For years, Austin has had the reputation of being a bicycle-friendly town, but for those of us who have lived here for 15-20 years or more, hearing or seeing this in magazines like 'Bicycling' has always been confusing. Yes, there are oodles of mountain bike trails, and yes, Lance Armstrong made his name here; however, if you attempted to bicycle in and around the city on streets and roads, you literally placed your life on the line. Not only were there virtually no bike lanes, but it was legal to park a car in those that did exist. And the newspaper regularly ran articles about drivers who intentionally clipped bicyclists because they felt that they were infringing on the god-given rights of Texans to drive their cars, trucks, and SUVs with no impediment. This is not an exaggeration!
However, in the last 2-3 years, I've begun to see more and more dedicated bike lanes appearing on major streets throughout the city. There are even pedestrian crossing lights on major thoroughfares, including one that allows folks to cross from one side of Zilker Park to the other– no more embarrassing scenes of families gathering at the side of Barton Springs Rd, and then making a mad dash across, with cars zooming by from both directions!
I don't have any concrete evidence that Austin drivers have moderated their hostility toward bicyclists and pedestrians, but I have to believe that over time, this, too, will change. Thanks are due the folks who have pushed for these changes– it appeared to be a Quixotic errand for many years, but the fruits of this quest are finally beginning to appear. As Austin continues to grow like wildfire, the hopes for a livable city rest on this continuing evolution.