As a skilled and experienced cyclist I am capable of riding on pretty much any road. I’ve got video of riding in high speed traffic and the motorists doing just what we teach, waiting or moving to the other lane. But sometimes I like to get out of traffic and ride the trails particularly when they shortcut the trip.
Austin has both Trails (partially paved and primarily designed for recreation) and also Urban Trails (10-12 feet wide concrete and designed to connect other facilities like roads). I am living downtown and find myself using my cargo bike for most trips. With 20 inch by 38 tires, this bike is comfortable on most surfaces. It works a lot better than a skinny tired road bike on trails where water creates gullies and piles of loose gravel.
Two good examples of “useful” trails have saved me miles in traffic recently.
Pleasant Valley Road theoretically provides a great north – south route across the East side of Austin Unfortunately, it has a few discontinuities where a section deadens into a green space or the road changes its name. For motorists, the dead end can be a problem but the City has pushed an urban trail through as a connector as can be seen below. Other urban trails in Austin are beginning to make a significant difference in the commuting habits of people coming into town from the eastern and western suburbs. The final connections are not complete but we’re working on them as well.
During a social ride for Bike Austin we finished at a real Texas honky tonk bar (Buzzkill, and after a few beers and a big plate of BBQ chicken I was feeling pretty good. Had my cargo bike and it was getting dark but I had some decent lights. Decided not to take the arterial which has lots of traffic and some of those drivers may have been drinking too so I jumped on the trail leading to the boardwalk in Lady Bird Lake. As you can see by the Google Maps rendering, the trail was the shortest in both time and distance and crossed under every bridge that crossed the lake. The boardwalk at night is beautiful and presented a great view of Austin and took me out over the water for a good portion of the trip. Good surface. The rest of the trail is primarily decomposed granite and after the recent rains was a little carved up but passable. Had to stop and walk as I went under the Congress Avenue bridge where people were congregating to watch the famous Austin bats come out. As you can see, in 3 miles I had a 36 foot elevation gain. Most of that was climbing out of the river to get back on the streets.
So the answer is, as in most things having to do with traffic and bicycles, it depends. Urban Trails and even natural surface trails can be an important part of the urban transportation grid. It depends on how they connect and how a person riding a bike uses them.
After someone asked about the front view I rode into town on the same route with a short detour to have lunch with Miller Nuttle of Bike Austin. Here is the front view of riding in Austin at 11:00 Tuesday morning.
Couple of questionable turns by cars and buses and an EMS truck had us pulling over but on the whole, pretty simple.
Remember, this is at four times the normal rate so the pedestrians look like Keystone Kops. If you don’t get the reference, you’re young enough to Google it.
When people find out I ride downtown they generally look at me funny and then tell me they would never ride downtown because it is too dangerous. Just to see if it really was true I put my trusty GoPro camera on the back of my cargo bike and rode from my apartment to the Bike Austin office. This video begins at the bridge over Shoal Creek and then traverses in order,
Third Street, San Antonio, Fourth Street and finally Congress to the alley between 10th and 11th streets. I sped it up 4 times because it was really boring. Boring traffic is good traffic but it makes for really terrible viewing. I stopped at the Post Office between 8th and 9th and moved over to let a taxi driver turn right. He was duly appreciative.
So, I’d love to hear comments on how dangerous and terrifying you find this video.
The morning session of the Women’s Forum is complete and I am already worn out. The energy is so powerful as people, women, stand up and talk about what they are doing to change our world.
The message about getting typically non-cycling populations on bikes and having fun is pretty much…”Get them on bikes.” This is not a discussion of infrastructure or enforcement but rather a broad case of opening doors to people riding through education. Not formal classes, although that sometimes happens, but teaching through shared experience on the bike.
This is working in all size cities and even in Afghanistan. Doesn’t cost a lot of money and isn’t intended to be a nationwide, organized program. This is grass roots activism at its best.
Sounds like a great approach to me.
The 2014 Summit kicked off with the Advocate Media Training session. StreetsBlog USA, StreetFilms, and reporters from newspapers and TV stations.
Room is full, lots of people of both genders. Sitting next to Tom Wald, Executive Director of Bike Austin. Already talked with people from Florida, North Carolina, California, and New Jersey. Easily 75 people and maybe more.
Today is mild (69) and grey in Alexandria where I am staying but just wait. Tonight it will start raining and the temperature is headed below freezing. Should have sleet and freezing rain to lay a nice base of ice before it all turns to snow by day break on Monday. I may not make it into the hotel for the women’s Forum on Monday.
Should be clear but cold on Tuesday with a low in single digits overnight. We should be able to get into the hotel for the Summit events that will be taking place. Wednesday we will be on capital hill talking with staff and congress members and the weather will be cold but clear. Travel should be good.
A bike ride is scheduled for Thursday, but I am a weather wimp and really don’t like riding when it is near freezing. More power to those of you who commute when the temperatures are in minus digits.
To balance the high of the bike summit will be services for my older brother. He was a career Naval officer and served in Vietnam aboard carriers. We will miss him and his great joy of life. He was my hero growing up. His 74th birthday was yesterday.
Sitting at the Austin airport, I looked up from my coffee to see Eileen Schaubert walking my way. She has moved out of Austin to Santa Monica so it was a big surprise to see her in Austin. Eileen is one of the most active advocates, whereever she is.
With Eileen was Dr. Talia McCray, a Professor in the Community and Regional Planning department at University of Texas at Austin, who has been working on a program to raise interest in cycling in the African American population. She will be giving a talk during the Women’s Forum on Monday…assuming the weather cooperates.
I asked Talia why she was doing the program and she responded, “I think cycling is excellent exercise and a different way to view life. I wish to help people who typically don’t cycle to experience the joy of cycling.” Talia related a story of one of the people in her program who came and hugged her with tears of joy in her eyes.
The fastest growing demographic in the relatively flat cycling participation is women and children. Minorities are also growing as a part of the cycling market. I’ll talk about the statistics that were presented at the last Interbike Conference in a later blog but keep in mind that major changes are here now.
I’ll be watching and reporting on the League’s efforts to reach all cyclists as equity and equality become a larger part of the cycling mix.