It is time to stop quivering in our boots in pointless fear of the future and just roll up our sleeves and build it.
- Ray Pierrehumbert

Monday, February 18, 2008

Hope for Austin Bicyclists?

A story on Grist gives me some hope. The Statesman has more.

Lance Armstrong will soon unveil his 18,000-square-foot Austin-based bike shop, Mellow Johnny's (named after the Tour de France's yellow jersey -- or "maillot jaune"). The goal of the shop is to promote bike culture and bike commuting:

"This city is exploding downtown. Are all these people in high rises going to drive everywhere? We have to promote (bike) commuting..."

5 comments:

John Fleck said...

There's something about this that fascinates me. You don't really need an expensive bike shop (and expensive bike gear) for bike commuting. But you do need it to promote a consumer culture surrounding bike commuting. And it may be that, in order to make bike commuting work for those same upscale people who drive expensive cars when cheap cars would do just as well, you need to create an upscale consumer culture around bike commuting to make the whole thing work.

So I guess this is a good thing.

Michael Tobis said...

Good point.

As far as I'm concerned this is a "whatever works" situation.

I'd add that the idea that Austin is an especially "green" city given its utter disregard for pedestrian and bicycle transportation is laughable. So there's a guilt card to be played as well.

Having Lance Armstrong on board is not going to hurt matters. The man has already shown himself politically adept with his support of a statewide cancer research bond.

He's on the cover of Texas Monthly this month with a puff piece; nobody is asking him yet whether he will eventually run for governor.

We could do worse in Texas; in fact we usually do.

James Annan said...

bike lanes separated from vehicle traffic

Ugh. More bike lanes is just what you *don't* need. Car drivers (and the police/legal systems) treating cyclists like humans is what you need.

Michael Tobis said...

James, no, you really don't understand the fabric of this city.

It won't work. There are many routes where there are no appropriate roads to carry the bike traffic. That's the problem.

Michael Tobis said...

To clarify; Texans are very cautious about bikes on residential streets. After all there are usually no sidewalks; you commonly see an old lady walking her dog right in the middle of the street.

Districts are inside-out from the pre-automotive pattern. Rather than a ring of residential areas around a commercial core, you have rings of commerce around a residential core.

Interdistrict travel without a motorized vehicle is considered an eccentricity.

Accordingly, there is no provision for the safety of anyone not in a car, bus or truck along and across these streets. There tends to be no connection between districts except on these streets.

I have no difficulty or concern bicycling around my neighborhood. One of the reasons I chose it is because it has rather a large perimiter, so I can actually get some distance and even some climbing in without crossing elsewhere.

Crossing or riding along a commercial street is somewhere between risky and suicidal, though. You really have to see it to believe it.

It would cost a ridiculous pittance to fix it compared to the expense spared on the road system, a penny on the dollar would do admirably, but there is a perception that there is no demand for it. After all, one rarely sees bicycles used as transit around here.

However, the commercial streets are best thought of as long-distance highways rather than as streets. They carry very large vehicles often in a great hurry. Distances are large and "time is money"; many people are ambitious or just plain agressive on those roads. There is little time to compensate for slow moving vehicles and indeed they really ought to be illegal on some stretches, including both roads that lead up to my workplace, on which injury-causing collisions between motorized vehicles are not uncommon.