Dear Tabby: How Do I Make My Neighborhood Streets Safer For All Users?

Do you have a commuting question, but nowhere to turn? Commuter Cat is here to help. Today’s question concerns roads that are safe for all types of commuters.

Q: I enjoy my walk, and sometimes a bike ride, from the bus to my office when I get downtown for work each day, but it’s a different story on the way home. Despite wide streets that should have room for everyone, there are stop-and-start sidewalks and drivers that zoom by, making it feel unsafe to ride my bike or walk home from the bus. How do I get my street to feel safer for people?

Screen shot 2015-02-02 at 1.12.02 PMYours, Worried Commuter

A: Dear Worried,

The City has passed a Complete Streets ordinance, and this creates policy supporting what you would like to see. Still, improving your street may or may not be a priority. There are several options for you to make progress with streets in your neighborhood and address the wide street on which you live – and the daily car races that can occur as drivers cut through neighborhoods.

You can speak with the City about several solutions:

Traffic calming and small improvements: The Austin Transportation Department actually has a request-based program to help you determine the right improvements for the challenges you and your neighbors face. The application will walk you through the various considerations and steps you would need to make. You will need to show evidence of support among your neighbors, so don’t spend a lot of time until you have talked with neighbors and find significant support for a request.

Street redesign and construction: Austin Public Works also has a Neighborhood Partnering Program in which you and your neighbors can ask the City to share the costs for improvements. If the City is already planning work under the street (storm water drainage, utilities, etc.) or on the street itself, that is an ideal time to ask for improved designs; however, the NPP can help you make improvements even when no other projects are conveniently scheduled in the near future.

Road Witching: invite your neighbors out to play on your street and “become the street you envision.” Ted Dewan, a creative Brit, coined this term when he decided he really wanted the street in front of his house to become more neighbor-friendly. He was quite elaborate in his “activation” of the street in front of his house. Find out what he did and get some great ideas for what you could do with this video.


photo via City of Austin

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