slow streets

City Council approves a “Healthy Streets” program!

Contact:    Adam Greenfield, Board President, Walk Austin
Phone:       
512-883-5995
Email:       
adam@agreenfield.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.

Read more

Press release: Walk Austin Leads Coalition to Call For “Slow Streets” Program To Address COVID-19 Pandemic

Sign the Slow Streets petition here

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (download press release)

Contact:    Adam Greenfield, Walk Austin
Phone:       
512-883-5995
Email:       
adam@agreenfield.org

Walk Austin and Other Organizations Call For “Slow Streets” Program To Address COVID-19 Pandemic

Program would prioritize safe walking and bicycling on neighborhood streets, while still allowing local traffic, to address the mental and physical health impacts of the pandemic and the shelter-in-place order

AUSTIN, TX An unprecedented coalition of over 30 organizations* representing parks and trails, mobility, mental health, people with disabilities, faith-based, and neighborhood constituents are applauding the City of Austin for its strong leadership and swift action in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. As an essential next step, the coalition is urging Austin to join other cities across the US and immediately create an emergency “Slow Streets” program. This program will prioritize safe, socially-distanced walking and bicycling on non-arterial, non-transit neighborhood streets in all City Council districts while still allowing access for local traffic.

Says Adam Greenfield, Walk Austin Board President, “We need Slow Streets now. By allowing people to exercise safely near home, this crucial measure will mitigate public mental and physical impacts, reduce potential virus transmission, relieve pressure on parks and trails, and increase community resilience.”

“Communities know their streets best so we’re inviting the public to help roll this out quickly and successfully by showing support and by nominating neighborhood streets as potential Slow Streets (see petition at bit.ly/SlowStreetsATX)”, says Joanna Wolaver, Board President of Austin Outside. Potential streets could run for multiple blocks and connect to form a cross-town network. The City and the community are asked to consider equity so that underserved communities particularly impacted by the pandemic can employ Slow Streets as a mitigation tool.

The coalition is also asking the City to implement a further slate of transportation-related measures to address the sudden rise in dangerous vehicle speeds and increased pedestrian and bicycle activity:

  • Create temporary bicycle lanes on Congress Avenue north of Riverside Drive to the State Capitol
  • Reallocate partial/full road space for walking and bicycling on other currently unsafe streets and near crowded trails/sidewalks, as was recently enacted on Riverside Dr and on the Longhorn Dam bridge
  • Disable pedestrian push buttons at intersections and automate crossing phases to eliminate the need to touch surfaces, while still catering for the needs of those with disabilities
  • Implement Lead Pedestrian Intervals (LPIs) beyond downtown
  • Retime traffic lights citywide to discourage speeding and reduce pedestrian crowding at intersections

——

*Coalition organizations: Walk Austin (lead organization), Austin Outside, Austin Parks Foundation, The Trail Foundation, Shoal Creek Conservancy, Hill Country Conservancy, Pease Park Conservancy, UMLAUF Sculpture Garden and Museum, Austin Youth River Watch, Scenic Austin, Blunn Creek Partnership, Generation SERVE, MoveATX, Bike Austin, Ghisallo Cycling Initiative, Yellow Bike Project, Farm&City, Vision Zero ATX, Central Texas Families For Safe Streets, Red Line Parkway Initiative, Environment Texas, Congress For the New Urbanism Central Texas, Creating Common Ground, Black + Vernooy Architects, Reconnect Austin, AURA, UT Austin Community and Regional Planning Student Organization, Deaf-Blind Service Center of Austin, Alzheimer’s Association Capital of Texas, Stronger Austin, Mobile Loaves & Fishes, Blackland Community Development Corporation

Sign the Slow Streets petition here

Read more