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BikeTexas trained more SafeCyclist teachers and put on a KidsKup event in one whirlwind weekend.
The first stop was Mesquite ISD, where 45 physical education teachers and assistants came together to learn the SafeCyclist curriculum to produce more savvy young cyclists in Mesquite. Susan Henderson, Physical Education and Health Coordinator for Mesquite ISD, arranged for the training day.
From Mesquite, BikeTexas traveled to Waco for The Waco Race KidsKup. About 20 kids came out with their bikes and enthusiasm to participate in the race.
The Complete Streets bill has been filed (HB 1102 and SB 565)! The Complete Streets Bill has a bi-partisan range of authors: House Reps Harper-Brown (R), Keffer (R), Morrison (R), Martinez (D) and Lucio III (D), and Senators Ellis (D), Duell (R), Davis (D), Lucio, Jr. (D), Rodriguez (D), Uresti (D) and Watson (D). You may remember that in the 2011 session, Complete Streets passed out of the House and Senate Transportation Committee after some negotiation and language changes. This was late in the session and the bill died, along with thousands of others, when the session ran out of time. To help the bill get a faster start this session, the committee substitute language from 2011 is being used for the 2013 filing.
BikeTexas continues to talk with potential bill authors concerning the Safe Passing effort.
On February 26, BikeTexas staff attended the House Transportation Committee hearing and registered support for the Anti-Texting While Driving Bill, HB 63 by Rep. Tom Craddick (R-Midland) and other authors. This bill is of interest to cyclists and pedestrians for several reasons. First, cyclists and pedestrians have a lot to gain in safety from reduced numbers of distracted drivers. Second, Rep. Craddick’s bill has a similar history to Safe Passing: overwhelming passage in each house and a veto by the Governor. BikeTexas staff was able to observe the House Committee's first response to re-filing of the bill, which was positive overall.
BikeTexas held a second bike ride on Sunday, February 24 for interns from the Texas Legislative Intern Program, sponsored by Senator Rodney Ellis. The interns took in many of the Austin sights by bicycle, including a visit to the newly-remodeled LBJ Library. BikeTexas staff frequently encounters these interns during office visits.
Please put Cyclists In Suits Day, Monday, March 25, on your calendar. The Lege Staff are always asking, “Where are our bike pins?” and we tell them our cycling constituents will be there with bucket-loads on our bike lobby day. They recall well our previous Cyclists in Suits efforts, so we really need your participation in 2013! Register for Cyclists in Suits here.
After a beautiful drive through the hill coutry to the Flat Rock Creek Ranch, the KidsKup Express (aka BikeTexas) arrived. After a gracious welcome at the ranch, they set up the KidsKup Race Booth, drawing an eager audience of young riders. After all of the kids had registered, the race course was opened for them to start their pre-riding.
A great crowd of parents were in attendance and showing their support for all of the kids racing. This race was drew in several first-time racers (and their parents!) and many declared, “We will be back!”
A total of 39 kids aged two up through twelve raced on Saturday. The youngest category had nine riders, most on balance bikes. Needless to say the audience had a blast also, with everyone cheering very loud for all the racers and for the parents following the little ones. Every race brought loud cheers from the parents and other participants watching. At the races progressed to the older riders, the races became more competitive, and excitement grew with every race.
After all the races were over and the participants received their medals they were treated to a raffle. Some happy riders went home with a new bike bell or a helmet. Again the KidsKup was a resounding success. But we’re not done yet—there are still seven races to come this spring! Be sure to check the BikeTexas website or Facebook for the dates and times for the next race.
It's been a busy few months for bike sharing in Texas, with two cities expanding and two more gearing up for a launch.
Houston B-cycle announced a new partnership with Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) in January and celebrated the installation of three new stations this past week at the Downtown YMCA, the Ensemble/HCC METRORail station, and at the Lake Plaza entrance to the Houston Zoo. Eighteen more stations are planned to open, and Will Rub of Houston B-cycle says they hope to have at least 14 of the stations operational by the end of March.
Mr. Rub also says that the new partnership with BCBS will allow for warehouse and office space, which they haven't had up until now. They'll be adding more staff and a service vehicle to their operations. In addition, Houston has opted into the reciprocal scheme that is on the cards for the entire B-cycle system, which will allow B-cycle members from Houston to check out bikes in any B-cycle city. Mr. Rub says the reciprocal system should be in place soon.
The official kickoff of the new partnerships and new stations will be in April 2. The location of the kick-off event is to be determined.
San Antonio B-cycle is adding five new stations and 50 new bikes, bringing the current totals to 35 stations and over 300 bikes. They have plans to continue expanding the fleet and the number of stations throughout 2013.
Fort Worth bike sharing is rolling forward towards its April 22 launch! The Fort Worth B-cycle website is not yet functional, but the bike sharing blog says they plan to launch with 30 stations and 300 bicycles. Fort Worth bike sharing is looking for volunteers! Visit the bike sharing page to find out more and sign up!
Austin's bike share is also moving forward. The City Council approved the nonprofit Bike Share of Austin in January and is still working toward selecting a vendor. The current target is for 40 stations and 400 bicycles to be on the ground in the late spring.
Saturday, February 9, dawned grey and dreary, with some drizzle and light rain. BikeTexas staff headed out to Smithville to kick off the 2013 KidsKup series with the Rocky Hill Roundup. Before long, we had over 30 children registered and the course was laid out, so the course opened for pre-riding.
The first rider on the course was a two-year-old on his strider bike. He rode all over until his dad convinced him to ride within the blue lines, but the young man took Dad at his word and rode directly on the blue line! The other children and their parents enjoyed watching him make the first lap, and then all of the riders were on the course, each taking turns. It was very refreshing to see that the children's and parents' enthusiasm was not dimmed in the least by the dismal weather.
Their enthusiasm spread to everyone in attendance and before long we had a fairly large crowd of not only riders but a great group of parents and siblings of the riders. There was also a group of the older children who were to race in the teens' official race later, but who gathered to watch the younger competitors.
At noon, all of the KidsKup riders gathered for the mandatory riders' safety meeting, which is similar to the safety meetings for the adults. The exception for the younger riders is the emphasis on always wearing helmets, along with some street riding safety. By the time the safety meeting was finished, the children were all ready to ride.
The announcer, Jeff Chattin from Trek, helped build enthusiasm in the crowd as he called the racers to the start line. Racing at KidsKup always starts with the youngest riders-- this is normally also the smallest group. As the older groups had their turns in succession, the crowd of supporters continued to grow. The oldest group lined up and they were getting ready to start when one of the parents shouted "Please wait!" They had just arrived and the youngster wanted to race. Mr. Chattin held the other riders just long enough for someone to put the number on the bike.
Mr. Chattin cried out "GO." Straight off the line, this was a very competitive race. The young man who had arrived last jumped to an early lead and continued to widen the gap. However, at the last turn before lap two he slid and went down. This allowed the second place rider to pass him. The fallen rider recovered right away and the two young men had a mad sprint to the finish with the formerly second place rider holding off the challenger to beat him to the finish line. At such an exciting finish, there was a lot of loud cheering from parents, riders that had finished earlier, and by some of the adult MTB racers scheduled to race later in the day. All the young riders congratulated one another and displayed great sportsmanship.
The Rocky Hill Roundup was a great start to a new, longer season of the BikeTexas KidsKup 2013. Don't miss out on the next race! See the complete schedule here for a race near you.
Loop 1604 is a major corridor for many San Antonio cyclists, who rely on the eight-foot shoulders on the road to stay out of harm's way. In recent months, during a interchange construction project (at US 281), those shoulders were removed from the road in favor of wider car lanes.
San Antonio cyclists, alarmed and angered by this change, contacted TxDOT, the Bexar County MPO, and BikeTexas to protest the loss of the shoulders. On Wednesday, February 13, BikeTexas found out that the Alamo RMA had the authority to change the lane configuration, and that they had a public board meeting the very next day. BikeTexas contacted San Antonio cyclists to let them know of the next day's meeting and staff members planned to attend.
Given only half a day's notice, the turnout at the February 14 meeting was overwhelming-- half a dozen individuals took time out of their days to encourage the RMA to support bicycling along this corridor. So many citizens turned out to speak that the agenda for the meeting was rearranged on the fly; the issue of the 1604/281 interchange was moved to the very first item to allow those present to avoid having to sit through the entire meeting.
BikeTexas Program Manager Jack Sanford spoke first, stressing the importance of this area to the thousands of BikeTexas supporters in San Antonio, and providing illustrations of shared lane markings and green paint that could make this area even safer for cyclists. He also provided extensive documentation that TxDOT is supportive of biking and walking.
Other citizen speakers included George Haegerty who works with USA Cycling, BikeTexas Member and local advocate Edgar Pace, bike advocate and member of the MPO's Bicycle Mobility Advisory Committee John Yoggerst, and a representative of the Wilderness Oaks Alliance, a coalition of Home-Owners' Associations in the area, who additionally urged the reduction of the speed limits on this access road.
Even more overwhelming was the response from the RMA board. They quickly agreed to fast track the change order to adjust lane configurations on the access road. The changes to be made will come before the RMA Board in March, then be sent on to TxDOT for approval. All in all, it means that 1604 won't have wide shoulders again at least until April or May.
The RMA board members also detailed the long term plans for Loop 1604 that include a 15' shared use path. Board Chair Robert Thompson stressed how important a statement this shared use path would make in terms of health objectives and also environmental objectives, as the project sits over the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone. RMA Executive Director Terry Brechtel spoke up to demonstrate she is a strong advocate for active transportation in all of the RMA's dealings, and stressed that not only TxDOT, but also the City of San Antonio and the FHWA require accommodation of cyclists and pedestrians in the project. When Mr. Thompson told the cyclists in the room that they've got a great friend in Executive Director Brechtel, she admitted, "I've been on a bike or two." Not to be outdone, fellow board member Reynaldo L. Diaz, Jr., also stated he is an avid cyclist, "Though I may not look like compared to others in the room." Additionally, board Member Tommy Calvert, Jr. spoke in favor of cycling and asked pointed questions about why the shoulders were removed in the first place.
The answer to that is that the current plans for the 1604/281 interchange were first prepared in 2009, but were based on plans created in 2005, when bicycling was not at on the agenda for such highway projects. The RMA in 2009 was directed to simply use the 2005 plans. In addition, it was expected at that time that the future shared-use path and its main project-- a major expansion of Loop 1604 itself-- would be further along at this point and construction would already be underway.
Mr. Thompson encouraged all those present to continue to closely follow progress on the re-striping of the shoulder and the eventual construction of the shared use path. He thanked everyone for their input.
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