New protected bike lane an example of changes to come under mobility bond

Family bike riding (KXAN Photo)
Family bike riding (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Thanks to a partnership between the city and Highland Park Elementary School, the Hancock Bridge over MoPac now has a protected bike lane. Cyclists say they want to see more safe routes like this one and they will thanks to the mobility bond voters recently approved.

KXAN spoke with parent Karen Marcus, who has two children at Highland Park Elementary.

“We ride to school every morning. They love it. It’s great for them to get some exercise in the morning before school,” she said. But the route, over Hancock Bridge, used to come with concern.

“It felt a lot more dangerous having to cross over to the bike lane on the other side of the street and cross back over to get to the school, with the cars going down the hill and going rather quickly,” Marcus told KXAN. “We would wait there for, you know, sometimes five minutes waiting for a car to stop for us to cross the street.”

Within the last couple months, the addition of the protected bike lane has made all the difference. Not only for Marcus and her family, but the surrounding community. “I see multiple families biking now and many more families walking too,” she said.

Mercedes Feris, Executive Director of Bike Austin says that right there is the goal.

“The data proves that if you build it, obviously they will come. And this is definitely the perfect example of one of those opportunities for us to continue growing,” Feris told KXAN.

The protected lane leading to Highland Elementary was one of hundreds of locations outlined in Austin’s Bicycle Master Plan. This 2014 plan is one the city will work off of when determining where to dedicate $20 million worth of “bikeway” improvements included in the $720 million mobility bond voters passed. According to the master plan, 40 percent of people would feel comfortable riding in a protected bike lane, but only 15 percent feel safe in a painted lane on the side of a busy road.

“That’s the base point of where we’ll start, or the city will start laying down bike infrastructure,” Feris said, noting, “This is the most amount of money that’s ever been allocated, in one pop, for bike lanes and bike infrastructure.”

Another $27.5 million chunk of the bond will allow the city to address safe routes to school, including protected bike paths.

“The more kids that are biking, the safer it feels,” Marcus said. “It feels like people are watching out. They’re expecting to see kids biking now.”

The city is looking to get feedback on the routes you travel through a new app called “Ride Report.” Open the app before your bike ride and after trip, rate the conditions of your route by choosing “great” or “not great.” The crowdsourced feedback helps the city know what areas need improvement and lets bike riders know which routes are considered more or less stressful.

Click here to learn more about the app.

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