Friday, June 3, 2011

Rollin' on the River

Despite my recent bicycle-related run-in with The Man, I am normally an extremely law abiding cyclist. This is all part of my own personal crusade to represent everyday cycling as I see it: normal, comfortable, safe, practical, with a certain cool factor. I typically accomplish this by cycling in a fairly relaxed fashion, while wearing my regular clothing, riding my "normal" bike, and following all the rules. So my own legal faux pas aside, I am consistently irritated (infuriated, if you prefer) by the legions of cyclists I see wildly flouting the rules of the road.

Occasionally, however, this is harder than not. While Austin is a very cyclist friendly city, let's face it, this is America. Out infrastructure accomodates drivers, pedestrians, public transport, and bikes. More or less in that order, bikes coming in dead last. This morning my previously mentioned friend Sunshine McHappypants took a morning ride from my place in North Austin to her new apartment in downtown, utilizing the mostly-awesome Shoal Creek Blvd and further south, its counterpart the Shoal Creek Trail. It's nearly a freeway for bikes - the bike lane is shared-use for parked cars, so its a full lane-width wide, mostly perfect pavement, low traffic, and is a direct artery until about 31st Street or so.

However, for chunks of it, it is a completely unpaved, rocky "hike and bike" trail, emphasis on the hike. As pretty as it is, I find the design of it a bit disappointing. You hop off the beautifully appointed bike lane onto a smooth paved trail framed in oaks, wind rustling through the trees. There is no traffic, just you and your bike headed out for the day together. Then bam! Pavement ends. If you ride a mountain bike, cool. Run over it. But I ride a city bike with no suspension, and street tires. I'm getting off and walking.

As the trail heads further south into downtown, it continues to alternate between pavement and natural surface, and past a point it just became easier to jump onto Lamar, which is a major road. I hate riding on bike lane-less major roads. That's there the cars live. But the best infrastructure in the area is painfully impractical in a transportation sense. What if I'd had panniers on? Or non-athletic shoes?

If you could change anything (or several things) about our bike infrastructure, where would you start? Where would you go with that start?

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