River Oaks neighborhood calls for slower traffic, safer walkways

Residents say vehicles often speed down Old Cedar Lane, a wide residential road that curves downhill.

Residents say vehicles often speed down Old Cedar Lane, a wide residential road that curves downhill.

Residents in a North Austin neighborhood say they want slower vehicular traffic and safer pedestrian and bicycle options after Austin City Council approved rezoning land for a 118-unit townhome complex in November.

The complex would be located at 1601 Cedar Bend Drive, but council's approval stipulates construction of a new connector road between Old Cedar Lane at Willow Wild Drive and Cedar Bend Drive, which only pedestrians, bicyclists and emergency vehicles would be allowed to use. The proposed townhomes and the new connector road border the Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park to the north.

At a Jan. 18 meeting of about 20 residents, Angela Piñeyro De Hoyos, president of the River Oaks Neighborhood Association and member of the Austin Planning Commission, said developer MMK Ventures agreed to work with the neighborhood to make the connector road unattractive to drivers attempting to use the road as a cut-through.

Gordon Derr, assistant director of the Austin Transportation Department, proposed options to improve safety on roads in the River Oaks neighborhood, including adding a shared-use path for bicyclists and pedestrians to one or both sides of the roadway. He said narrower roads are a more effective speed deterrent than speed humps or chicanes, which protrude into the road, forcing vehicles to drive around them.

“You all have some really wide streets in your neighborhood,” Derr said.

Old Cedar and Willow Wild, for example, are about 44 feet wide, he said. If ATD narrows roads to 33 or 34 feet, it could create a pedestrian and bicycle lane while simultaneously slowing traffic, Derr said.

ATD would line the shared-use lane with elevated bumps, which Derr called armadillos, covered in reflector paint to keep vehicles from drifting into the path. Traffic circles are also an option to slow down traffic, he said.

Derr said ATD does not use stop signs for speed control because if there is never cross-traffic at the intersection, vehicles roll through the stop signs.

Louisa Brinsmade, a policy advisor on zoning and land use in District 7 Council Member Leslie Pool's office, said a painted shared-use lane could be completed in a few months because the city has funding to cover the cost. She said sidewalks are the ultimate goal, but funding has not yet been identified for sidewalks.

“They’re so expensive," she said. "There’s a long list of neighborhoods that want sidewalks."

Pool said some residents have asked for more traffic signals on Parmer Lane, but state-owned road projects are more difficult to complete.

“Parmer Lane is not a city road,” she said.

Pool said her office would work with city staff and neighborhood leadership to assemble a working group to look at safety options for the area. Pool said anyone wishing to stay updated on safety improvements to the River Oaks area could email [email protected]