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Vision 2020 looks at ways to make bike routes safer

AUSTIN — Vision 2020 is once again studying ways to make Austin a better city. The latest project, partly conducted Wednesday and Thursday, was to audit the bikeability of neighborhoods around six Austin schools.

"They assess what the barriers are (to making it more bike friendly)," Director of Vision Creation Laura Helle said of the teams in the study.

The teams were organized by the Vision 2020 Bike-Walk committee and the City Engineer's office as part of a planning grant through the Minnesota Department of Transportation. MnDOT provided a professional consultant from national community planning firm Alta to aid volunteers.

"MnDOT offers the grants every year," Helle said, adding that Vision 2020 had seen another use those same grants, part of MnDOT's Safe Routes to School program.

Austin stands out among the 22 Minnesota communities receiving Safe Routes to Schools grants because six schools were served during the study: Banfield Elementary, Neveln Elementary, Southgate Elementary, Sumner Elementary, I.J. Holton Intermediate and Ellis Middle School.


"Most of them do one or two a year," Helle said, referring to cities who conduct studies on area schools. She said the decision to apply for the six schools in Austin was to give Vision 2020 a broader view with more context, and it was something MnDOT was happy to oblige.

Volunteers, including school administration, worked with the MnDOT consultant at each school, and conducted the audits in the mornings and afternoons when kids were going to or leaving school for the day. Surveys of parents and classroom tallies are also a part of the overall study.

"It's a lot of data gathering right now," Helle said.

In spring 2014, the MnDOT consultant will provide a full report recommending upgrades to infrastructure as well as educational programming that will encourage more students and staff members to bike to school. Suggested routes to each of the six schools will also be created.

"They have a Share the Roads curriculum, and some other classroom-based curriculums," Helle said

In the end she thinks the project will reach beyond those riding bikes.

"Anything that applies to bikeability applies to walkability, generally."

It might be a while before results are back, but Helle and committee members are already aware of a few things that will probably pop up next May.


"There's a few intersections that have been brought to our attention," Helle said.

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