Want to ride your bicycle? After more than one year of work, the bike master plan for Georgetown is here

Over 50 miles of cycling facilities are proposed in the plan for a grand total of 86 miles of interconnected bikeways throughout Georgetown. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Over 50 miles of cycling facilities are proposed in the plan for a grand total of 86 miles of interconnected bikeways throughout Georgetown. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)

Over 50 miles of cycling facilities are proposed in the plan for a grand total of 86 miles of interconnected bikeways throughout Georgetown. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)

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After trying to bike into downtown Georgetown via Leander Road a couple times, Kim Rouston said she decided it was just too dangerous.

The only place to safely ride a bike on the route from Rouston’s home is the sidewalk, which stops and starts along various sides of the road, she said. One must continuously zig-zag across the street and at one point go through a school campus to stay on the sidewalk.

“There’s no way to safely go down this street and into town,” she said.

The city of Georgetown hopes to change that.

Officials are working to install infrastructure ahead of city and county growth to include bicycle routes for both recreation and transportation purposes.

In 2018 the city began work on its 2030 Comprehensive Plan, and the bicycle master plan is a component of that update.

It is a joint effort between city staff and a project team from The University of Texas at Austin, an executive summary in the plan explained. An initial study of bicycling conditions in Georgetown was conducted in fall 2016 by the UT project team, and that study provided a baseline for the formal planning process that began in fall 2018.

The city features about 32 miles of off-street trails and just over 3 miles of conventional bike lanes along the newly paved configurations of Rivery Drive and Wolf Ranch Parkway, according to the master plan draft. Over 50 miles of cycling facilities are proposed in the plan for a grand total of 86 miles of interconnected bikeways throughout Georgetown.

The build-out of the recommended priority bicycle network, without considering maintenance costs, staffing and other operations, is estimated at $15 million-16 million in the plan.

The official vision statement reads: “Georgetown will have a safe, well-connected bicycle network that is accessible to all ages, abilities and backgrounds; supports the local economy; and improves the experience of everyone biking in the community.”

A few of the plan’s numerous goals include prioritizing bike paths that minimize conflicts with vehicle traffic, designing and building bicycle corridors that connect residential areas with the city center and major destinations, integrating with regional trails and bike networks, improving bike and pedestrian access around schools, building flat paths where possible to accommodate users of all abilities and expanding transportation options in underserved areas with bike infrastructure.

The plan aims to support the economy by implementing bike-oriented urban design to increase transportation options to downtown businesses, promote bike tourism, ensure commercial destinations have adequate bike parking and attract bicycle-oriented businesses.

“There’s a loop around Lake Georgetown that’s basically been built and maintained by mountain bikers,” resident Aaron Zander said. “The International Mountain Bicycling Association recognizes that trail as an epic. People travel out of country to ride those, and nobody knows about it. I don’t think the city fully understands the impact it could have on tourism.”

Zander said any city support for that trail would be appreciated and that he hopes to see more recreational trails and infrastructure added and promoted.

Paul Littlefield, owner of Georgetown bicycle shop CycleWorks, said he would like to see dedicated signage letting drivers know bicycles are allowed and welcome.

“Maybe not on a road like Williams Drive,” he said. “But establishing safe bike routes using signage to show people how to safely get across town is something a lot of cities do. We don’t have anything like that at the moment.”

Littlefield said protected bike lanes are not necessary everywhere but would be nice on some roads. He added that newcomers to Georgetown are often coming into his shop and asking about best bike routes.

“Before this [master plan] I was just showing them on Google maps,” he said.

Specified planning

An analysis to gauge strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats when it comes to biking in Georgetown was conducted based on information gathered from public engagements and field investigations.

According to the bike master plan, some of the city’s strengths include the fact bicycling for recreation is already popular; the Georgetown Public Library and Sheraton Hotel both manage bike-sharing services, and Southwestern University provides its students with on-campus bike sharing.

Weaknesses include a lack of bike lanes and facilities that make residents feel unsafe while cycling and that most reported bike trips are recreational rather than for commuting or running errands.

“This is potentially due to Georgetown’s proximity to a large city, its extensive parks with existing trails, and lack of bicycle infrastructure connecting popular destinations,” the analysis said.

Driving is the primary mode of transportation in and around Georgetown, the bike master plan’s section on current conditions said. It notes that according to American Community Survey Census data, 89% of the city drives to work, while only 0.03% bike to work, and 39% of residents commute 30 minutes or longer, with an average commute of 27 minutes.

“An aging population and a long commute out of the city, mostly to Austin, explain the current lack of biking infrastructure and bicyclists,” the plan said.

Threats recorded in the plan state rapid development outside of downtown does not lend itself to biking due to long distances between destinations.

Resident Pat Parma said bicycles should stick to parks and existing sidewalks if they are wide enough.

“City roads clogged with cars, trucks and 18-wheelers are no place for a bicycle,” Parma said.

Resident Max Rodriguez said there is already enough traffic between Austin Avenue, I-35 and Hwy. 29.
“It gets so clogged in the afternoons,” Rodriguez said. “I understand there is going to be growth, yet we don’t need bicycles in the mix. ... I don’t feel like watching out for bicycles who think they’re cars. ... Don’t Austin my Georgetown.”
By Sally Grace Holtgrieve
Sally Grace Holtgrieve solidified her passion for news during her time as Editor-in-Chief of Christopher Newport University's student newspaper, The Captain's Log. She started her professional career at The Virginia Gazette and moved to Texas in 2015 to cover government and politics at The Temple Daily Telegram. She started working at Community Impact Newspaper in February 2018 as the Lake Travis-Westlake reporter and moved into the role of Georgetown editor in June 2019.


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