AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin is testing out concepts to make neighborhoods across the city safer for walking and bicycling. The pilot program is called “Shared Streets,” which uses traffic calming and pedestrian-centered design to accommodate all travel modes, ages, and abilities.
Austin Public Works and Austin Transportation are currently testing the concept in the North Loop and Brentwood neighborhoods.
It’s focused along Avenues G and H, as well as Ullrich and Joe Sayers Avenues, where sidewalks are lacking.
Designers have added traffic circles, pedestrian islands, even just basic signs — all in an effort to have cars operate slower, keeping people and cyclists safer.
“We’re working out with our transportation department engineers… trying out some different treatments, see what’s going to work best, and we’re working with the neighborhoods,” said John Eastman, who works for Sidewalks and Special Projects with the City of Austin.
The city is looking to see what streets they should revamp next.
There are over 2,500 miles of missing sidewalks in Austin, according to austintexas.gov. At the current funding rate, it would take almost 200 years for the City of Austin to build out all of the missing sidewalks.
Shared Streets are a less costly, more flexible option with fewer impacts to existing trees and landscaping than installing sidewalks. Shared Streets were introduced in the 2016 Sidewalk Plan, and the City is interested in testing Shared Streets as it updates the Sidewalk Plan to better understand the role Shared Streets could have in the overall pedestrian network.
Shared Streets, plus sidewalks, improved street crossings, and urban trails could help the City to complete the pedestrian network more quickly, according to the project’s website.