April Twenty Nineteen Bicycle Advisory Council meeting, part one

And as of Tuesday I’ve made my latest foray into the world of civic engagement, at least beyond yelling at cops and politicians. I showed up to the Bicycle Advisory Council meeting. And holy hell, what a difference a decade makes.

I’ll give it to the chair and co-chair, they had that shit running smoothly! The docket was full of what could have potentially been some real hot issues, and they kept it moving along at an admirable clip. I also enjoyed seeing some friendly faces on the council, in the crowd, and even among the presenters. But the meat of the meeting is where the goodness, and some badness, lies.

You can check the website listed below if you want a full text of the agenda, presentations, and council recommendations, but aside from the room introducing themselves, an absent public for the public communication portion, and some clerical rigmarole the first moment of the meeting that really walloped me was when council-member Patricia Schaub read the role of the recently deceased, who’d lost their lives to the melee of traffic since the last time the council convened.

Good God was it a list.

Fuck.

One after another, after another. Names, locations, all within a four week span. Were I not already sober, it would have sobered me instantly.

I’m grateful this is done. Following the grim roll call, they jumped into the various presentations and motions. First up was the Guadalupe and Lavaca Transit Improvements plan, which is basically fancy talk for them busting up the way buses, cars, and bicycles interact on northbound Lavaca, from about Fifteenth Street on up to Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard, and across to Guadalupe…

only it won’t work like that any more. Now buses will be making a left turn from the right-hand lane on Eighteenth Street, during its one light phase. Only this light phase will trigger for buses ONLY, and if a bike happens to catch it, they run the risk of getting plastered by the buses continuing northbound. Their new option for left turns is a two-stop *solution*, which will then require cyclists to sit through two light cycles if they wanted to make a move left. Or their other option is to defy the jaws of rush hour and fight their way across hill and dale, or as the city calls it their “elegantly firm” solution of corralling bicycles into a narrow lane with curbs on either side that dumps the vulnerable user into a *paint-protected* bike lane, with the option to fight across the right-turning cars to eventually reach the original left turn bicycle lane. You need to see the close-up imagery. It’s a sight.

As most of us bikers are well aware, Austin drivers are wonders at translating ambiguity and navigating road configurations that are unlike anything else in town. Take for instance the wonderful job drivers do at the one lone crosswalk where the cars have the right-of-way! Gret jerb on that one by the by, whomever happened to “engineer” that marvel. Help us out here city.

If you want to find out more or give you opinion on this gluey mass of traffic spaghetti, April Twenty Third is your chance! Four thirty to six thirty that evening at Cambridge Towers is the time and place. Please go bust their balls because I cannot.

Next up were the long-suffering plans for the Congress, er, strike that, Anne Richards Bridge. And dang, were they a doozy! Shade structures, more pedestrian-friendly railings, traffic lane reductions, protected bike lanes, chillin’ spots, the works! It would basically go from a death trap to the Lamar Pedestrian Bridge, only now, with CARS! There were other improvements to Congress, from the capitol building on down, but the majority of the discussion circled around the bridge. Primarily, when. Folks have been on the city for improvements since cyclists were mowed down nearly eight years ago, many more times before and since. Bond money has been collected, plans have been drawn up, and meanwhile we get sharrows. Thanks. Bikers have pleaded for temporary facilities, protected lanes, something, but the answer from the city is that we’ll get something “sooner than later”. But when, the council chair asks? “Soon.” When pressed for a date, soon becomes not sooner than five years from now. Maybe. Keep hoping, suckers.

Hell, I’m really dragging this on. Point is, for all the progress that’s made, sometimes progress doesn’t happen fast enough. Blood keeps being shed, and nothing happens. People write letters. Nothing happens. The Council passes a resolution. Nothing happens. But keep hoping, and “sooner than later” they’ll tell us “soon”. Again.

I know there’s a million reasons and I’ve been away from the table and don’t have any clue as to the behind the curtain business, but fuck man. This is shit I remember talking about when I was on the council, a decade ago. I remember being chastised by the chief of police because we weren’t riding our bikes safely enough to live, and maybe if we only did better then we wouldn’t be killed.

And here we are. Still begging for our scraps.

Anyway, for as gorgeous as their plans are, until I see bricks being laid, they’re nothing but promises.

Part two comes later but holy shit, my bike hero is prominently featured center stage. Stay tuned riders.

Note – April twenty nineteen Bicycle Advisory Council agenda and support documents can be found here:

http://austintexas.gov/cityclerk/boards_commissions/meetings/110_1.htm

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