By Andrew Clements, Co-Chair, Mueller Neighborhood Association Transportation & Urban Planning Committee (from the March 2021 print edition of the Front Porch Flyer)
Mueller is fortunate in our opportunities for outdoor activity, including our parks, extensive sidewalk network, and dedicated bicycle lanes. Especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, a walk or bicycle ride around the neighborhood is a welcome relief, perhaps even more so than before now that we spend so much time in our homes.
The need to respect each other, particularly pedestrians and bike-riders, and the need to share our public rights-of-way (including streets, sidewalks, and bike lanes) is inherent in our use of those same rights-of-way.
Mueller’s dedicated bike lanes – a part of Austin’s larger All Ages and Abilities Bicycle Network (bit.ly/atxbikes) – are intended for the use of bicycles, first and foremost, whether by recreational riders, commuters, or people out for exercise or running errands.
At the same time, those lanes are certainly convenient, and even necessary, for social distancing when pedestrians meet or overtake each other on a sidewalk. Areas where sidewalks are not yet installed because nearby property is still undeveloped but bike lanes have been created are locations where pedestrians and bicyclists can come into conflict, and where this article’s subtitle “respect and sharing” becomes important in application.
Pedestrians should avoid walking in bike lanes where there is an adjacent sidewalk or safe option next to the street curb; that is the safest option and also indicates “respect” – respecting that the lanes are intended for bike use and bicyclists should not be unnecessarily impeded in using them. But “sharing” is the flip-side for bicyclists to consider, especially in these times of social distancing and where simple acts of courtesy can help us avoid any perceived conflicts or inconveniences.
Some simple tips can help in our sharing:
- If you are a pedestrian in a bike lane where there isn’t an adjacent sidewalk or safe walking path, be aware of any approaching bicyclists and don’t impede their progress or cause them to have to take drastic action to avoid you, and step out of their way in advance to let them easily pass.
- If you are a pedestrian in a bike lane, be aware of the possibility of bicyclists either approaching or overtaking you; don’t let earbuds or earphones impair your ability to hear them.
- If you are in a group or family walking in a bike lane, don’t walk as a group taking up the entire width of the lane, and be aware of any approaching bicyclists and the need to not impede their path or to even step out of the lane to let them easily pass.
- If you are a cyclist, be courteous to pedestrians encountered in bike lanes, and signal by bell or voice, especially when overtaking from behind, of the need to pass.