Healthy Streets (previously referred to as “Slow Streets”) will turn selected streets into pedestrian/bicycle-priority, while allowing local traffic, to enable safe exercise during the COVID-19 pandemic. But it gets better: In its resolution, Austin City Council requested that Healthy Streets be considered for long term implementation after social distancing ends. The short and long term benefits of this decision could be profound.
This program needs a lot of public support to continue. In taking such a bold step, the City of Austin has bravely and justifiably broken away from decades of harmful regulations and cultural practices around using streets for more than driving, policies that held back communal quality of life for so long, especially during testing times like the present. Some people will attack this so please take the actions below to help protect and grow Healthy Streets.
Walk Austin successfully rallied over 30 organizations and more than 1,100 people through our petition, to urge the City to approve Healthy Streets. We thank you all for helping to make this historic step possible and we also strongly commend leadership from Council Member Paige Ellis, the Austin Transportation Department, and other City staff for making this victory possible.
What a moment. Let’s make sure every community gets to enjoy Healthy Streets.
Announcing the first batch of Healthy Streets
Bouldin Ave / S 3rd St / Garden Villa Ln (from Banister Ln to Barton Springs Rd)
Comal St (from Manor Rd to Lady Bird Lake)
Country Club Creek Trail extension (Trail, Wickersham Ln, Ventura Dr, Madera Dr) from Mabel Davis Park to Lakeshore Dr
If you visit these streets for exercise, please keep at least 6′ distance from others and take all other reasonable health-related precautions.
Contact: Adam Greenfield, Board President, Walk Austin Phone:512-883-5995 Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
Austin City Council takes historic vote to approve a “Healthy Streets” program
Program will prioritize safe walking, bicycling, and rolling on neighborhood streets, while still allowing local traffic, to address the the COVID-19 pandemic’s mental and physical health impacts
Walk Austin and over 30 supporting local organizations, together with over 1,000 community members, applaud the Austin City Council and especially resolution main sponsor Council Member Paige Ellis for taking a momentous step to address the strain upon the people of Austin caused by COVID-19. Following advocacy by a large coalition of organizations and members of the public spearheaded by Walk Austin, Council passed a resolution on May 8th directing the City Manager to create a Healthy Streets program (formerly referred to as “Slow Streets”) that prioritizes walking, bicycling, and rolling on certain neighborhood streets, while still allowing local traffic. This will allow residents to exercise safely while remaining six feet apart and avoid crowding in parks and on trails and sidewalks.
“During this unprecedented time, Austinites have to get creative to fill their need for exercise and fresh air. Many Austin residents do not live within walking distance of a park, and others report feeling unsafe by the influx of visitors in parks and on trails,” said Council Member Ellis.
Council has directed the City Manager to begin rolling out Healthy Streets within two weeks through “a simplified, streamlined, and cost-minimized process”, starting small with an initial batch of neighborhood streets and expanding steadily in the following period. Streets will be chosen through consultation with Council offices, City staff, and community members, the latter of whom can still submit location suggestions through Walk Austin’s Slow Streets petition.
“This is a historic decision,” says Walk Austin Board President Adam Greenfield. “With this simple but powerful direction, Council has acknowledged that our neighborhood streets are public spaces for everyone and crucial tools in meeting the COVID-19 challenge. Streets must be used during this unprecedented period for more than just one function – driving – and instead must be opened up to include more people and more activities.”
Furthermore, Council is also looking to Healthy Streets’s long term possibilities. Echoing the resolution’s main sponsor Council Member Paige Ellis’s support for using streets differently to better meet community needs in this time of crisis, Council Member Kathie Tovo also requested that “[w]hen social distancing is no longer needed in our community, [the City Manager] return to Council with recommendations for instituting long-term investments in “slow streets” programs citywide.”
This resolution brings Austin into a growing group of cities across the U.S. rolling out similar programs (commonly named “Slow Streets”), including Denver, Oakland, San Francisco, New York City, Portland, Kansas City, and Seattle.