Overflowing with swerving bikes, oblivious pedestrians blindly crossing the street, and confused and slightly imprisoned motor vehicles, Speedway is anything but speedy or efficient. The main corridor, connecting thousands of students to their respective classes every day, has been notorious for it’s ubiquitous accidents, anticipated with every step. The poorly designed street is dangerous for everyone; pedestrians, cyclists, and motor vehiclists alike. Speedway, one of the most pedestrian heavy streets in Travis County, has a multitude of design flaws, leading to be one of the most dangerous streets in Austin. The endless potholes not only causes cyclists to swerve in avoidance, but must stimulate the local bike economy for the amount of flat tires it generates. The bike racks located in the middle of the traffic lane creates a bottleneck barrier effect, cramming vehicles, two-way cycling traffic, and pedestrians into a singular seven foot wide traffic lane. Furthermore, the pedestrian-heavy street permits vehicle parking, even during passing periods. Speedway’s street parking, while only providing several dozen parking spots, occupies an immense amount of land; land which has the potential to be converted into extended sidewalks or dedicated bike lanes. Regardless of your opinion on our dependency on private motor vehicles, it is inarguable to say that the benefits of the few parking spots offered on Speedway outweighs the immense congestion and land usage seized by the vehicles.
Although Speedway is one of the most poorly planned and designed streets I have witnessed, there is a future for the catastrophe, and the UT administration has recognized it’s endless problems. Throughout the past two semesters, bicycle infrastructure development has been growing all over campus, whether that is increased bike racks, or tire pump up stations. Furthermore, the University has provided students with a dedicated and transparent website, explaining all of the future plans, costs, timeline, and even 2D renderings of what the new Speedway will look like. The street will be converted to a pedestrian-only mall, utilizing the existing parking spots for pedestrian activity. The plan also incorporates the local Austin economy by dedicating space for food trucks. Although I applaud their initiative to make Speedway a pedestrian oriented street, they failed to include bike lanes, which will lead to numerous problems after the project is completed. Being apathetic towards cyclists will not only cause distress for bicycle commuters, but will also decrease the pedestrian-friendliness of Speedway. Currently, Speedway has a designated area for cyclists (the street), and a designated area for pedestrians (the sidewalk and crosswalks); with this new design, both parties will be completely intermixed, with no sense of belonging or direction. The Speedway Mall Project is hosting an information session (9/28/15, SAC Ballroom, 3-5 PM), and if this plan does not fulfill your standards as a UT student, I encourage you to attend and voice your opinion.
– Kouros Maghsoudi