Cars. Buses. Bikes. Scooters. The forms of transportation students use to get around UT range from 15 pounds to 15 tons, yet they are forced to share the road with each other in many places around campus.
The public hazard roads without bike lanes presents to cyclists culminated in tragedy for one biker on San Jacinto Boulevard this January. A collision with a CapMetro bus led to the on-campus death of a bicyclist.
San Jacinto Boulevard has become the center of a new debate on campus: bike safety. As a result of the cyclist’s death, many students and activists are calling for new bike lanes to be installed on streets without any current protections for bikers. Last week, the Bicycle Advisory Council, which works for the City of Austin to promote bicycling as a safe form of transit, recommended bike lanes be added to San Jacinto to prevent further tragedy.
UT should implement this proposal as soon as possible to keep students and members of the community safe.
Daniel Alvarado, the sponsor of this measure and a member of the Bicycle Advisory Council, explained the context behind the proposal. Currently, San Jacinto has more than enough space to allow for the installment of protected bike lanes, such as the one on the west side of Guadalupe Street. However, angled parking spaces for faculty along the sides of the road currently take up much of this precious road space.
“I think just in general, there’s this goal to get all parking vehicles off campus,” Alvarado said. “There’s no reason why administrators need to be able to drive up to the front door.”
Studies show protected bike lanes in urban environments encourage bike traffic without increasing casualties, meaning these lanes would make biking safer on campus.
Alvarado said improving San Jacinto is already part of UT’s master plan, but the University has not yet announced a timeline for its implementation. His proposal calls for an interim solution — the University should add protected bike lanes by removing parking spaces until sufficient resources can be allocated to enact the long-term plan.
The convenience of close parking for a few hundred faculty members simply cannot justify the risks posed to cyclists by a lack of bike lanes on campus. UT should acknowledge that students’ safety far outweighs the benefits offered by a few faculty parking spots and implement the BAC’s proposal to prevent further deaths.
San Jacinto’s dangerous state — carrying heavy traffic without the protection of bike lanes — has laid the conditions for a tragedy.
According to Alvarado, the cyclist’s death could have been prevented by adequate bike lanes.
In the meantime, student cyclists feel less safe than ever. James Lentz, president of the Campus Bike Alliance, wrote in an email that he bikes down San Jacinto regularly.
“It is eerie knowing that someone died there just trying to get home after a long day,” said Lentz, civil engineering senior.
It’s time for UT to take immediate action to improve safety on San Jacinto with new bike lanes.
Govil is a computer science and government senior from Austin.