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More Sidewalks Needed

RECEIVED Wed., June 5, 2013

Dear Editor,
    The article “Honk If You Prefer Walking” [“Then There's This,” News, May 24] reports a growing demand for sidewalks across the United States. I certainly see many people walking in my neighborhood. We walk in the street with the cars. There are few sidewalks, even near the elementary school and shopping center. This is not changing. Austin is not building many sidewalks.
    I do not drive a car. I walk and use a bicycle for transportation. Bicycling in Austin is so much safer and easier than walking, but I need to walk, so I walk. Most people I know drive to destinations half a mile away. This is because in order to walk anywhere we must walk in the street with the cars. Most people are afraid or unwilling to put up with this.
    It would take over 150 years to build out Austin's sidewalk plan at the present rate of progress. Bond elections come and go. There is never a big sidewalk buildout included, so nothing changes. Even Downtown is not fully equipped with sidewalks. That's pretty sad.
    Bicyclists get more attention than pedestrians. There are ghost bikes for cyclists killed on the street, but nothing for pedestrians. Motorists write angry letters about bicyclists. People on foot just get run over without fanfare.
    We need a big sidewalk buildout. Construct one-tenth of the sidewalk plan in a year, and we'd see big changes in transportation in Austin. Unfortunately, this is just not happening. To build out the sidewalk network, we would need to fund and build a big sidewalk project – not 50 yards here and 50 yards there.
    Transportation congestion in Austin will not ease until we fund and build an Austin sidewalk network. But city policy, alas, is to try everything else first.
Amy Babich
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