In a somewhat controversial move, the city of Austin has decided to convert Seventh, Eighth, Brazos, and Colorado streets in downtown Austin from one-way to two-way streets. The city claims that this change will slow down traffic and make the city’s streets safer for Austin’s increasing number of pedestrians. Plans for the construction to effect this change are already underway.
Conversion of the section of Brazos between Cesar Chavez and Sixth will take place in January of 2015, and changes to the section between Sixth and 11th streets will take place sometime later in the year. The change on Colorado Street (from 10th Street to Cesar Chavez) will be effected in fall 2016. It has not yet been decided when the changes will be made to Seventh and Eighth streets.
These streets were originally two-way streets. However, they were converted to one-way streets in the 1970s. A rapid increase in the number of pedestrians within the city has caused the city to reevaluate street directions in an effort to decrease the number of pedestrian accidents in Austin. Changing these streets from one-way to two-way streets should help to achieve this, as it will decrease traffic speed. Slower traffic in general will lead to fewer accidents overall.
Some have also questioned whether the city ranks pedestrian safety and other concerns over the safety of bicycle riders. Currently there is only one dedicated bike lane that runs north-south. This bike lane is located on Lavaca Street, which is very traffic-heavy. When questioned about the feasibility of adding additional bike lanes to other streets, however, the reply was that there wasn’t room to add a bike lane without losing space for parking. While parking is certainly an important issue in downtown Austin, some are upset by what they feel is the city’s prioritization of parking over the safety of bicycle riders.
What do you think about Austin’s plans to convert these streets from one-way to two-way streets? Does the city need additional bike lanes, even if they come at the expense of some of the street parking downtown? Let us know in the comments below!