City begins construction on shared pathways to Zilker Park

Kylee Howard, Senior News Reporter

New construction on shared pathways into Zilker Park started recently to make the park more accessible to patrons without cars, according to a Feb. 21 press release from the City of Austin.

Holly Hawk, director of development for the Zilker Botanical Garden Conservancy, said the conservancy is grateful to the city for funding the project. 

“We are excited to see the Zilker Pathways project provide safe access to the garden and greater connectivity to all of the Zilker metropolitan amenities,” Hawk said.

The project, meant to provide a mixed-use pathway for biking and pedestrian use, consists of three phases. According to the project’s fact sheet, Phase 1 will cover construction on Barton Springs Road leading into Zilker Botanical Garden. Austin Public Works anticipates the renovations at Zilker Park to last 12 to 18 months.

“(Phase 1) addresses one of the primary needs of the sidewalk system, which is connecting people to transit,” said John Eastman, sidewalk and special projects division manager at Austin Public Works.

Eastman said Austin’s vehicular network allows safe travel from one destination to another, while the current sidewalk or biking networks does not. 

“You can’t safely walk to a transit stop to then get across town to then walk to your final destination,” Eastman said. “That’s really inequitable. That’s not for people who can’t afford or don’t want to own a car.”

Government junior Matthew McCoy said he is hopeful the additional routes will improve the limited parking availability at the park.

“People are always parked on the roads and the parking lot is pretty small and they quickly fill up,” McCoy said. “These plans provide more transportation options. … If you put it there, people will use it.”

McCoy, who no longer has a car on campus, said less space dedicated for cars in and around Zilker will likely increase pedestrian safety past protected bike lanes. 

“Since it’s a narrow lane, cars will actually go slower on it because they don’t want to hit anything else,” McCoy said. “The number one factor of injury in a car crash is (the) speed of the car.”

McCoy said he visited Zilker Park as a child while staying with family in the Austin area. Now, as a student, he mostly goes for recreational activities or events, such as Austin City Limits. 

“I really love the nice open park (and) giant public space,” McCoy said. “(It’s a) really valuable piece of Austin.”