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Bike Plan Passes with 6-0 Council Vote

June 15, 2009

From our friends at Austin on 2 Wheels Blog:

Thursday night, the Austin City Council voted 6-0 (Councilmember Sheryl Cole was not in attendance) to adopt the 2009 Master Bike Plan. This was a great victory for the cycling community. We have a very well written, ambitious plan and now comes the hard part: ensuring all the stuff in the plan actually gets done.

Due to heavy rains and probably some meeting fatigue, the turnout was much different this time compared to the May 21 Council meeting when public input was heard but no vote taken. In May, nearly 300 people signed up to speak and almost all of them were in support of the plan. At this meeting, only about 150 people signed up with nearly a third opposing the plan. When it came time to speak, only two people were there to speak in support of the plan (me and Allen Demling) while there were over a dozen people who spoke in opposition.

The opposition came entirely from residents of the Heritage Park neighborhood who supported the overall draft but opposed a specific bridge in the plan that would link their neighborhood to one to the north with a high crime problem. Impassioned speeches from neighborhood leaders and parents of children who would use the bridge to get to school had an effect on the council. Outgoing Councilmember Brewster McCracken tempered some of the more distressed language of the residents by suggesting that if designed well as part of good public space, the bridge could actually do more to transform the neighborhood and reduce the crime problem. While the council opted to keep the bridge in the plan (removing it would mean the City would have to give back $120,000 in moneys already received for design from TxDOT), a motion from Councilmember Laura Morrison passed requiring staff to work with police and neighbors on the crime situation and come back for final approval.

As regular readers know, Marcus and I started the Austin Bike Petition last fall to ensure we got a good plan that had clear timelines for implementation. We had over 2000 people sign the petition, and I addressed the Council on behalf of the people who signed it. Here is a transcript of what I said:

Mr. Mayor and members of the City Council, good evening. My name is Elliott McFadden and I am here representing Citizens for Transportation Choices, a political action committee that organized the Austin Bike Plan Petition, as well as the local cycling website Austin on Two Wheels. On May 21 and tonight, we have had hundreds of members of the cycling community address the Council in support of the draft Master Bike Plan. I am here tonight representing the 2186 Austinites who signed our petition, many of whom are unable to be here tonight.

Our petition was created as a way to show grassroots support for the report of the StreetSmarts Task Force as well as address some common concerns of the cycling community in the drafting of the new Master Bike Plan. Our petition read as follows:

We, the undersigned, call on the City of Austin to adopt a new Bicycle Plan with clear timelines for full implementation and the following priorities:

Establish both an initial North-South and East-West cross town dedicated bike trail or bicycle boulevard.

Prohibit vehicle parking in marked bicycle lanes and establish these lanes as “tow away” zones.

Commit to building bicycle facilities/infrastructure on all new roads and improvements to current roadways where these facilities/infrastructure do not already exist.

Funding for full time staffing of the Bicycle Coordinator and a minimum of two paid positions charged with educational and promotional activities in accordance with the best practices of other cities.

Establish a permanent City Council appointed advisory Bicycle and Pedestrian Commission to make ongoing recommendations.

I want to commend the City staff who worked on the draft plan and incorporated these priorities into the current plan. I think the draft you are considering honors the intent of this petition to create a city where cyclists are respected and have a legitimate place in the transportation mix.

I would like to close by saying while this plan has our support, it remains only a words on paper if it is not implemented. When we were circulating this petition, the number one issue that upset people most was that only 1/3rd of the projects in the 1996-98 plan every got completed. By establishing timelines in the new plan, we will not have to wait over ten years to see if progress is being made. In fact, some of the deadlines in the plan will arrive in the next budget cycle and before the terms end for the incoming council. The cycling community is more active and organized that ever before in this city, and I think you can expect us to remain engaged while working with you to ensure progress is made and this plan is honored. I encourage you to vote for the plan tonight and remain committed to its full implementation. Thank you.

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