5. Fitness is Part of the Transportation Policy

MetroRail to Lakeline bike rack

Named one of America’s fittest cities by Shape Magazine, which also singled out its 220 city parks for praise, Austin’s “young, highly active community” bikes, runs, and walks to work. While you don’t actually see all that many bikers in Austin—it’s a far cry from Amsterdam—both the city government and local activists hope to change that.

Austin’s public transportation does its part for biking. Capital Metro, which operates 50 bus routes, has equipped its large buses with strong exterior racks holding 2 to 3 bikes. MetroRail trains have bus racks in addition to generous bike parking lots.

Austin has a modestly priced bike share, Austin B-Cycle; a group, Bike Austin Rides, that organizes cool bike races and rides (like the Devil’s Backbone) around town; a “friendly neighborhood low-key recreational cycling group,” Austin Cycling Meetup; and Social Cycling Austin, which brags of “Putting Butts on Bikes Since 2009.” There’s a 4.6 mile work-in-progress Lance Armstrong Crosstown Greenway, named for Austin’s most famous biker, that seeks to connect bike trails with downtown Austin. The hope is that it will provide a safe and easy east-west route for commuters as well as recreational riders.

That said, Austin really needs better public transpo. Cut in two by Interstate 35, Austin’s sprawling neighborhoods are tough to negotiate without a car. Even downtown is difficult, with the central bus station a long hike from the train. Lovable ideas like the ‘Dillo, a free trolley car resembling an armadillo, or the proposed gondola, in the end didn’t work. Only 2% of Austin’s commuters use public transportation. The American Community Survey of urban per capital transit trips ranked Austin 58th in the country, below Tucson AZ.