It was well over 100 degrees when I found myself trudging up 24th Street, sweating, bike slung over my shoulder--its thin, flat tire hanging from the wheel.
After deciding to get the hardiest tire I could buy, my wallet was considerably lighter when I walked out.
Damn dirty bike lanes.
Cyclists in this town have a lot of perks, and one of the biggest is that Austin has miles of nice, wide bike lanes.
Unfortunately, we can’t trust them. And when a motorist sees a cyclist using the lane of traffic instead of the bike lane, that motorist gets mad at the cyclist. And that never ends well.
Why can’t we trust them? Because they’re dirty.
Sand, lawn clippings, gravel, wood chips, oil slicks.
And the worst--the very worst--glass. Not good. Sticks and stems and trees and rocks are not fun. But the busted glass? Dreaded.
People park their cars in the lanes with impunity, too. And behind the Texas DPS complex on Guadalupe Street, parked cars obstruct the bike lane year round.
Most bike lanes in Austin are fairly clean - until the trouble spots. Like the pile of glass I rode past on East 12th not long ago. They cause you to swerve into traffic, or they flatten your tire and pitch you over the handle bars.
And if you get killed because of that one trouble spot, it doesn’t matter how clean the rest of the lane was.
1) Motorists: Don’t park in bike lanes. Stay alert. And understand why cyclists sometimes take the road. When I’m rolling on a speed bike, and I’ve got the option to go through gravel and glass and sand, none of which is good for your wheels, or I can swerve it 8 inches to the left, I want the motorist to understand why I do that. I want the motorist to be prepared for us to swing out of the bike lane when we have to, and when it happens, don’t get enraged.
2) City officials: On Oak Springs near Airport, there’s a sign telling people not to park in the bike lanes. Let’s have more of those, and tickets for the cars that violate that. I believe they’re doing what they can to keep the roads and bike lanes clean. And, as bike shop employee Mark Coltharp said, single-stream recycling did a lot to get rid of broken bottles off the street. But they can do more - partner with a bicycling club and run a hotline for the trouble spots. They can launch a campaign to keep the bike lanes clean - like the Share the Road campaign.
3) Residents/non-cylists: Keep the road clean in front of your houses. Also, don’t throw your beer out the window like a drunk freshman.
4) Cyclists: Talk to each other. Austin.MyBikeLane.com is website where you can report people parked in bike lanes. Use it, or let me know of a better one. Get involved in local cleanup efforts, or better yet, organize one. Testify at city council meetings on bike issues and highlight the messy bike lanes.
Just watch out for those damn dirty lanes.