Craig Staley

Hoping to create a more comfortable pedestrian environment downtown, Royal Blue Grocery plans to convert parking space into business space.

The city’s one year pilot plan to allow the Royal Blue Grocery on North Congress Avenue to use two downtown parking spaces located directly in front of the store for outdoor retail space at $300 per space per month was approved by The City Council March 22. Construction on a small wooden platform on the spaces with picnic tables and benches will begin soon, said Craig Staley, Royal Blue Grocery co-owner and proprietor.

“This will turn downtown into a more vibrant and pedestrian friendly area,” Staley said. “Congress is the only street that allows business to utilize the sidewalk areas outside of a business without charge, but it is very narrow and there is really only enough room for people to walk by. This will offer people a place to sit down to eat lunch, use Wi-Fi and enjoy the weather.”

The two-space area has been approved for one year to gauge customers’ reactions, Staley said. If successful, Staley said he hopes more businesses will utilize the idea to create a more pedestrian-friendly atmosphere downtown.

Staley said Royal Blue Grocery plans to invest $20,000 so customers can have a fair representation of the project’s full potential.

“We are going to construct it out of wood rather than cement or any other permanent building material because it is temporary for now and we want to see how people like it,” Staley said. “We are really taking a risk on this as a business because we don’t know if it will even be something permanent, but we are confident that once people give it a try they will love it.”

Leah Bojo, a policy aide to city council member Chris Riley and supporter of the idea, said customers and downtown patrons should not worry about the loss of the two parking spaces because an Airport Flyer bus stop was recently removed about a block away from the store resulting in new spaces.

“We are creating a destination,” Bojo said. “When there is a great environment for people to enjoy, that is more important than the parking because there are still so many other options for parking and transportation downtown.”

George Scariano, Royal Blue Grocery co-owner and proprietor, said most customers are pedestrians and are not using those spaces to park anyway, so the space will be more useful to them now.

“Ninety percent of my customers are walk-up,” Scariano said. “There is heavy pedestrian dependence. We think it will be great for the downtown environment and a good way to encourage pedestrian traffic which creates a good atmosphere.”

UT alumnus Avani Trivedi walks her bike out from the racks next to Gregory Gym Monday afternoon. Trivedi is seen with various bike safety items such as lights, reflectors, helmet and even a neon safety jacket for enhancing visibility.

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

With around 3,000 students zipping around campus on bicycles every day, crashes are common, but also avoidable with the proper safety precautions.

There have been nine reported bike crashes on campus during the 2011-12 school year, according to UT Police Department records, and 54 crashes throughout Austin in 2012, according to Austin Police Department records. There has been one bicycle wreck fatality in 2012 and it was not on campus, according to APD records.

“Typically crashes are caused by a visibility issue,” said Craig Staley, general manager of Lance Armstrong’s Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop. “Most of the crashes, including the fatal ones, happen because someone did not see someone else.”

Staley said maintaining visibility and wearing a helmet are the most important aspects of safe biking, which is reinforced by UTPD records, which show that all bike crashes this school year have happened in the late afternoon or later, when there is less sunlight.

“Helmets, lights and proper safety equipment are very important,” Staley said. “We encourage all of our customers to buy a good helmet and lights and reflectors when they purchase a bike.”

Staley said the UT area is slightly safer for biking because the abundance of riders forces pedestrians and motorists to stay on the lookout.

“I would suggest riding on campus as much as possible, rather than riding on Guadalupe [Street],” he said. “Not that Guadalupe [Street] is completely unsafe. It does have a bike lane which is helpful. There is just so much congestion there, though, and the motorists are less likely to be on the lookout for bicyclists.”

Sam Cortez, bike coordinator for UT Parking and Transportation Services, said planning and learning a route is an important key to safe cycling.

“The No. 1 safety tip is to ride predictably,” Cortez said. “That’s what we tell everyone. Stopping at stop signs, using hand signals and having lights for the night are also very important.”

Lt. Ely Reyes with the APD Highway Enforcement Command said safe bicycling requires teamwork from both bicyclists and motorists.

“Bicycle safety is a two-way street that requires awareness for both cyclists and drivers,” Reyes said. “Bicyclists need to abide by the same traffic laws as vehicles. This means stopping at stop signs and red lights. These are the two most common violations we observe.”

Staley said people should expect to see more changes in their surroundings because of an increase in bicycling and safety awareness.

“When the city makes plans for construction of buildings and roads, bikes are part of the equation now,” Staley said. “Always expect there to be bikes.”

Printed on Wednesday, March 21, 2012 as: UT student bycyclists receive safety tips for riding on campus

Will Shumaker, a student at Garza High School, works on a broken shifter cable at Yellow Bike Project Monday morning. Yellow Bike Project implemented a free bike share program in 1997, but the city plans to create a more secure kiosk stations where visitors and citizens can rent bikes throughout Austin.

Photo Credit: Shannon Kintner | Daily Texan Staff

Austinites will soon have a new way to travel around downtown through the upcoming Bike Share Program between a local bike shop and a city organization.

The program began in December when the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization agreed to give a $1.5 million grant to a private partner if they were willing to raise an additional $500,000 to get the program started. Craig Staley, general manager of Lance Armstrong’s Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop, said he offered to be the private partner and has received sponsorships from Austin companies to support the program.

“We all think of Austin as a big cyclist city and know it is cheaper to paint a white stripe down the road for a new bike lane than it is to buy more buses that will congest downtown anyway,” Staley said.

Bike Share kiosks will be set up where customers can rent bikes to ride to their destinations and then leave at another kiosk, where the bike sharing cycle continues, he said.

The Bike Share Program should not be confused with Austin’s Yellow Bike Project from 1997, which was similar but less secure and soon had all of its bikes stolen.

“The Bike Share Program and the Yellow Bike Project are like two completely different animals,” Staley said. “We are a business. They were a community activist organization that wanted to offer free bikes and hoped everyone would be honest.”

Staley said the Bike Share Program will start with about 450 bikes placed at different kiosks around downtown and East Austin. Staley said Bike Share members will pay about $60-70 a year, with no usage fees for the first 30 minutes of use per day. Nonmembers can pay about $10 to rent a bike for a day. Weekly rentals may be offered, too, Staley said.

“A weekly rental will be great for tourists here for South By Southwest to get around,” Staley said.

Staley said GPS systems will be installed in the bikes to prevent stealing.

“About 400 cities around the world use this system and 20 so far in the U.S,” Staley said. “We talked to many of them, and out of the hundreds of bikes in each city only about one or two are stolen.”

Sara Hartley, Public Works Department spokeswoman, said CAMPO probably offered the grant because there are numbers to prove the security of the system.

“CAMPO offered the grant, but the planning and application of the program is really in the hands of the companies sponsoring it,” Hartley said. “Research shows the success rate of this system is really high around the world and I think that’s what really helped in getting this grant.”

There are no plans to place kiosks on the UT campus in the first wave of the program’s implementation, but Staley said he hopes to eventually put about 15 around UT, especially in West Campus.

“I would definitely use the [Bike Share Program],” said advertising junior Benita Zhang. “Especially so I don’t have to walk back home late at night when the buses stop running.”