After COVID-19 struck the U.S., cycling zoomed into the consciousness and routines of millions of Americans. We dusted off bicycles we hadn’t ridden in years, or we bought new bicycles to get exercise and to get out of the house. As a result, a pandemic-triggered shortage of new bikes is expected to ride well into 2021.
A new list gives Austin cyclists even more of a reason to take advantage of this hobby. The nonprofit People for Bikes initiative puts the new protected bikeway on Shoal Creek Boulevard at No. 4 in its ranking of the 10 best new bikeways in the U.S., and it awards an honorable mention to new protected bike lanes on South Congress Avenue.
People for Bikes says the five-and-a-half-mile protected bikeway on Shoal Creek Boulevard fills a gap in the proposed 30-mile Big Loop trail network around Central Austin. To create space for people to walk and bike, the Austin Transportation Department conducted community outreach in 2019 to build support for removal of on-street vehicle parking from one side of the residential corridor and a five-lane to three-lane conversion on the other side.
“While this street has been a longtime route for recreational cyclists, there was previously no dedicated space for people to bike. Adding delineators, concrete buttons, and protected intersections made this street appropriate for riders of all ages and abilities, just in time for the pandemic-related need for social distancing and access to the outdoors,” People for Bikes says of the Shoal Creek project.
The group handed an honorable mention to temporary bicycle lanes on South Congress from East Riverside Drive to 11th Street. The Austin City Council approved the temporary lanes in the summer of 2020. In September, city leaders announced the change would be permanent. For years, advocates have pushed to make the South Congress corridor safer for cyclists and others.
“Now, the project that started as a temporary COVID relief has made substantial multimodal and safety improvements that will sustain riders well into the future,” People for Bikes says.
Also earning praise from the group were new bikeways in New Orleans; Boston; Pittsburgh; Memphis, Tennessee; Fremont, California; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Chicago; Denver; and Providence, Rhode Island. The New Orleans bikeway cruised into the top spot.
“These projects make biking more useful, more beautiful, and more welcoming to all riders,” People for Bikes says. “With careful planning and smart construction, cities relied on support from residents to expand access to completely connected, comfortable mobility networks, allowing people on bikes or on foot to travel safely throughout their community. Thankfully, these changes will last well beyond this pandemic.”