- By Pam LeBlanc American-Statesman Staff
Have you visited the new Central Library in downtown Austin yet?
Go. And travel by bicycle, if possible.
I pedaled down to the new library at 710 West Cesar Chavez St. during the library’s opening weekend and parked my steel steed in the special bike “corral” on the lower east side of the building. The garagelike space is outfitted to store about 200 bikes, many of them on staggered metal racks, says John W. Gillum, facilities process manager at the library.
Right now, it’s free to use your own lock and park on a rack in the corral. That will probably change sometime next year, after the library partners with a vendor to offer a bike concierge service.
The city is putting out a request for proposals to find a vendor to operate a bike valet service, offer light bicycle maintenance to library patrons and possibly rent bicycles. Eight or 10 more outdoor bike racks also will be installed around the outside of the building.
“We’re going to be able to keep a lot of people’s bikes secure for them,” Gillum says.
The bike barn is just one fitness-friendly aspect of the new building, which opened Oct. 28.
The Shoal Creek hike and bike trail abuts the east side of the structure, so you can access the library easily on two wheels (or foot) from the Butler Trail on Lady Bird Lake. The Shoal Creek trail is still closed a block north of the library, but when it opens you’ll be able to avoid even more car traffic. As it is now, you can bike down West Avenue, turn east just north of the library and hop onto the Shoal Creek trail to get to the library. The bike corral is marked with a larger-than-life logo of a bicycle.
Need to adjust your handlebars or your seat? A bike repair station, with an array of tools anyone can use for free, has been installed on the trail beneath the yellow-arched bridge just to the northeast of the library. Since it’s covered, you can fix a flat or do whatever you need to do while sheltered from rain or searing sunshine.
Even the library’s interior, with its suspended stairways, encourages people to walk rather than take the elevator. Who wants to get closed up in a box while they’re whisked up a few flights when they could stroll the stairs, looking down on the action below?
“That’s by design,” Gillum says. “We’re building the most sustainable building that Austin has ever built, and we didn’t want to use escalators, because they’re costly and a maintenance-intensive. And, we thought, ‘Let’s give people a place to walk.’”
When word got out a few weeks ago that JackRabbit bought the retail assets of Rogue Running here in Austin, I could hear the uproar all the way across the river at my office on Riverside Drive.
Many in the local running community worried that Jackrabbit would suddenly take over their beloved Rogue training programs. Not true, says Chris McClung, co-owner of Rogue Running.
The buyout affects only the retail portion of the Rogue business. And even so, the retail staff at the Austin store will remain in place, as will the store’s shoe-fitting philosophy, McClung says. The only difference customers should see is “more shoes and gear on the wall and in the racks, including brands such as Alstra, Hoka, On Running and Nike,” according to an email sent to Rogue customers.
The new retail business is leasing retail space (about half the total building space) from Rogue and will operate under the name Rogue Running by JackRabbit, McClung says. Rogue Running, which operates the training programs and Rogue Expeditions, a running-geared travel business, remains intact.
The history behind the change is complicated, but in a nutshell, JackRabbit is the product of a rollup that started about six years ago when Gart Brothers bought the Running Company and formed the Running Specialty Group in partnership with Finish Line. The group grew to about 50 stores, then Finish Line bought out Gart Brothers. Last year, Critical Point Partners in California bought Running Specialty Group. In August, Critical Point, which brings a new approach that emphasizes more control at the store level, contacted Rogue about the potential buyout.
Retail in general is challenging, McClung says, and the running niche is particularly difficult because sellers must carry a fragmented inventory of sizes, colors and models, with a targeted inventory of just one.
“Margins on footwear are lower, so it’s a really challenging inventory situation,” McClung says. “Then add revenue pressure from online demands and it just compounds the fact that it’s a (weak) business model. It wasn’t like we had to sell, but if you look at the future of retail and its evolution over the next five to 10 years, it makes you wonder what it will look like.”
Before striking a deal, Rogue wanted to make sure it would keep some things in-house.
“It’s all good news, and it allows us to focus time and energy on the training business, Rogue Expeditions and the trail series in the spring,” McClung says. “The energy focuses on what was core from the beginning, which is training.”
Organizers of the new Austin Triathlon Club are hosting a launch party Monday at the Gingerman.
Daniel Riegel and Meghann Jones, who met through the DC Triathlon Club in Washington, D.C., decided to start a similar social and training club when they moved back to Texas. (Austin has had social triathlon clubs in the past, but they’re mostly inactive.)
“It’s not a team coaching program. It’s a social and training club,” says Riegel, president of the club.
The nonprofit, USA Triathlon-registered organization will offer group workouts, new triathlete mentoring, social events, race support, training weekends, triathlete panels, clinics, discounts and more resources for Austin area triathletes. The goal, Riegel says, is to give back to the Austin triathlon community.
“We’re not trying to compete with any other teams,” he says. “We just want to provide an accessible and affordable opportunity, especially for people who may just want to try out triathlon and connect with other triathletes.”
Annual membership to the Austin Triathlon Club will cost less than $50 per year. For more information, go to austintriclub.org.
The kickoff happy hour is set for 6:30 p.m. Nov. 6 at the Gingerman, 301 Lavaca St.