Evidence of the City’s Hogwash About Sidewalks

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.

It’s awful.

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?


8 thoughts on “Evidence of the City’s Hogwash About Sidewalks

  1. City staff were receptive about relocating the curb to where white line is located, adding impervious cover for pedestrians i.e. trail and slope back the embankment to add capacity and reduce incline of the bank. The sloping idea was late cause the city already fixed Waller Creek erosion and city has no money for sidewalk (smiles).
    Neighborhoods in transition really need to push for tax increment or construction fees to be reinvested in the neighborhood. It is ridiculous that the Koenig apartments under construction have paid about 1/4 of a million in parking and park fees and there is no money for sidewalks.
    But I wonder if some of these ped projects are included in the city’s many master plans. If not in a master plan then unlikely projects will be funded.

  2. I’m pretty much in the “when hell freezes over” camp for narrowing of streets or putting in street bumps. Especially when sidewalks should and could go in. Can we somehow, en masse, write the city council members, and see if some action can be done. I feel like a group of neighbors banded together could make life a bit hellish for city planners and council members alike — if we tried.

    I am assuming the small amount of funds for putting in a sidewalk “somewhere” in the NNA area apparently doesn’t include this stretch due to various apparent lies we are being told by the City.

    1. The city mentioned that it requested the developer of the Koenig apt. complex to conducted a neighborhood traffic impact analysis.Generally when we do TIAs we estimate the traffic impact as well as impact to other modes of transportation caused by the development.  Collected data generally includes auto traffic but also bike, ped, etc.The NNA should request a copy of the TIA for the development.  The development has one east-way access road and two (maybe three) north-south access routes. Pedestrian activity should be included in a TIA for a neighborhood.

      From: Northfield Neighborhood Association To: gonzalo.camacho@yahoo.com Sent: Wednesday, December 3, 2014 5:33 PM Subject: [New comment] Evidence of the City’s Hogwash About Sidewalks #yiv2498678113 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv2498678113 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv2498678113 a.yiv2498678113primaryactionlink:link, #yiv2498678113 a.yiv2498678113primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv2498678113 a.yiv2498678113primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv2498678113 a.yiv2498678113primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv2498678113 WordPress.com John Gower commented: “I’m pretty much in the “when hell freezes over” camp for narrowing of streets or putting in street bumps. Especially when sidewalks should and could go in. Can we somehow, en masse, write the city council members, and see if some action can be done. I ” | |

  3. I’m very much not excited about taking out bike lanes to put in sidewalks along a corridor where there are plenty of bikers but hardly any pedestrians!

  4. I’m afraid I must completely disagree that there are “hardly any pedestrians” along Chesterfield. There are currently no bike lanes on Chesterfield, the North Loop Neighborhood Plan identifies Chesterfield as a street in need of sidewalks, and there is clearly no harm in narrowing Chesterfield by 5 feet. It would do nothing but calm traffic, and make the walk to Epoch Coffee much safer for pedestrians.

    1. Sebastian, the city isn’t doing anything on Chesterfield — I was talking about Balcones Drive, where an actual bike lane is being taking out. Another example of some rich assholes who don’t bike but do think they might walk the dog some day when the maid has a broken leg getting the city to spend money and jump through hoops when they snap their fingers. Yeah, let’s spend money building a sidewalk on a street with no pedestrians while there are high density apartment complexes along North Lamar where residents have to walk through a drainage ditch to get to the bus stop. Ain’t that America; somethin to see! I’m not sure 10-1 is going to change this dynamic.

      BTW, like I said, I’d be most happy with RPM’s (Raised Pavement Markers) demarcating the shared lane on Chesterfield , but the city could actually IMPROVE drainage by putting in an ecocrete (or similar) sidewalk; i.e. a sidewalk made from one of the porous concretes that allows water to drain through it.

      1. Oh, I see what you are saying. And at first blush, I understand your concern, but the sidewalk on Balcones is actually pure genius. The bike lane merges up into the sidewalk, so as a cyclist, I can decide to either “take the lane” out with the cars or I can ride on the sidewalk. It actually works very well.

        I definitely prefer what they did on Balcones over what they did on Rockwood Lane up near Pillow Elementary School. Now THAT is a shande and travesty.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s