View Mass Observation at Waller Creek in a larger map
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Monday, November 1, 2010
A history of the River Walk, by environmental scientist Gregg Eckhardt, can be found at http://www.edwardsaquifer.net/sariver.html
Saturday, October 30, 2010
Sunday, October 24, 2010
In this period of eco-friendly thinking, where gas use is discouraged, many have resorted to bicycle commuting as an alternative locomotion. As ridership increases each year, the safety of cyclists becomes the dilemma at hand. Bicycle safety is foremost directly correlated with the design, placement, and amount of bike lanes. According to Core77 via Dustbowl, Bike lanes establish a well-defined boundary beyond the envelope of the bicycle, providing a greater margin of safety between the car and the cyclist. These drawn boundaries between cyclists and motorists encourage more people to bike and even navigate through accommodated streets. However, transportation planner Paul Chimek argues that bike lanes do encourage bicyclists and motorists to violate the rules of the roads. Schimek provided an example of a bicyclist making a left turn from a bike lane, violating the rule of merging to the center of the road before turning because they feel constrained by the lanes. The Brooklyn Paper claims that bike lanes offer a false sense of security to bicyclists as drivers often overlook them. Bike lanes cannot be statistically proven to have a direct cause and effect on safety measures or accidents, because most bicycle accidents are not recorded and often disregarded. Nonetheless, we still reach the consensus that these seemingly innocent white dotted lines “generate immediate response form motorists, pedestrians and even cyclists who the lanes are designed for.”
As bike lanes are not widely available because of their steep installation cost of $5,000 to $50,000 per mile, Alex Tee and Evan Gant from Altitude Inc. developed Lighlane, a working prototype of a laser light that projects a virtual bike lane onto the pavement. Instead of forcing cyclists to adapt their behavior to the existing infrastructure, Lightlane allows the bike lanes to adapt to the cyclists.
Another more direct intervention took place in Portland, Oregon in 2008, where bright green rectangular bike boxes reserved exclusively for cyclists were installed at a few accident-prone intersections. These were designed to reduce “right-hook” collisions, in which motorists make a right turn into the path of bicyclists.
Bicycle Transportation Systems from Colorado envisions the future of mass transportation to be an interstate highway style transportation corridor named the TransGlide 2000 Bicycle Transit System. Featuring a constant powered air movement in the direction of riding, this proposal is supposed to ”match the carrying capacities of rail systems at an affordable cost level.”
Similarly radical is Designer Martin Angelov’s “Kolelinia,” a midair bike lane system based on steel wire track suspended above the city. Kolelinia aims to create a new experience beyond the simple act of transporting oneself. This project was officially presented at the TEDx conference in Sofia, Bulgaria.
In Tom Vanderbilt’s book Traffic where he discusses why we drive the way we do and what it means, Vanderbilt writes that what white lines do is enable drivers to drive faster and, intentionally or not, close together. The way bike lanes function makes people question whether they should exist at all and whether a radically new and innovative transportation system such as TransGlide 2000 and Kolelinia is viable and safer than bike lanes.
Dan Ballou, Gregor Mittersinker, and David Swett, "Light Lane – Concept from Altitude’s Alex Tee and Evan Gant," Dustbowl, entry posted January 9, 2009, http://dustbowl.wordpress.com/2009/01/09/light-lane-concept-from-altitudes-alex-tee-and-evan-gant/ (accessed October 14, 2010).
Paul Schimek, "Bike Lanes," Bicycle Driving, entry, http://bicycledriving.org/bikeways/bike-lanes (accessed October 14, 2010).
The Brooklyn Paper. "City needs to solve bike lane problem." Editorial, June 18, 2009. http://www.brooklynpaper.com/stories/32/24/32_24_editorial.html (accessed October 14, 2010).
Jesse Fox, "Portland’s Bike Boxes: Making Cars More Polite," TreeHugger, entry posted March 23, 2008, http://www.treehugger.com/files/2008/03/portlands_bike_boxes.php (accessed October 14, 2010).
Angelov, Martin. "Kolelinia." Kolelinia. http://kolelinia.com/kolelinia/ (accessed October 14, 2010).
Tom Vanderbilt, Traffic (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008), 199.
"BTS TransGlide 2000™." Bicycle Transportation Systems, Inc. http://www.biketrans.com/info.html (accessed October 14, 2010).
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Mass Observation 1:
September 1st, 1:15 pm. With no stairway in sight approaching the east side of Waller Creek in between 12th and 11th street, Kelsey and I slid down a self-appointed entrance of a steep dirt slope. The creek was still. Approaching the water, we could hear a small stream to our left (south), and the water to our right (north) remained unmoving and silent. Separating the movement stood a stone bridge, connecting a path to the other side of the creek. The other side had an established stairway and a sign set on a plaque against the stone saying “Convention Center,” “Town Lake,” “Historic 6th Street,” and “Waterloo Park,” next to arrows, all pointing out and away from the current area. Two items near the stairway showed recent activity: a cigarette butt lay with its fresh ashes still spread out from the end and fresh dog feces entertained flies.
The water North of the bridge lay still sitting in thick moss, weeds, and unlevel rocks that looked confusingly similar to concrete. All plant life grew unmaintained. They overgrew their designated spot on the hill, onto the paths and into the water. Later down the path, a chain fence confined insecure rocks on the West side of the creek. Doing that also restricted and confined the plant life to the sides. The plant life underneath the fence looked smothered, dark, and entangled, dead and alive. The water that moved, moved because of a drain right next to the bridge. The birds gathered at the bottom, pranced around and drank to refresh themselves. Moving south down the stream, the water went from two inches to about one foot. The water here was clear, rippling, and flowed with a quiet rhythm.
Fishes could be found residing here, but only upon close speculation. Close speculation would mean leaning over the ledge that was about twelve feet from the water’s surface to see anything that could be in the water. I couldn’t put a name to the type of fish that swam in these waters. They were a dark gray and measured in length from two to five inches, and from a quarter inch to inch wide. Small schools of fish would slowly glide around in the shallow depths of the water. The largest fish, the master fish, remained stationary at what looked like could’ve been home base. That home base was an area that caved in an inch lower, in a way that was rocky and nest-like.
The creek floor, when not consumed by overgrown weeds, was a beautiful mossy landscape. Forgotten rocks, man holes or utility holes were overgrown with this moss and created a smooth look covering different shapes of various sizes. Under this landscape, I discovered the first pair of jeans. They lay discombobulated, forgotten, and eaten by layers of moss. Whether they had been there long started to become questionable when twelve feet away, another pair of jeans was discovered hanging neatly from a tree branch. This pair did not seem misplaced. They were wet, but out of the water and folded as though on a hanger. We continued down the path, although it was shadier and less trodden by civilians. It did seem that someone who had several pairs of jeans had occupied this space recently. Because, alas, two more pairs were found, drifting in puddles near the entrance of the tunnel.
Although hesitant, my partner and I ventured on through the seemingly unsafe tunnel. It was hidden from street view and all nooks and crannies were engulfed in aged and overdeveloped cobwebs. Graffiti marked the old architecture. We did not stay long in the dark and stuffy enclosing, but continued on to follow the water of Waller Creek.
Mass Observation 2:
The paths that followed southwards started to become more open for regular passersby and occupants. Leaving the tunnel, my partner and I were led to a more tolerable area of the creek. There wasn’t as much trash or other items in the water. Stone walls rose out around us and enclosed the area. Looking up, we saw that there were venues, such as the restaurant Serrano’s. We took note that the area greatly resembled that of the Riverwalk in San Antonio. A platform was to our right (south) and a dining area with yellow umbrellas to our left (north).
A stone staircase not far along took us right in front of the entrance of Serrano’s. We ventured onto the patio, ensembled with an array of tables and chairs. It then became apparent that the platform that we saw was a stage set up for events that occurred from the restaurant. The creek ran in between the stage and the audience. The stage was relatively small and could be guessed that it served for minor groups of performers. The backdrop was a stone building that met the street on the other side. Three doors covered the stone wall. One door came with a tiny closed balcony, another directly in front of the stage, and the last stood at the top of the stairs that led to the stage from the other side of the creek. The bridge was curved as well as the arch for the doorway. The audience seating consisted of rows of stone benches with floors of rock, soil, and grass. Birds congregated here.
It didn’t take long for a staff member, who didn’t have much to do anyway, come greet us. He wasn’t bothered when we told him we didn’t need anything. He did, however, encourage our research by inviting us inside to look at the picture albums of the events that took place. Walking into the Mexican restaurant, we were greeted and politely directed to the photo album table. Weddings were the main type of event that the restaurant hosted. In fact, only weddings were documented to have happened there. The coffee stained photo albums were plentiful in images of happy, nicely dressed people, situated in the theme decorated interior and patio of the restaurant.
We moved on. We approached the creek’s division into three tunnels, and only one being set with a path, we followed through an area that seemed forbidden. In fact, signs along the inside of the tunnel read, “No trespassing.” The walls were inconsistently painted in random sections, presumably only serving to cover graffiti. Beyond the tunnel there was a tranquil set of divided streams and more paths. The walls around the Waller creek path, which had enclosed and disconnected us from the street level, started to widen and become a more shallow transition to level to the surrounding open area. Lighting was placed here, and the light poles were covered in a history of vines.
We then found ourselves, again, under a bridge. At first glance at the surroundings, it seemed like a gathering place for the homeless. There were bits of concrete and rocks everywhere, with small nooks that stored personal items such as a water bottle and some clothing. A sound of the drain dripping water created a relaxing ambience. A shoe print in wet gravel gave evidence to recent activity. There were various trash items scattered about the ground, such as a styrofoam take out dinner of something that was red. The styrofoam was chipped away and scavenger ants consumed what they could.
The last setting before reaching 9th street was an area that ran through the back of the City of Austin Utility Waller Creek Center, as told to us by an employee on his smoke break. This area was more expanse as well as more maintained. The trees that grew here had deep roots and were apparently claimed by the city with silver numbered tags. The nearby building was tall and fairly modern looking. The employees gathered outside were quietly curious as we passed and the informant lingered closely until we asked what the building was. In the yard, there was a statue produced by John Christensen. The statue was an odd organic shape. Part of its base extended out as though it was meant for seating. We ventured on over a wooden bridge with iron railings to rise up out into the street. Sunlight found us as we ended our observation adventure.
September first was a humid day to be outside, especially in downtown Austin--there isn’t much airflow around Interstate thirty-five. Near Fourth Street I found a pair of bridges crossing Waller Creek, or more accurately the large crevasse that seems to have been carved by the small trickle of water beneath them. The bridges are divided by material and motor. Concrete for bicycles, rocks and steel for the train. Tar and rock for cars. And finally wooden planks for pedestrians. I walked across the street and jumped over the railing and found a dirt path leading to a patch of shade and broken concrete. Plastic bits of straws, cups, Doritos bags, and other unidentifiable bits of trash intermingled with the dried leaves on the ground. There is a definite crunching noise with each step I took as I tried to reach the edge of the steep bank along side the crevasse. Tiny particles of dirt and leaves found their way into my sandals, which only increased my unease about this place. There are a million reasons why Waller Creek is not a pleasant vacation from my usual class time.
Large chunks of broken concrete are littered across the bank, as if perhaps there used to be a sidewalk or a manmade bank. To my left there was a chain link fence set up perpendicular to the creek. The fence is fighting to remain upright against the force of a bright green vine with heart shaped leaves. On the creek side, it has been almost completely defeated by the vine. Where the fence is still upright thee is a small rectangular cutout about four and a half feet tall. The cutout must be a frequent visitor’s entrance to the creek; perhaps a homeless person uses it to access the water in the creek for a shower or a swim. I could see evidence of encampments from where I was perched. A blanket depresses tall grass in what must have been a resting spot for a weary soul with low standards for comfort.
Bugs also inhabited the area. I have seen small blue dragonflies, tiny black ants, and pale yellow butterflies as well as some strange water dwelling creatures that skim the surface of the water a few feet below where I was perched. I was probably 10 feet from the murky brown water but I could still smell its stench. The smell was similar to rotting vegetables: musky, moldy, it even smelled warm. Protrusions from unknown sources broke the surface of the water; covered in algae they are unidentifiable. Could have been trash; maybe it was branches. It was all the same to the black and green speckled turtle I saw swimming among the muck. He bobbed his head a few times, presumably eating the bugs that danced on the surface. Then he was lost beneath the filth; and my eyes started to look for other signs of life in what should have been a lush and vibrant creek bed.
I watched as three cyclists zip across the bridge on Fourth Street to my right. All three were adorned with helmets and bright athletic wear. Presumably they travel this way regularly, guessing by their forward gazes and speedy pacing. None appear to notice me, or the abandoned creek below. Beneath the bridge there was a gallery of graffiti, scribbled and looped. Another cyclist. The graffiti was an unintelligible mix of letters and symbols written mostly in white spray paint on the concrete below the bridge. I could make out a strange cat-girl creature. There was a short—probably one foot tall—fence under the bridge constructed of wooden stakes sunk into the earth and a black fabric lying across it. The tiny fence seems to be failing at holding back anything but the black plastic tarp it is made out of. White belts hang from the bottom of the bridge—there went another cyclist. Across the creek is a large tree-about a foot across in diameter-broken and folded in half. Its branches reach down towards the water. There was a variety of plant life around the creek where I sat, unkempt and overgrown. More strangely, at this point I noticed that there was a bone sitting next to me. Upon closer inspection (but not too close) I realized that it was probably from someone’s food and not something that died there. I think it was a rib. People must come down to the creek fairly often, I could see dirt paths leading to the water, the grass had given up growing where frequent visitors broke it down. The construction buzzing behind the trees across the creek was more audible than the creek. Behind me there is a small parking lot. I found a solitary shoe and a random sock. Thirty-five can clearly be heard behind me. One more biker. One more shoe.
On the other side of the bridge
The earth below the bridge had been strengthened with concrete walls on either side of the creek. As the wall extended out from under the bridge, the concrete turned into a wall made up of different sized stones with tiny green sprouts peeking out from between the mortar. A square hole in the middle of the stonewall appeared to be pouring green slime onto the wall below it and down into the tall green grass growing in the creek. The back of a building hung over the banks on the opposite side of the creek. The building was plain and bare. There were no balconies or windows overlooking the water—I don’t know why anyone would want to overlook this water. Farther down the creek, I could see a wooden patio leading to a side door, but there aren’t chairs or patio furniture outside on the deck. The space beneath the building was visible from the bridge; it was full of rebar and concrete pillars holding up the wooden patio. A rocky manmade wall kept the western bank from continuing under the building. Empty branches hung vertically over the shallow creek; as if recent weather had rendered them broken and bare. The brown water was not so deep on this side; I could almost see the bottom. It was a rock bottom creek, covered in slick algae. It was so shallow that it looked like tiny waterfalls were flowing just a few inches down, over the broken concrete and boulders on the bottom. There was a metal railing between the creek and myself; the railing was about waist high on me (and I am five feet and six inches). It was hot to the touch; but vines still managed to grow around the metal bars. If I had crossed that barrier, I could walk down a precarious dirt path to the creek. But the prospect was not too enticing because the trail looked like it had been slipping downwards, eroding away. It seemed to have evaporated from beneath the trees lining the bank. The roots intertwined where the ground used to be and created a cave like space. I could hear birds crying, definitely not songbirds of any kind. Highway Thirty Five and the construction on the other side of the bridge are the most prominent noises I can hear. The sound of the trickling stream could barely be heard over the city sounds. Then the grating of gravel as I took my notebook and left.
Monday, September 20, 2010
A section of the Lady Bird Lake Hike-and-Bike Trail near Red River and Rainey streets will be re-routed and a pedestrian bridge over Waller Creek will be temporarily closed starting Sept. 27 when work crews begin widening the bridge.
The bridge will be closed from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday through Oct. 28. From Oct. 29 to Dec. 21, the bridge will be closed 24 hours a day.
The bridge will be widened to 12 feet, allowing for better public access and making the bridge compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. To better accommodate two-way bicycle and pedestrian traffic, work crews will re-stripe the affected section of Cesar Chavez to add an 8-foot travel space adjacent to the sidewalk. Water barriers will separate the motor vehicle lane from the bicycle and pedestrian space.
The project is part of a parkland mitigation agreement between the Waller Creek Tunnel Project and the Parks and Recreation Department. City staff worked with The Trail Foundation and the Transportation and Public Works departments to identify the safest, most convenient route and to evaluate several options for improving public safety.
The bridge renovation will be the first visible sign of construction on the Waller Creek flood control tunnel, a public safety project that will benefit the entire Waller Creek District.
For more information on the tunnel project, visit http://www.cityofaustin.org/
Carolyn Perez, Public Works, (512) 974-7139
Victor Ovalle, Parks and Recreation Department, (512) 974-6745
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Convention center runoff filtering pond
Dead end sidewalks
Low water level
Large tunnels drain runoff into creek
Some few views show no evidence that you are in the middle of downtown
Evidence of the activities people partake in along the creek
Just south of the 5th street bridge
Large tree roots stick out from the land from erosion
People on a deck that hangs out over the creek
Under the 4th street bridge
The 4th street pedestrian/cyclist bridge
Monday, September 6, 2010
Friday, September 3, 2010
Stark contrast of the past and future of Red River street which lines Waller Creek
Stubb's stage backs onto the creek.
A sock in the creek. Deodorant also found.
Entrance stairs to walkway. Landscaping!
7th street entrance to Waller Creek path
The only venue which acknowledges its presence by Waller Creek. For lease.
Homeless encampment along Waller Creek. Barbed wire blocked off slope to creek from Red River Street.