Bicycle planning and tourism experts from the City of Austin and Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) spoke to Liberty Hill city leaders Monday about the possible economic impact of creating bike-friendly roadways.
“There are a lot of bike paths coming out this way from Austin, and I wanted the Council to hear about some of the possibilities,” Mayor Michele “Mike” Murphy told The Independent. “We are seeing more and more cyclists come to Liberty Hill every weekend.”
Greg Griffin, a senior planner with CAMPO, said many cities across the country have done impact studies to determine the economic benefits of cycling and found that by investing in safer roadways they were able to attract more tourists.
“These are typically higher income people who are looking for long-distance cycling opportunities,” said Griffin. “They are looking for long circular routes, which you seem to have plenty of in Liberty Hill.”
“I work closely with the bike community in Austin and they like to come to Liberty Hill to ride. They like the roads here,” said Annick Beaudet with the City of Austin.
She shared cost estimates on changing road markings to create bike lanes and improved shoulders, and building exclusive bike trails.
Bike trails would be the most expensive option at an estimated $1 million per mile. But, Ms. Beaudet said the investment had paid off in other communities as cyclists prefer to be away from vechicles.
To improve shoulders, it could cost an estimated $500,000 per mile and changing markings to show bike lanes is an estimated $15,000-$20,000 per mile. To add bicycle markings to a lane indicating that bikes are likely to be sharing the road with vehicles, carries an estimated cost of $15,000 per mile.
In Austin, lane markings are typically done with bond funds at the same time the roadway is scheduled for resurfacing, she said.
“We (in Austin) have bond funds for resurfacing streets. Once we have a clean slate to resurface can look at creating a space for cyclists. The paint is going down anyway, so it’s a good time to change where its lined.”
There are also grant funds available through CAMPO and the State of Texas to create bike and pedestrian paths, Griffin said.
CAMPO is currently working on a regional bike map, which can be found on its website (www.campo.org), showing Central Texas roads that are more suitable for cycling. The map is color-coded and identifies roads in the Liberty Hill area that are safer for bikes.
Some of those identified as High Comfort include part of CR 200, CR 207, CR 236 and CR 210. Medium Comfort roads include Loop 332, CR 281, CR 282, CR 279, CR 214.
The most dangerous or lowest comfort roads were identified as RR 1869 and most of SH 29.
As an example of the type of economic benefit that can be realized with bicycle tourism, Griffin pointed to a study from Northern Outer Banks, North Carolina, which found 680,000 visitors or 17 percent of all tourists to the community were cycling related. He recognized that the North Carolina community was a coastal area and might not be the right comparison to Liberty Hill. However, in 2004, the economic impact of cyclists was nine times the initial costs of the bike facilities.
Griffin suggested that communities like Liberty Hill can maximize tourism by dovetailing with other community events to attract bikers to smaller rides.
“With the rail station in Leander, walking and biking is a healthy and prosperous thing to do,” Ms. Beaudet said.