Austin one of six cities to participate in Green Lane Project

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City council members and Austin-area bicycle activists cut the ribbon to officially open a new bike lane on Rio Grande Street, part of the city's Green Lane Project designed to help implement new cycling networks around Austin

Photo Credit: Gabriella Belzer | Daily Texan Staff

Cyclists in West Campus received a new route that’s green, both environmentally and in color, that should help raise cycling’s profile in the city.

After years of planning, the Green Lane along Rio Grande Street in West Campus officially opened Monday, offering bikers their own two-way lane to protect them while cycling.

John Lawler, urban studies senior and former Student Government presidential candidate, said getting the Green Lane Project to become a reality took a few years in the making.

“At first Student Government and local businesses along Rio Grande were hesitant about this project because it would ultimately close down a whole lane,” Lawler said. “However, after many meetings and visual demonstrations, everyone eventually got on board.”

Austin was chosen as one of the six cities nationwide to participate in the Green Lane Project. Bikes Belong Foundation, the organization responsible for selecting the six cities, will work with Austin to develop and implement cycling infrastructure. In addition to the new bicycle lane, the City’s Rio Grande Reconstruction Project installed new bicycle racks, benches, landscaping and trash cans along the stretch of the Green Lane.

Annick Beaudet, Austin’s Bicycle Program manager, said being chosen to participate is an honor because Austin is being rewarded for their work over the past 20 years to ensure safe and accessible access routes for cyclists.

“Just in the past five years Austin has added more lanes and trails for bikers than the past 15 years,” Beaudet said. Rio Grande Street was chosen as the location for the first Green Lane because it was already under construction, Beaudet said.

“West Campus is also an extremely busy area and home to many cyclists, so designating its own lane will protect cyclists and ensure their safety,” Beaudet said.

As an avid cyclist, Beaudet said it feels good to see the growth of cycling throughout the city.

“Cycling is a remedy to the growth pressures of a big city,” Beaudet said. “I believe cycling is the best way to get around, and projects like this will push more and more people to take part.”

The Green Lane along Rio Grande Street currently extends from Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to 24th Street, but within the next year it will reach 29th Street. Beaudet said more Green Lanes are planned for other parts of the city and will be funded through federal grants, voter-approved bonds and redevelopment funds.

Eric Bollich, an engineer within the Austin Transportation Department, said he enjoyed participating in the technical design and visual modeling of the project.

“During the planning process, a lot of effort went into vehicle simulation and designs to see if one lane would work well,” Bollich said, “and it was great to be part of a project like this that is so innovative.”

The ribbon cutting of the Green Lane coincided with UT’s Orange Bike Bikeapalooza, a day dedicated to educating students on bike safety through various activities outside of
Gregory Plaza.

Capt. Don Verett of UTPD said any event encouraging education on bike safety is necessary for our community.

“These events are there to protect our students, both cyclists and pedestrians, so it is good to have programs educating our community,” Verett said.
 

Printed on Tuesday, April 24, 2012 as: Two-way biking lane opens