walk austin

City Council approves a “Healthy Streets” program!

Contact:    Adam Greenfield, Board President, Walk Austin

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.

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Walk Austin Endorses 2018 Bond Election Propositions A-G, Opposes Proposition J

By Tom Wald, Walk Austin board member

The Walk Austin Board endorses all City of Austin 2018 Bond Election items, Propositions A through G. We especially support the transportation bond item, Proposition G, which includes funding for sidewalk maintenance, Vision Zero safety projects, and urban trails, among other transportation needs. We also oppose land-use policy Proposition J. Read more further below.

Early voting has started and continues through Friday, November 2nd. Election Day is Tuesday, November 6th. The local propositions will appear far down on the ballot, and you must select them individually, regardless of voting straight ticket. Further voting information is at the bottom of this page. We encourage all eligible Austin voters to vote for all 2018 Bond Propositions A-G, and to vote against Proposition J.

Walk Austin advocated for pedestrian funding throughout the 2018 Bond development process, helping to ensure funding was included in the final ballot going to voters. We worked with the Austin Pedestrian Advisory Council, Farm&City, other advocacy organizations, other pedestrian community leaders, and city staff to understand community needs and goals. The need for pedestrian infrastructure funding is huge, and seizing each opportunity toward meeting that goal is critical.

Walk Austin Board Member, Tom Wald (left), speaks in support of 2018 Bond sidewalk funding at Austin City Council, June 28th, 2018. Toilet paper serves as a prop for the long road ahead to complete Austin’s essential sidewalk network. Photo: Patricia Schaub, former Walk Austin board member.

Proposition G would fund transportation infrastructure projects, including the following key pedestrian funding needs:

Sidewalk Funding: The City of Austin Sidewalk Master Plan identifies $1.6 billion in needs for completing our sidewalk network and repairing existing sidewalks. Over the next eight years, the plan calls for $25 million/year for new sidewalks and $15 million/year for sidewalk maintenance and ADA-accessibility upgrades. Proposition G would provide funding toward the latter, $15MM/year needs.

Vision Zero Funding: The City of Austin Vision Zero Master Plan lays out the city’s goal of zero transportation fatalities and serious injury crashes by 2025. The plan includes transportation infrastructure improvements, enforcement, education, evaluation, and other methods for meeting that goal. Proposition G would provide funding for transportation infrastructure improvements for all travel modes, including pedestrian safety improvements such as pedestrian hybrid beacons (signalized midblock crossings), crossing median refuge islands, low-speed shared streets, and more.

Urban Trails: The City of Austin Urban Trails Master Plan describes a network of hundreds of miles of paved pedestrian and bicycle trails connecting far across the city. These trails are designed to meet both transportation and recreation needs. Proposition G would include funding for multiple trail segments, including a section of the Red Line Trail that would connect between multifamily housing, office towers near The Domain, Capital Metro MetroRail stations, the Shoal Creek Trail, the Northern Walnut Creek Trail, and the North MoPac Trail.

Oppose Proposition J: We oppose Proposition J, since it presents time delays and barriers to changing our auto-centric land development code. Our current land-use policy favors car mobility over walking and transit in myriad ways. Walkable neighborhoods provide access to amenities for everyone, including the young, old, and other non-drivers. Our city needs to increase walkability in our neighborhoods to build community, provide equitable access to daily needs and community spaces, and respond to our traffic problems and climate change.

We encourage all eligible Austin voters to vote for all 2018 Bond Propositions A-G, and to vote against Proposition J.

Further information

Walk Austin belongs to Austin Together, a coalition of local nonprofits and community leaders that support the bond propositions, Propositions A-G. More information.

The City of Austin 2018 Bond website

Austin American Statesman endorsement of Proposition G

Austin Chronicle endorsement of all bond items, Propositions A-G

Voting information for Travis County voters

KUT News Austin summary of voting information and links

Go for a walk

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