Work begins on Shoal Creek Boulevard protected bike lanes

Work on the new Shoal Creek Boulevard protected bike lanes is starting.

Liza Wimberley has lived on the street for more than 20 years. She and her husband are avid cyclists. 

"He's been pretty much exclusively commuting by bike every day, rain or shine, heat or cold," Wimberley said.  

After a period of community engagement, the City of Austin decided to go with a plan for lower Shoal Creek Boulevard, from 38th Street to Foster Lane, that includes a new two-way protected bikeway on the west side, removing the ability for cars to park there.

For upper Shoal Creek Boulevard, from Foster to US 183, a one-way protected bike lane on both sides of the road is being added.

Wimberley will be losing street parking in front of her house in favor of the bikeway, but she says she's good with that and with backing her car out as well.

"If I don't get out of my driveway in two seconds and if I have to wait for a few minutes to let the bicycles go by, that's ok," she said.  

With the way it is now, bikes have to swerve around cars parked on the side of the road.

Cyclists like Wimberley point out the problem with bikes having to share a lane with parked cars is you run the risk of getting "doored.”

"You're riding by a car that's parked and the person is getting out of the car, they open their door and you slam into it,” Wimberley said. “That is very dangerous so you are always mindful of that.”

According to a City survey, even though most who responded to the questionnaire overall showed enthusiasm for the double bike lane plan, when it came to people who actually live on Shoal Creek Boulevard, 70 percent of them wanted no change.

"We feel like the City did not take into consideration what the residents, the neighborhood wanted," said Alan Phillips.  

Phillips says it's already a nightmare turning onto Shoal Creek Boulevard from his corner lot.

"If we put this bike lane right here, it's going to make it that much more hazardous," he said.

The removed parking from the west side also poses a hazard according to Phillips.

"For my neighbors who want to have guests over for example, they're going to have to park on the other side of Shoal Creek,” Phillips said. “Their safety has not improved, their safety has been impacted.”

The Alandale Neighborhood Association said by phone they have concerns about the work being done as well and that they have passed a resolution reflecting that.

"The avid bicyclists are not going to choose to stay inside the bicycle lanes, they're going to choose the traffic lanes so whom have we helped?" Phillips said.

"It's not uncommon for people to just be kind of afraid of change, not knowing how it's going to affect them but I think once the bike lanes are there and everybody gets used to it, life will go on as normal," Wimberley said.

The City says the work will cost between $3 and $4 million and the money comes from the 2016 Mobility Bond. The first phase of work will take six to nine months, according to the City.