Speedway needs bike lanes

Liam Verses

During that 10–15 minute passing period between classes, Speedway becomes a crowded, congested and chaotic scene, more akin to I-35 during rush hour than a walkway on a college campus. Bikes weave in and out of the crowd, barely missing pedestrians and other cyclists, while walkers try to avoid oncoming peers, including runners and bikers galore.

Students responded with frustration — and laughter — when The Daily Texan reported that the Speedway Mall project used faulty bricks. One Twitter user said that “at UT, even the bricks crack under the pressure of academic responsibilities.”

With additional repairs slated to stretch from Jester Circle to 24th Street, Speedway will contain even more choke points along students’ daily routes on campus. While those points of congestion are unavoidable, the University should construct bike lanes along the sides of Speedway to help mitigate the collision risk for pedestrians and cyclists.

These lanes would reduce right-of-way conflicts in the middle of the Speedway and create a dedicated space for cyclists.

Even with dismount signs placed in the Speedway construction area, many cyclists continue to ride on to little, if any, benefit. The construction forces cyclists to slow down to a snail's pace in order to navigate the narrow roadway, with many slowing down to a speed matching their on-foot peers. The same hodgepodge of cyclists, runners, and walkers will remain after construction ends this spring, and pedestrian traffic will stay heavy during peak hours. Even after work ends and the road clears, Speedway won’t necessarily produce free-flowing traffic.

Speedway’s current design negates the benefits of bike riding. Roads typically separate  different modes of transportation. Guadalupe has lanes for vehicles, bikes, and pedestrians, allowing the best flow for each particular mode of transportation. Thus, we should separate bikes and pedestrians on Speedway, giving each their assigned area.

Separating these groups would not be difficult. Colored bike lanes signify that cyclists could occupy that lane at any given time. Pedestrians would take heed of the markings and check before crossing. It requires vigilance, but it beats having to dodge the bikes streaming past on the left and right.

College is fast-paced. Students have to get from point A to point B quickly, some even venturing across campus in the 10 minutes between classes. Bikes can cut their trip times in half. With Speedway serving as a hub for the UT community, it makes sense to give pedestrians — most of the traffic — the most space and cyclists their own lanes on the sides, where they can easily speed on to their next class. With a little bit of paint and increased attentiveness on the part of the individual, we can make everybody’s life a little easier, allowing cyclists and pedestrians to peacefully coexist with less dodging and darting. Bike lanes are the way to go.

Liam Verses is a Plan II and environmental engineering freshman from San Antonio. He is a columnist.