Armstrong bikeway to connect east and west Austin

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Cyclists ride down a portion of the Lance Armstrong Bikeway over W. Cesar Chavez Street Wednesday afternoon. City Council will vote Thursday on a proposal to approve construction of the bikeway.

Photo Credit: Trent Lesikar | Daily Texan Staff

Austin City Council will most likely approve the next phase of construction on the Lance Armstrong Bikeway, connecting East and West Austin for cyclists with dedicated riding paths for the first time.

The half-million dollar project will connect the East Fifth Street and Shady Lane intersection to the existing Airport Boulevard Bridge, according to a recommendation for council action to be presented at the meeting. Seven-time Tour de France winner and Austin business owner Lance Armstrong agreed to let the city use his name for the six-mile bike route, according to the Neighborhood Connectivity Division of Austin City Council.

Mayor Lee Leffingwell said the bikeway will create a safe “bikeable” route through Austin.

“The bikeway and our bike-friendly community brings people from all around the world to Austin,” Leffingwell said. “We are proud of Lance Armstrong and [Armstrong’s Livestrong] Foundation. We are proud of our biking community, and this bikeway will help guide people through our community.”

Funding for the bikeway was secured from a $400,000 federal grant as part of the federal transportation policy, with a further $100,000 coming from bond money approved in 2000.
“The bikeway will serve UT students both as a community amenity and as a travel corridor,” Leffingwell said.

Neighborhood Connectivity Program consultant Annick Beaudet said the city is attempting to increase the appeal of cycling as a mode of transportation and reduce traffic congestion in Austin.

“Bikeways are the best way to attract new riders,” Beaudet said. “We know that 60 percent of any population is interested in cycling but are concerned about their safety. If you can bring them safe facilities, then you can create a transportation mode shift out of cars and onto bicycles.”

Graduate civil engineer and cyclist Heather Hill said the construction was needed to improve the safety of riders downtown.

“At the moment, it’s illegal to ride on sidewalks, and you have to get on the road where the paths end,” Hill said. “Bikeways can make cycling faster than driving to campus, and they’re very accessible if you are coming from the right area of Austin.”

Craig Staley, general manager of Mellow Johnny’s, a downtown bike shop owned by Armstrong, said connecting East and West Austin would continue to validate the presence of cyclists on the road.

“It’s a very meaningful and valid strip because it allows anyone from the West and Northwest quadrants of the city to get here safely,” Staley said. “It’s going to give connectivity on the east side where a lot of young people are moving in and commuting into the city. You’re going to see more activity once that gets completed.” 

Printed on Thursday, November 3, 2011 as: Austin City Council likely to approve bikeway