According to the League of American Bicyclists, Texas was the 22nd most bike friendly state in 2013. In 2015 (the year with the most recent data), that number dropped pretty far – down to 30. What changed?
Every year, the League ranks all the states for bicycle friendliness based on answers from state bicycle coordinators, which are then verified by workers at the League. There are five categories, ranked with scores of one through 5, that the League uses to determine bike friendliness:
- Legislation and enforcement
- Policies and programs
- Infrastructure and funding
- Education and encouragement
- Evaluation and planning
Of these five categories, Texas scores consistent ones in two categories: infrastructure and funding, and evaluation and planning. The money is just not there, and cyclists are often left out when cities determine where and how to build new roads.
Safer Cycling in Austin
Texas is a big state, so statewide data may not accurately reflect on Austin’s local bicycle friendliness. As a matter of fact, Austin frequently hovers in or around the Top 10 Most Bike Friendly Cities, according to Bicycling Magazine, which rated Austin the seventh most bike-friendly city in the United States last year. What makes us different from the rest of the state?
Over the last few years, a number of multimillion dollar public works projects have been built that have made cycling a better, safer mode of transportation. For example, the Boardwalk at Lady Bird Lake provides a valuable bike route for the expanding urban core; the Walnut Creek Trail links east Austin with low-income housing, urban farms and the Driveway Series bike race; and the soon-to-be completed MoPac Mobility Bridges, a massive project aiming to keep bicyclists off the freeway.
In addition to those projects, the city has spent time repaving a significant amount of the city, leading to an extra ten miles of extra bike lanes. More than 10 percent of Austinites within the 8-mile square area of downtown are now bicycle commuters.