Sidewalks Need to Be a Priority

RECEIVED Wed., April 30, 2008

Dear Editor,
    No matter how tight the city budget may be, Austin needs a deadline, funding, and staff to finish the sidewalk and crosswalk system. Vertical, mixed-use, transit-oriented development, New Urbanism, and the Climate Protection Plan will all be ineffective without a complete, well-maintained pedestrian system. Austin also needs some temporary pedestrian space while the sidewalks are being finished. Perhaps we need pedestrian lanes in the streets.
    The city budget will be tight this year. Usually, whenever money is tight, pedestrian and bicycle funding is cut. The rationale, I guess, is that hardly anyone in Austin walks or bicycles for transportation anyway.
    Yet somehow cars managed to kill 24 pedestrians in Austin last year. How is this possible, if nobody walks here?
    The truth is that, actually, everyone in Austin is a pedestrian. The pedestrians killed by cars each year include people who step out of disabled cars to seek help, people who “drive everywhere” but are just crossing the street, children waiting for school buses, people walking bicycles with flat tires, people in wheelchairs, and so on.
    With money tight and gasoline expensive, more people are willing to walk instead of drive for trips of half a mile or less. But without any pedestrian space at all on most streets, people will just keep driving those half-mile trips.
    If we really want to solve our problems and not just dream of castles in the air, we need a deadline, staff, and funding for finishing the pedestrian infrastructure.
Yours truly,
Amy Babich
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