We’ll get right to the point — you’ve got until October 23, or this coming Sunday, to complete the latest community survey for the ATX Walk Bike Roll program, providing input on future transportation policy including the placement of bike paths, urban trails, and other pedestrian-friendly infrastructure to the city’s Public Works and Transportation Departments. But there’s one specific topic on the table at the moment that needs all of our outspoken advocacy right now: Shared Streets.
Do you remember the “Healthy Streets” program during the early days of the pandemic in 2020, which temporarily introduced measures calming street traffic in 26 different areas across town? Meant to provide much-needed additional outdoor space for recreation during widespread social distancing, the program slowed cars through a number of site-specific interventions including the installation of alternating barriers, signs restricting streets to local traffic only, or certain lanes closed to vehicular traffic.
Although the pandemic doesn’t have a lot of silver linings, the initiative would likely never have taken place on such a broad level without the unprecedented social disruption of the era, providing a brief window of possibility into how our streets could be altered without meaningfully harming the flow of car traffic — and now it’s mostly gone, with only a few neighborhood streets still closed and all of our asses collectively chapped at the frustration of briefly seeing just how much better things could be. But there’s hope! The Walk Bike Roll program includes the potential for permanent shared streets, installed in areas where the installation of new sidewalks might represent a larger cost and time commitment.
One solution the City is exploring to more quickly expand places for walking are Shared Streets on neighborhood streets with low amounts of traffic, low speeds, and no or few sidewalks. Shared Streets use traffic calming devices, such as bollards, paint, or planters to make residential streets more comfortable for people walking, biking, or rolling.
Although Shared Streets do not provide the same level of separation from car traffic as sidewalks, this approach would create safer places to walk in less time and at a lower cost. We can build 3 to 4 blocks of shared street for the same cost as 1 block of sidewalk.
— ATX Walk Bike Roll
Although sidewalks and protected bikeways are always useful, we’re fond of the shared street model for reclaiming the vast paved spaces we already have — they are the foundation of a mixed social environment you simply can’t fit on a sidewalk, and in most cases they only slow or remove cars from streets that aren’t critical to the flow of traffic, as you might have noticed once folks started driving more in the later days of 2020. To us, the possibility of altering certain streets permanently is the most captivating topic discussed in the entire presentation below, and perhaps you’ll agree: