The Austin Experience

A group of BFOC’ers made their way down to Austin last weekend to enjoy the sights and sounds and test out the new bike facilities in place to get a sense of what is in store for Dallas. The hills proved to be less worrisome than originally anticipated, but the sun around mid-day did require more stops to cool off.

The overall experience was wonderful. Austin has moved far ahead of Dallas in making quality of life a focus. The girls that went on the trip immediately favored the separated bike lanes over the street. There weren’t as many of these in place yet, but more are to come. The on-road bike lanes were hit and miss. Some were far too small and strode the line between the curb and street (Lake Austin Blvd), but others included painted barriers which felt far more comfortable (East Dean Keaton).

The Lamar pedestrian/bike bridge was an incredible facility to ride over. The city created a large curly-q styled ramp to bring bicycles to elevation and benches were placed along the bridge to stop and view the city. It was heavily trafficked while we were there.

At the hottest point of the day, we made our way down to Barton Springs to take a dip in the cool water. This was definitely a highlight of the trip and by bicycling in, we easily rode passed the line of cars attempting to get into the park and bypassed the giant parking lot. The city of Austin describes the park as:

“Three acres in size, fed from under ground springs and is on average 68 degrees year round. Over the years, Barton Springs Pool has drawn people from all walks of life, from legislators who have concocted state laws there to free-spirited topless sunbathers who turned heads in the seventies. Even Robert Redford learned to swim at the pool when he was five years old while visiting his mother’s relative in Austin. Today, Barton Springs still attracts a diverse crowd of people.”

While resting under a giant pecan tree and watching the hundreds of other swimmers who came out to beat the heat, it struck us that Oak Cliff once had two natural swimming pools with Kidd Springs and Lake Cliff Park. The former was fed by two large springs and was regularly visited by people throughout Dallas. At its peak in 1942, the Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce held a picnic there that brought out 60,000 people. The following year, the picnic was cancelled for fear of polio. By 1947, Kidd Springs would turn into a “scenic pond” only, though its limestone floor still exists.

Sounds like we may have another project…

5 comments

  1. Swimming is good. In fact, swimming is the only thing that I enjoy more than cycling. Putting natural swim holes in Oak Cliff (or restoring old ones) would be a pretty neat thing.

    Concerning Austin, I’d wonder if they have comments about your observations. Organizations such as Austin on Two Wheels ( http://austinontwowheels.org/ ), etc.

  2. Twinkle · ·

    I’d love to see either one (or both) of the spring pools re-open but didn’t the city close down all of the regular public pools this summer due to cost?

  3. They did…so for us to reopen, we’d have to work with a local non-profit and try to raise the funds within the community. We’re looking into the possibility now.

  4. Twinkle · ·

    If you need any help, please let me know. While I didn’t grow up here in Dallas, public swimming pools were an integral part of my childhood summers and I’d hate to see the neighborhood kids without any affordable swimming options this (already) sweltering summer.

  5. Thanks for the thoughts on cycling in our city. It’s always interesting to hear people say how great Austin is for cycling when we in the cycling community are fighting for so much more. We have a long way to go to make cycling accessible to the majority population. Of course, everything is relative. The City of Austin Bike/Ped program has been doing some good work in the last few years in improving the infrastructure and fixing problem spots. For example, the Lamar ped bridge you show will soon have a fly over Cesar Chavez connecting cyclists to downtown without having to cross that busy street.

    Anyone coming to Austin to ride should attend Social Cycling Austin’s Thursday Night Social Ride if they can (http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=56122823659). It regularly draws 200-300 people and has all of the good vibes of a mass ride without the conflict with traffic. They do a great job of getting the group through intersections. Other than that, check out the weekly calendar I publish on Thursday mornings for unique weekly rides that pop up regularly.

    Keep up the good work in Dallas. I’m continually amazed, impressed, and inspired by the work you do.

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