by Sebastian Wren
On several occasions, our neighborhood has spoken with City of Austin staff about making Chesterfield a safer place for pedestrians. Ever since Epoch Coffee opened, hundreds of people walk along Chesterfield Avenue to and from the coffee shop just about every day, and it isn’t very safe at all. People walking with their dogs or their children get stuck in very unsafe situations with cars that tend to go a little too fast along Chesterfield.
Our fore-sighted neighbors who wrote the North Loop Neighborhood Plan recognized this as a problem more than a decade ago, long before Epoch Coffee opened, years before there was a Drink.Well, or a Tigress, or a Workhorse. Long before there were scores of people walking along this street, our neighbors who wrote the neighborhood plan cited Chesterfield as a dangerous street in need of traffic calming and pedestrian amenities. Specifically, they called for a sidewalk along Chesterfield on the West side of the street.
City staff have said repeatedly that is not possible — they claim it will mess up the “drainage” in the street. (But of course, they can’t explain how on earth a sidewalk could mess up “drainage.”) We have asked them to narrow the street (which would calm traffic) and put the sidewalk in the space the street currently occupies — their response was “not possible.”
When they tore up the street (twice!) to replace utilities, we asked them to install a sidewalk and make it safer for pedestrians. Their response was “NOT POSSIBLE.”
The best they could do to make pedestrians safer was to paint a stripe of paint along the road. Yes… Paint… Like a strip of paint will save your child from getting hit by a car. And by the way, the paint faded long ago… The City of Austin is so dysfunctional, THIS is their idea of a sidewalk:
But all along, the city staff have clearly been lying to us, because the City of Austin certainly CAN install a sidewalk in the street. It most definitely IS possible. In fact, they’re in the process of doing it RIGHT NOW in Northwest Hills. On Balcones Drive near 2222, construction is currently underway to convert the bike lanes into SIDEWALKS.
I ride my bike there a few times a week, and I don’t recall EVER seeing pedestrians walking along Balcones Drive, but I can assure you that if they did, it would not be safe. Check it out:
Look at that guy walking along that new sidewalk! Doesn’t that look great! Wouldn’t you LOVE to see that on CHESTERFIELD!?!?!?!? I sure would!!
SO, all of these COA staff members who have been telling us for years that they can’t put a sidewalk on Chesterfield (you know… because of “drainage…”) need to explain to us why Chesterfield is so different from Balcones Drive. There is PLENTY of room to narrow Chesterfield and add a sidewalk — a SAFE pathway for HUNDREDS of people who walk along that street regularly.
So why can’t they do it?