Bike lanes are coming to the "Main Street of Texas." Austin Transportation is rolling out new dedicated cycling lanes on Congress Avenue, the department announced on June 22.
The new lanes will run from Riverside Drive to 11th Street "to improve safety and to address COVID-19 risk-based guidelines to ensure enough physical distance for all people using [Congress] Avenue and the Ann Richards Bridge." Heavy pedestrian use on the avenue's sidewalks makes maintaining six feet of distance in some places difficult, if not impossible.
The bikeways will be blocked off using traffic cones, but Austin Transportation says parking, area businesses, or residential access should not be affected.
Congress Avenue's dedicated new lanes will be installed on June 30, and though they are temporary, the department does not yet have an end date. Instead, notes a press release, "the temporary protected bicycle lanes and the opportunity to transition to a more permanent installation is envisioned as part of the Congress Avenue Urban Design Initiative and is a significant step toward the vision’s implementation and improving safety and mobility for everyone on [Congress] Avenue."
Congress Avenue Urban Design Initiative is part of Imagine Austin, a proposal adopted in 2012 to make the city core a more walkable, inclusive space for all.
In May, more than 1,000 residents signed a petition requesting the bike lanes be added to Congress. During its June 11 meeting, Austin City Council officially passed the measure.
The onset of COVID-19 and the need for residents to access outdoor space where they can safely adhere to social distancing protocols have led to an increase in projects like this one and the Healthy Streets initiative. In addition to Congress, dedicated bike lanes have recently been added to Pleasant Valley Road over the Longhorn Dam and Riverside between South First Street Street and Lee Barton Drive.