For a gallon of petrol (3.785411784 litres – give or take) in Austin, Texas you pay £1.96. In the UK, we would pay £4.96. With such bargain fuel prices, why ride a bike or walk?
For me the answer was two-fold: Necessity and a love of cycling.
I was in Austin, Texas for a couple of months at the start of this year for work, and I needed to get around. I didn’t particularly want to rent a car for two months and I certainly couldn’t buy one.
Therefore, the bike was the best option.
Also, I don’t know if you can tell this, but I love cycling. I thought it would be the perfect way to get to know Austin.
But less about me, and more about Austin.
1. You can ride on the pavement
Outside of the busy downtown area, you are free to ride on the pavement. This instantly creates a huge network of cycle paths that are physically separated from traffic. With hardly any pedestrians around, this works really well for short journeys.
However, there are of course some downsides. For a start, cars don’t necessarily expect you to be riding on the pavement, so you need to be extra cautious as you reach junctions. Also, traffic lights are really geared towards vehicles and not anyone crossing the road. Therefore, you’ll spend a fair amount of time waiting for a light to go red.
2. You can cycle all along the river
In London, we’ve allowed developers to build homes right up to the river. This means there isn’t a consistent Thames Path that would allow you to travel the length of London. This is a big missed opportunity. In Austin, there is a walk and cycle path that spans the length of the river. A favourite thing for visitors to do, is to rent a bike and ride along the river bank.
This amazing green space that is completely traffic free is always filled with cyclists, joggers, dog walkers and moms and dads with their kids. It is an essential part of what makes Austin such a fantastic place to live.
3. Wide roads and friendly drivers
Perhaps I was just lucky, but I found the majority of drivers very considerate towards cyclists. At a crossing, drivers would check and wait for you to pass. When overtaking, they would give you plenty of room.
It makes you feel a lot safer when cycling around.
In general, people here are very friendly. For example, I had one guy walk over to me as I was getting on my bike just to tell me what a nice looking bike I had.
Before you grab your bike and jump on the next plane to Austin, there are of course some downsides:
- It gets extremely hot in the summer: As in 38°C (100°F). That is a tough temperature to cycle in, unless you plan on emptying a water bottle on your head every couple of miles.
- Drink driving is prevalent: Austin has one of the highest alcohol consumptions out of any city in America and public transport options are limited. This creates dangerous conditions for cycling later in the day.
- It can get very hilly (This is either a positive or a negative depending on how you like your cycling!)
- The distances can be dauntingly huge on a bike. I needed to hand in my laptop for repair at the Apple store. The two nearby stores were in out of town malls, clearly geared towards driving. Cycling is fine, as long as you live near downtown and most of the trips you need to do are to the downtown area.
Overall – I thoroughly recommend a visit to Austin. There’s a bunch of excellent bike shops in town, but the nearest to me was Rocket Electrics. While you are there, you’d be crazy not to visit Hopdoddy. Still the best burger I’ve ever eaten in my life.
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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.