Project: Fake Commute. Locale: Austin

Whoa, that was quite the hiatus! My apologies. This is how I was spending my time instead of writing in the old blog.

That's a full 1 cup of air next to the book for scale.

That’s The Instructions by Adam Levin. That’s 1030 pages of instructions, kinda reminds me of my last trip to IKEA, amirite?

While I haven’t been writing much lately, I have been fairly active and have much to write about. It’s just I haven’t taken the time to sit down and write it all out in a way that will meet with my dozen readers’ high expectations.

What better way to get back in the blogging swing than to write about cycling in some other city. Because nothing says “low carbon footprint” like hopping on a plane in order to visit friends for the weekend. This post is the next in my serious of Fake Commutes in which I travel to another city and try to annoy the motorists there by riding around in circles. The most epic in this series was Project: Fake Commute. Codename: commuterDude. Locale: Olathe. My Austin ride was significantly less epic and thus does not warrant a code name.

Austin is sort of a Portland Oregon of the South, at least as far as my favorite smug-type activities are concerned. There’s great food everywhere you turn, although much of it is meat-focused (which is fun for a weekend, but I don’t think I’d want to eat it all the time). There’s cohesive network of bicycle lanes and bike routes in a mostly flat city (relative to Providence). And there’s a climate that could be daunting to the outsider (i.e. oppressive heat & humidity in Austin, constant rain in Portland). All Austin needs is some public transit, and the next thing you know, there will be an IFC series dedicated to them.

Spouse and I stayed at a small condo in the Hyde Park section of Austin which we found via AirBnB.com. It was cheaper than a hotel room, and much nicer. Plus, it came with two bikes! What could be better? Well, it rained almost constantly for the first two days we were there, so that could have been better. The bikes were simple cruisers, nothing to write home about, but they worked well enough to get us from Hyde Park to the State Capitol area. Fenders would have been nice, but these bikes are designed for fair-weather cyclists, not hearty all-weather cyclists like Spouse and me.

Also, they featured a sloppy spray-paint job in lime green with stickers from Izze – brand carbonated beverages stuck on various places in order to look “whimsical” or something.

The lime green Izze bikes may be worth your mockery, but these simple, single-speed “beach cruisers” with coaster brakes worked just fine for us to get around town on a lazy holiday morning. The underinflated tires added a certain feeling of danger to the ride as well.

Spouse "gets aero" for the descent.

I don’t think I’d been on a single-speed bike since I was wearing short pants, but luckily we didn’t come across too many hills.  After about a block of wobbling, Spouse and I came to enjoy the unique handling properties of the Izze – it was almost like riding bikes when you were a kid. You certainly couldn’t go too fast on these bikes, but they somehow made us feel care free. Or maybe it was just because we weren’t wearing helmets.

Spouse and I took our fake commute on MLK jr. Day, and we were a little earlier than the usual rush hour so I’m sure that our experience was not typical of a January bike commute in Austin. None the less, there were some features in the Austin topography that helped make it more bike friendly than Providence. First of all, there’s the grid layout for the streets. Instead of riding on a wide, major thoroughfare with cars going 45 MPH and faster, a full grid allows cyclists to ride on a parallel street, one or two blocks over. It’s going to get me to the same place, but I don’t have to worry about the cars. Austin also has numbered bike routes. The routes may move from one street to another, but the number stays the same. This allows a cyclist to pick out which route they want to take, and they don’t have to worry about memorizing street names, they just stay on bike route 32. Along with the numbered routes, there’s an extensive network of bike lanes. It’s not Portland-extensive, but there are quite a few. Honestly though, Spouse and I stayed off of the bike lanes and kept to the back streets. Maybe if I was commuting every day on a faster bike, I would want to ride in the bike lanes, but for our short 5 mile roundtrip “commute” it didn’t make sense to use the lanes. Plus, we were able to ride next to each other on the back streets, something we don’t get to do too often. Part of our route was on the oddly named “Speedway” which seemed to be just another street, one that happened to go through the middle of the ginormous University of Texas.

There was a tiny bit of sidewalk riding on the campus. And eventually, we go to the State Capitol.

From there, we headed downtown and enjoyed some coffee. On our way home, I found an IKEA futon frame repurposed as a bike rack:

And I this lovely historic castle building:

I think it was the Alamo.

 

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5 responses to “Project: Fake Commute. Locale: Austin

  1. Sweet! I didn’t realize you took so many pictures of my rear. (Where are the pictures of that new mother we talked into handing over her infant and biking up and down the block?)

    • Didn’t you take those pictures of the new mom with your camera? I take pictures of you from behind in order to keep the patina of anonymity for this blog. I’ll have to post your pic of me, once I photoshop my face out. I need something that is the equivalent of BSNYC’s Rip Torn Mug Shot.

  2. I think those cruiser bikes are great. One does not need a complicated bike to get around town.

    • That’s very true, especially a mostly flat town like Austin. There’s just something about a coaster brake that gives cycling a child-like joy.

  3. Pingback: Project Fake Commute: Bay Area Multi-Modal Mega-Commute | Car-Free in PVD

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