich00 (2010-02-10 18:30:47)

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#24 2010-02-10 20:32:57

bizikletari
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Registered: 2009-03-18
Posts: 223

Re: Time to draw a line in the sand

rich00,

I like your proposal of adding ornamented medians. I think those could help a good deal to deter abusive car drivers of attempting to pass cyclists on the boulevard.
For the very same reason, I disagree with the idea of discarting the diverters from the LOBV proposal. They are a good tool to impede car drivers from tryng to pass cyclists at intersections —a common occurrence at the corners with 12th St. and 15th St.— but also an excellent disuader for car drivers that want to use the blvd just as thoroughfare instead of as destination.

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#25 2010-02-11 11:24:31

damicoaustin
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From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-27
Posts: 143
Website

Re: Time to draw a line in the sand

One thing to remember is that COA is not pushing diverters and they weren't mentioned in their toolbox...even though diverters were in their original draft plan back in Jan. 09.

So taking them out only addresses one argument from opposition and a concern of some city officials (the ability to go all the way from MLK to 3rd northbound).

That's about it. Everything else they are concerned with remains.

As for Multi-Use Corridor....pretty much 80% of all roads are already Multi-Use Corridors (although usually with the car as king.) Again, why are we so shy about promoting a bike facility?

I would be pretty embarassed if another name was used. Can you imagine the dozens of other cities around the country with existing or planned bike boulevards looking at Austin (LAB Silver) and noting that we had to avoid using the word "bike" because it's too controversial?

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