Austin considers making Congress Avenue car-free for a day

FILE - Congress Avenue in downtown Austin (KXAN File Photo)
FILE - Congress Avenue in downtown Austin (KXAN File Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin’s iconic Congress Avenue is usually bustling with traffic, but what would the street be like without cars?

That’s what Bike Austin hopes to discover next year. They want to hold a Ciclovia event, which are held around the country and the world, Bike Austin CEO Mercedes Feris says.

This particular event would close off a two mile stretch of Congress Avenue — from 11th Street in downtown to Mary Street in south Austin — for several hours on a single day in 2018, Bike Austin explained.

“I think that Austin is known for their big events, but I don’t know if Austin really has an event for the family downtown such at this scale,” Feris said.

She has been inspired by similar events in cities like Los Angeles and New York, which are trying to bring more community into their downtown areas. Feris envisions that this event will be open to walkers and bikers alike, providing education on biking and inspiring more people to travel regularly through downtown Austin without a car.

“How do we educate more people on this growing population [of cyclists]? Because bicycling and this active population, it’s going to grow as more people move to Austin,” Feris said.

Austin’s Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo supports the effort and on Thursday will present a resolution to the council which, if approved, would ask the city manager to evaluate the costs and logistics it would take to make this happen.

“Congress Avenue is also the main access to our downtown,” Tovo said. “It is up to our transportation staff and other relevant city departments to see if this is feasible, whether a Ciclovia can be done in such a way that if they need to cross to the downtown they can do so safely.”

“Looking at the cost will be important in making sure that this is something that our community organizations can fundraise around so that it doesn’t become a major city expense,” Tovo added.

She explained that Austin has hosted Ciclovias before, though this would be the first on Congress Avenue. She said that Bike Austin has met with the South River City Citizens Neighborhood Association, the Boldin Creek Neighborhood Association, the South Congress Merchant’s Association and the Downtown Austin Alliance, all of whom support the idea.

Tovo continued, “Congress Avenue is the main street of Texas in a way, and it’s usually so full of cars that most Austinites don’t get to experience just walking down Congress Avenue and seeing that amazing view of the Capitol.”

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