Samaa Al Adawi said she does not feel safe riding her bike on campus along San Jacinto Boulevard.
Even though the street has sharrows, defined by the Austin Department of Transporation as shared lane markings used on roads too narrow for separate bike lanes, petroleum engineering senior Adawi said this isn’t enough to make it safe because cyclists often ride with the normal flow of traffic.
After a collision with a CapMetro bus resulted in the death of a 39-year-old cyclist on San Jacinto Boulevard on Jan. 28, students in the Campus Bike Alliance are calling for the University to create separate bike lanes on the street.
“There are buses coming at you from every direction and there are cars everywhere,” Adawi said. “The University says that San Jac is a bike-friendly route, but it’s not — especially at the intersections of 21st and 23rd.”
To address concerns about the road, members of the UT biking community are meeting with Student Government representatives in the coming weeks, said James Lentz, president of the Campus Bike Alliance.
“The University needs to take student safety and student mobility seriously,” civil engineering senior Lentz said. “This was something that could have been easily prevented with a few minor changes to the street.”
Bobby Stone, director of Parking and Transportation Services, said the University would be responsible for adding bike lanes to campus streets, but they may do it in cooperation with the City of Austin. Requests to add bike lanes can be made through the PTS bicycle coordinator, Stone said.
“Studies would also need to be conducted that would include recommendations,” Stone said in an email. “These recommendations would be vetted with safety officials and other officials on campus. It is likely if there was a recommendation, it would go through the Campus Master Plan Committee.”
Bike lanes on San Jacinto Boulevard have long been on the University’s radar. In 2013, the Campus Master Plan Advisory Committee created plans to pedestrianize most campus streets, which included the addition of bike lanes on San Jacinto Boulevard. University spokesperson J.B. Bird said the Campus Master Plan is aspirational and includes a vision for improvements that have to be implemented over time.
“The (2013) plan did not just call for bike lanes — it called for a light rail and no parking along San Jacinto,” Bird said in an email. “And the bike lane envisioned would be separated from bus traffic by a physical median. Those things are still in the plan. If the University can pursue them, it will do so comprehensively.”
Despite this past recognition, the University has not taken steps needed to improve bike safety, Lentz said.
“It’s been a known issue for a long time,” Lentz said. “I think with the 2013 plan, they realized that having cars and buses and students and bikes all mixed together, especially in the period of time between classes, is a recipe for a disaster.”
While the University debates what to do with bicycles on San Jacinto Boulevard, Adawi said a solution needs to be carried out sooner rather than later.
“I ride on San Jacinto,” Adawi said. “My friends ride on San Jacinto. As soon as I heard about the accident, my first thought was, ‘That could’ve been me.’ The road isn’t safe. It’s something that we have been saying for a while.”