2012 Viva Streets Festival Recap

Austin has their first ever Viva Streets Festival and I decided to take a quick road trip to check it out. I also to my bike I could take a spin around town. I always wanted to go cycling there and this was a good opportunity to do so. Mark Pena and his family also went so we represented Ciclistas Urbanos over there.

My plan was to take off on Friday and come back on Monday. The event itself is on a Sunday so I had plenty of time to check things out. Friday afternoon I decided to go out to South Congress ave and see what’s going on. Oh man, what a happening place that place is. Besides all the people there, that area is so bike friendly. The format is Reverse parking, bike lane then car lane. On the other side its reverse parking, bike/car share lane then car lane. The bike/car shared lane is going down hill so cyclists can easily keep pace with cars and traffic is slowed to 35 mph the entire route.

I had to circle the block before I found a spot to park. For those that don’t know you park backwards with the front of the car facing the street. The slots are at an angle but this makes it so much easier and safer to leave.

After walking around a bit I ran into Mark and his family in search of a place to eat. Usually finding  place to eat with a family is rather difficult due to long lines and more of an adult atmosphere. We eventually found a great pizza place at a different part of town. Chicago style pizza is the best.


Saturday morning I had to check out of one hotel and wait until check in time at the other which was next door. Well, check-in time is 3 pm and I wasn’t about to waste a day sitting around. I stuffed everything back into my car and set out on my bike to explore Austin. I wanted to go to Lady Bird Lake and mapped a way to get there. Pretty straight forward route but wow was that ever fun. I knew Austin had hills but in the city is something else. At one point I topped out at 27 mph and was  ready for breaking. Not being familiar with the roads I didn’t want to hit a speed bump or something else to send me flying.

It didn’t take long to reach my destination. Lady Bird Lake is a large peaceful lake that is surrounded with parks and jogging trails. I rode around exploring the area and the trails before settling down to relax for a bit listening to music. I love watching people using the trails for either running, walking or cycling although for cycling you are better off with something with fatter tires than my 700×23 tires.

Planning my route I want to head over to Zilker park and check out Barton Springs and the animal sanctuary. The most direct route is Riverside Ave but that is a busy street with no shoulders or bike lanes. I had no choice but to get in, ride fast and mix it up with the cars. It was a good time to put in use all the road cycling experience that I’ve gained to navigate this section of the road. How bad could it be? After all this is Austin, bike friendly country! Without a doubt it was easy to do. Ride fast, be predictable and use your hand signals.

Before I knew it I was at South Congress Ave and I was ready to cross to keep on going but I noticed something going on at the bridge. Being a curious guy that I am, I rode over to see what was going on. Turns out it was the Congress Mile running event. They start at the Capitol and run on Congress Ave to the finish line on the bridge. It looks like they divided up the runners by gender with the high school kids running first then followed by everyone else.

Well needless to say I didn’t make it to Zilker park as I wanted to find a place to recharge my phone and downtown was the best shot. Also, Congress Ave was closed to cars but not bikes 🙂 I took the opportunity to ride to the Capitol to snag a pic of my bike at the footsteps of the State Capitol.

I needed a charger for my phone as I forgot to bring mine. I remembered that there was a grocery store called Royal Blue Grocery that may have a charger. Looking around I didn’t find one but the girl behind the counter offered to charge mine for a bit! Wow, that was nice of her. In the meantime, I grabbed one of their delicious Cuban sandwiches, some drinks and sat to read one of the local papers. I love this little grocery all-in-one place. You can get a bite to eat or drink, sit outside and enjoy the day or run in and stock up on some groceries or little nick-knacks that you may need.

Moving on, I later remembered that there was a CVS store nearby which turned out to be a block away from where I had lunch! I went in there to buy a charger for later use. I walked over to where I locked up my bike to check on it and all is okay. While there, I went to Starbucks for an Apple Fritter and some hot tea. I also took the opportunity to top off my battery with the new charger.

While there I was planning my next move as I still had time before I had to check in at the other hotel. Doing a Google search of bike shops, I found that Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop was only a few blocks away, so that is my next stop. By then Congress Avenue was reopened to traffic and downtown was bustling with activity. Cycling downtown and the side streets was surprisingly easy to do. The only problem I had was navigating through some of the street construction, so sidewalks was the best option to get where I want to go.

This bike shop is pretty awesome. Now I read some of the reviews of the place and they knocked it down a little as being kinda snobbish, but tell you the truth, I didn’t get that vibe from them. What I saw was a well stocked store, helpful staff, someone getting a fitted for a new bike and helpful advice on posture and pedaling. They also had a nice large choice of cycling clothing to choose from, but the only thing I didn’t find was a long sleeved jersey or sport shirt. I like to wear them in this heat to protect my arms from the burning sun.

I really liked the little coffee shop they had at one end of the shop. Originally, I thought it was a separate store when I arrived there so I didn’t go in that entrance. Austin seems to be the place for those Mexican Cokes so I got one there. I also picked up a pair of Mellow Johnny’s cycling socks. I can always use another pair of socks. Over all, I liked the Mellow Johnny’s experience. They have a good selection of mostly road bikes but they do have some hybrids and commuter bikes to check out.

One last thing that got my attention is the restrooms, which are, in fact, dressing rooms with showers. That is a first for me. We definitely do not have that at our local bike shops. Going out on one of their rides you at least have a place to shower and change afterwards. Nice!

After browsing and shopping it was time to head back to my car and get my hotel room for the rest of the stay. This time I wanted to go back up Congress Avenue to Woodward. I thought I would have a hard time going up the road as it is nothing but up, up and up.  I’ve seen other struggle with the ride up but I think it was because they were in fixies and could change gears. To my surprise it was fairly easy. It’s all in the gears they say and they are right! With the cars parked backwards, I no longer had to worry about someone backing up into me. That made for a more pleasant ride back to the hotel.

Later that evening I met up with Mark and his family for supper at a Mexican Restaurant downtown. It was a great way to end the day of riding and exploring Austin.

With Saturday done that leave only Sunday and the Viva Streets Festival that runs from 10 am to 3 pm. My plan was to drive down, park and find the Bike Texas booth so I can rent one of their bikes. All was going to plan until I found out that their booth was at the other end of 6th street two miles away. Oh well, I trekked on foot until I reached them. By that time Mark was already zipping around. I got my bike and started riding around and met up with Mark. He tells me that they parked over on this side of the route and turned out to be around the corner where Bike Texas was at. Thanks for the tip!


After having breakfast at the hotel, I headed on out to downtown to partake in the festival. I didn’t take my bike as Bike Texas was lending out loaners, so I opt for that option. I parked on South Congress and walked across the bridge to get to 6th street. It was early and people were still setting up. There was a big stage at this end and I figured bands would be playing there as well as any announcements would be broadcasted from there as well. Not seeing Bike Texas I started my trek down 6th street. I recognized many of the bars, clubs, comedy clubs that lined the streets. Most of them were closed but a few were open to sell some of their wares or maybe to just watch the activities. Who knows. I walked past the Boiling Pot Cajun restaurant that I always been meaning to check out but can never find the time. Too bad, I love Cajun food!

No Bike Texas yet, but I keep on walking. I noticed that the area past the freeway changes from a bar scene to more of a residential mix use with a few small bars and small restaurants scattered about. Each have their bikes racks with a few bikes chained to them. I later find out that during lunch hour those same racks are clogged full of bikes as residences and people from the surrounding businesses flock to them for lunch.

I see some interesting things as I hike to the other end of the festival, like a roller derby team skating up and down the street. I also saw a guy towing a girl in a canoe passing out flyers of some sort. I also ran across a group of friends that set up a table and chairs under a shade tree on the street preparing to have lunch. The first thing I thought of were the Coles. It looked so nice and inviting to see

Finally, I see Bike Texas and their booth! By then Mark and his family had already gotten bikes and were out riding around. I later find out that they parked right around the corner to their booth skipping the hike up here. Anyways, I get fitted for a helmet and a bike. Soon I was off and riding to explore to festival as it progresses throughout the day. Meeting up with Mark we make another trip up down 6th street making our way to Congress Avenue. Mark stopped at all the transportation booths while I look for more interesting things to photograph.

I ran across a fellow that was promoting electric bikes on what appeared to be cruiser style frames. It was interesting, battery is simple to take off and charge in 3 hours. You can either buy the bikes or join a club and have use of the bikes on certain days of the week for all day. I’ve ridden an electric bike before and they are fun to zip around in.

One of the more interesting things to see was the giant bat bike. Part of the Austin Bike Zoo, the bat flaps his wings and you begin to cycle. A real show stopper! The other favorite of the crowd was the giant skeletal snake slithering down the road to the kids delight. Be sure to see the small video I took while cycling behind it.

One thing that I liked about the the neighborhood section of the festival is that it seems to be more alive. You have Zumba classes going on, hot salsa dancing with some great looking women and the small outdoor eateries to sit out in the shade and have lunch. It was a very enjoyable atmosphere and the weather was hot and sunny. I saw a lot of families out on the road riding, eating and enjoying the day together.

With this being the first ever Viva Streets Festival, I thought it came of pretty good. Once people become familiar with the event, they’ll come out even more as well as more scheduled activities. I look forward to coming back next year. Viva Streets!

Enjoy the slideshow!

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Street vendors different view