“The staff recommends that both Rio Grande Street and Nueces Street together, in the northwest district of the downtown, be designated as the Downtown Bicycle Boulevard with no traffic calming tools implemented on Nueces Street.”
Two streets, rather than one, could receive improvements to facilitate the mobility of bikes and cars. City Staff heard the massive amount of discussion about Rio Grande being a better option. According to the memo to Council (pdf), Rio Grande currently carries 24% less traffic than Nueces.
After the comments by Rob D’amico and the League of Bicycle Voters, it was easy to be discouraged that the eventual proposal would be too watered down. Now, we have the actual proposal – thick with feedback from all stakeholders. As someone that lives and works downtown Austin, and having read through the draft, I’m happy with the recommended improvements. A few highlights:
- Parking in front of Wahoos would become “back in” angled parking
- New hike and bike bridge over Shoal Creek @ 4th Street
- Parking along Rio Grande remains largely unchanged
- An array of traffic circles, medians with speed cushions, speed cushions, and pedestrian curb-extensions
- Great Streets from 3rd to 7th on Nueces.
- Install sharrows from 7th to 13th
- Replace parking on one side of the street with enhance bicycle lanes.
The recommended speed limit through out the project is 25mph. Slower is better, IMO, and hopefully the proposed round-a-bouts on Rio Grande will help improve traffic flow, compared to the stop signs currently there.
In summary, these recommendations are light touches. This isn’t an expensive project. This will not be a promenade, and it was never intended to be that way.
As a commuter who uses Nueces daily to get from the Zilker area to the UT campus, exclusively on my bicycle, I think that they’ve managed to come up with a more expensive solution relative the original proposal that doesn’t actually improve north-south bicycling commutes.
I agree with what M1EK says above– since they’ve gotten rid of some stop signs without putting in diverters, they’re actually likely to attract *more* automotive traffic, not less.
They’re spreading the features over two streets without achieving the critical mass of bicycle-friendly features to attract new cyclists to either route. The grade on Rio Grande is a lot less inviting than on Nueces, as I tried both routes before settling on Nueces for my preferred commute path. As they haven’t taken the steps to ensure a smooth commute for cyclists in either location, more experienced cyclists who are comfortable biking in traffic will likely stay on Nueces, but children and new cyclists won’t be sufficiently encouraged to take that route.
They also propose building a new bridge across Shoal Creek, which can’t be cheap, and propose putting in another traffic light at Rio Grande and 5th/6th, which will further slow down east/west auto traffic into and out of downtown.
Not even close to correct. A bike boulevard needs to encourage bicycle travel over automobile travel; this does nothing of the sort (as a driver, I’ll be using Nueces and Rio Grande a lot more now that the stop signs will be replaced with some traffic circles).
Somehow we got the idea that compromise is always good when in many cases it’s worse than just picking one side or the other (ref: Shoal Creek).