Austin’s much-loved Hike-and-Bike Trail has likely never been so important as an outdoor recreation facility of choice for downtown dwellers, even with a few pandemic-related challenges — and judging by its heavy use even during this endless crisis, not to mention the continual growth of the local housing market in spite of economic uncertainty elsewhere, it’s important to keep in mind how the trail can best accommodate an ever-increasing population of Austinites.
That’s the latest from the minds of the Trail Foundation, our local nonprofit org tasked with the 10-mile loop’s maintenance and improvement, as the group works in tandem with the city’s Parks and Recreation and Public Works Departments to assemble a comprehensive safety and mobility study to determine how the city’s growth has impacted the trail experience for users — and how to best address that growth through new design efforts and other maintenance over the next few decades.
Issues highlighted by trail users in preliminary stages of this study show primary concerns related to narrow trail width, poor surface conditions and other erosion; insufficient lighting, incomplete signage, and underdeveloped access points connecting the trail to surrounding bike and pedestrian infrastructure — along certain parts of the circuit you’ll find lots of “desire paths” and other indicators that the way people prefer to use the trail doesn’t always line up with its design.
One issue discussed in the study is lighting — and not just the lack of it in some places on the trail, although that is a problem in spots. But even in areas where lighting is installed, it may be insufficient, misdirected, or even excessive: “Spillover light,” the Foundation explains, “can both cause temporary blindness (making the eyes dilate back and forth) and make unlit areas even darker due to contrast.”
This study, currently in its community engagement phase, started gathering information back in early 2020, but like everything else around here — and, you know, globally — the pandemic put a few speed bumps in the way, so the conclusion of the study’s been pushed back to Q1 2021. That’s good news for those of us who weren’t aware this effort was taking place at all!
The group is currently running a survey, open from October 16 to November 13, and we’d greatly appreciate you taking the ten minutes to fill it out — historically speaking, our readers have shown the ability to lead the pack on these sorts of things: