Dozens of San Marcos residents attended a public meeting to update the city’s bike plan and bike map Thursday night. Photo by Sean Batura.
By SEAN BATURA
San Marcos residents turned-out in unusual numbers Thursday night to answer a request from city staff for help in updating the city’s bike plan and bike map.
Attendees of the public meeting discussed ways to make the city more bike-friendly. Some suggestions offered by attendees included reducing automobile speed limits, placing bike-oriented signage, implementing stricter traffic law enforcement, and adding more bike racks and lanes, among other initiatives.
“The turnout was great,” said City of San Marcos Transportation Division Assistant Director Sabas Avila. “I think the questions were great, the interaction. I wish all our public meetings were like this. This was definitely one of the best-attended public meetings we’ve had in a long time. I think that means people are excited, people want to be a part of keeping our bike plan and map current and making these improvements.”
The major goals of the bike plan are to: 1) Promote bicycle travel by the Texas State community, 2) Develop a master plan of bike and pedestrian facilities, and 3) improve bicycle safety and mobility in the city.
City staff presented six bike projects that cleared the first hurdle to receive funding from the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO). CAMPO dispenses millions in federal and state dollars each year. CAMPO has funded two of the six projects so far, and the rest may take years to complete due to the current financial travails of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), said Avila.
The two CAMPO-funded projects Avila said will be initiated in the near future are: 1) an Aquarena Springs Drive bike/ped facility, which will provide access to pedestrians and cyclists from Interstate-35 to Charles Austin Drive, and 2) Hopkins Street-Thorpe Lane bike/ped Improvements, intended to provide bicycle and pedestrian access along the Hopkins Street/Thorpe Lane intersection and across the nearby railroad tracks.
“In 2009, CAMPO awarded $40 million in … these kinds of projects,” Avila said. “This year, they are only awarding $4 million. So, even though we were selected for award, only those top two are proposed to get money this year. Even though these (six projects) have already been selected for award, it may take several years before we actually get the money. So, it’s a bad situation for municipalities. Do we wait for this money, or is it important enough for us to move forward without the federal money?”
The other four city bike projects selected by CAMPO for funding that is not yet available include: 1) a River Road/Riverside Drive bike facility, intended to provide bicycle access from River Road to Riverside Drive across Interstate-35, 2) Sessom Drive intersection improvements to make the area safer for cyclists and pedestrians, 3) an LBJ Drive bike trail, which would provide bicycle access from Sessom Drive to Holland Street, and 4) RR 12 improvements intended to provide bike access from Craddock Avenue to Holland Street.
Avila said the city will usually match CAMPO bike/ped projects with 50 percent funding. Avila did not have a cost breakdown for the six projects Thursday night. The city’s capital improvements department website lists at least one of the six aforementioned projects: the Aquarena Springs Drive hike an bike trail, which will be funded with $124,500 from CAMPO and $250,000 with fiscal year 2008/2009 general obligation funds, according to the September 2009 project information document.
The city’s transportation master plan includes a bike and pedestrian component, which is the focus of the current update effort. Once city staff collate the responses it received Thursday night and during the next few days, the staff will offer recommendations to the city manager’s office and to the city council for final approval.
“The one thing that (drafters of the 2004 transportation master plan) realized was, there’s no silver bullet for the traffic situation that we’re in,” Avila said. “With a university with an enrollment of 30,000 and growing, we cannot keep pace with roadway expansions alone. It has to be a comprehensive approach.”
At the bike plan meeting Thursday night, city staff lined the walls of a room in the San Marcos Activity Center with street maps and provided styluses for attendees to indicate preferred bike routes and unsafe cycling areas, so that staff can better prioritize projects. The city provided tables with information and surveys for attendees to offer comments and advice to make the city more bike and pedestrian friendly.
San Marcos Council of Neighborhood Associations (CONA) Dunbar Neighborhood Representative Amy Kirwin attended the Bike Plan meeting Thursday night and responded to some of the suggestions expressed by attendees. Kirwin, who also is president of CONA, said she spoke not in her official capacity, but as a neighborhood advocate.
“As a neighborhood advocate, I have heard many times the request for the speed limit to be lowered within neighborhoods,” Kirwin said. “I think the prospect of this possibility will be pursued by some of the neighborhoods. In the Dunbar Neighborhood, the transportation department talked about bike lanes on MLK (Drive) over five years ago. The neighbors did not like the idea of losing their on-street parking. I believe as the increase in bicycles as transportation has happened over the last couple of years, the idea can be revisited. These are exciting times that hopefully the neighborhoods, bike and student communities can come together to promote a positive impact for San Marcos.”
City Council candidate Jude Prather, who attended Thursday’s bike plan meeting, said he supports more people using alternate means of transportation to alleviate vehicular parking woes and infrastructure wear-and-tear, among other reasons. Prather said he supports increasing recreational cycling opportunities by adding more bike paths in natural areas like the Purgatory Creek greenspace.
“If we can re-stripe as many of our roads as possible, add in bike lanes, I think it would promote a vision of San Marcos that much of this town already adheres to; and that is, that we’re forward-thinking, that we’re a healthy, young, vibrant town,” Prather said.
Avila said projects completed by the city that have improved access for cyclists and pedestrians include: 1) the Wonder World Drive Extension, which, Avila said, has 10-foot-wide shoulders to accommodate non-motorized traffic, and paths along the roadway that connect with the Purgatory Creek (Wonder World) greenspace, 2) decorative bike racks, which, Avila said, are intended to raise awareness of cycling, in addition to being functional, 3) CM Allen Parkway improvements, which added a bike lane/parking area to service cyclists and motorists traveling to city parks, and 4) the bike lane on Post Road, intended to serve students in the multifamily complexes along that thoroughfare.
In answer to questions from bike plan meeting attendees, Avila said residents who want their neighborhood speed limits reduced to 25 miles per hour may obtain survey forms from the city’s transportation division, which will forward their requests to the city council.
“What the city council likes to see is, is the neighborhood in favor of this?” Avila said. “And if we can show they’re in favor of it, they will approve it.”Email | Print