Have you driven on Barton Springs Road in the last six months since the city kicked off its yearlong road safety pilot project? We sure have, and the grand conclusion for drivers seems to be precisely the outcome predicted by the traffic engineers at the Transportation and Public Works Department — for cars, things are about the same, without the apocalyptic increase in existing congestion here predicted by critics of the pilot project’s protected bike lanes and reduction of Barton Springs Road to one lane in each direction between Lamar Boulevard and Azie Morton Road. Meanwhile, the experience for bikes and pedestrians is now immensely improved by the pilot’s fairly minor infrastructure upgrades, and thanks to the proximity of Zilker Park and the various attractions along Barton Springs Road, these features are heavily used.
AUSTIN, TX: Barton Springs Road Safety Project update, Jan 17, 2024. A nicely done safer crossing at Barton Blvd, separated/protected bike lane, and transit stop integration. Bravo, @austinmobility!
Click on the link below for more of my coverage of this project.
— Active Towns (@ActiveTowns) January 17, 2024
Recalling that there were a whopping 241 car crashes documented on Barton Springs Road during a five-year period between May 2018 and April 2023, the need for some kind of change here was obvious, and it’s just a bonus that the safety interventions on Barton Springs don’t seem to bother many people. We have actually watched the sentiment from skeptics of the pilot project on social media shift in real time, and the best comment we’ve seen so far is “Actually, it’s not the nightmare that I expected.”
This is a well-documented cycle known to transportation engineers and urban planners introducing projects like pedestrianized streets and road diets — there is immense controversy over a change, people adjust and accept its upsides, and after a year or two nobody can imagine the city without it. You know it’s real when local broadcast news stations like KXAN are reporting a pleasant reception:
With six months complete and the project at its midpoint, the Transportation and Public Works Department is now seeking feedback on the user experience of the pilot with a community feedback survey running through February 24. To ensure that the improvements become the permanent state of affairs in this area, we’d like our intrepid readers to go fill this thing out and advocate for continued road safety efforts. Think about it — if these changes don’t destroy the experience of a major thoroughfare like Barton Springs Road, can you imagine where else they might help?