Driving down Congress Avenue has looked a lot different this summer. Not only are the throngs of traffic gone and buildings empty of workers, but a series of temporary bike lanes have been installed along the corridor.
In May, more than a 1,000 residents signed a petition asking to install the bike lanes along "the Main Street of Texas." The following month, the Austin City Council passed the measure and announced the creation of temporary bike lanes along Congress, between Riverside Drive and 11th Street.
With Austin battling COVID-19, the bike lanes were a way "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," the city said at the time.
Earlier this week, the City of Austin announced the bike lanes will become permanent. The traffic cones and plastic markers installed to designate the lanes will be replaced with flexible delineator posts and parking stops to create a physical barrier between cyclists and vehicles. Driveways and on-street parking will remain accessible to cars, notes a news release.
Congress Avenue's new bike lanes promote access to alternative modes of transportation while easing traffic on downtown sidewalks. With cyclists and scooter riders using dedicate lanes, pedestrians and nearby businesses are better able to take advantage of the sidewalk and maintain social distancing guidelines, the city notes in its announcement.
Along with the bike lanes, the city also announced the creation of dedicated left and right turn signals at high-traffic intersections, a move that will hopefully stop the soul-crushing feeling of cruising down Congress only to get stopped behind someone attempting to make a left-hand turn across three lanes of traffic. In addition, improved pedestrian crossings and signage will also be installed.
These improvements are part of the Congress Avenue Urban Design Initiative, a project funded in 2012 and launched in 2017 with the goal of improving the downtown corridor.
Construction on the permanent bike lanes is already underway, and the city has projected a four-to-six week timeline for completion.