Austin City Council paves way for more play, exercise on neighborhood streets

The plan calls for traffic control methods to make streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists. (Courtesy Living Streets)
The plan calls for traffic control methods to make streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists. (Courtesy Living Streets)

The plan calls for traffic control methods to make streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists. (Courtesy Living Streets)

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The plan was piloted in Austin during the pandemic. (Courtesy Living Streets)
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The plan would make it safer and easier for neighborhoods to hold events on their local street. (Courtesy Living Streets)
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The plan aims to increase foot traffic on streets. (Courtesy Living Streets)
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The plan calls for traffic control methods to make streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists. (Courtesy Living Streets)
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The plan calls for traffic control methods to make streets safer for mixed use. (Courtesy Living Streets)
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The plan is already being tested in parts of Austin. (Courtesy Living Streets)
Austin City Council members are hoping to expand on plans that allowed neighborhood streets to be used for exercising, playing and small events during the pandemic.

The council unanimously approved a motion, led by Council Member Paige Ellis, to adopt the Living Streets model, which is a program aimed at reconsidering the usage of local streets. The concept is used in several U.S. cities and was piloted in Austin during the pandemic.

“It has become clear that Austinites want to get to know their neighbors in a more meaningful way. ... Outdoor spaces for public gathering and entertainment is the perfect way to continue building community relationships,” Ellis said in a press release.

The resolution, passed Oct. 21, directs City Manager Spencer Cronk to work on the Neighborhood Block Party Program, which uses street closures to give neighborhoods safe places to host events. It also asked him to develop programs that will encourage playing and exercising on public streets by addressing street safety and traffic issues.

The Living Streets model would allow residents in some cases to use materials such as barrels or plants to carve out part of the street for events. This is intended to slow cars and make it safer to use streets for other purposes.


“Instead of clogging our streets with cars, we have the opportunity to do what cities across the country and around the world have done for centuries: Prioritize people on our streets, the connective tissue of our community,” said Mayor Pro Tem Natasha Harper-Madison.

The plan is expected to take shape over the next few months, according to a press release from Ellis' office.

“As we emerge from the social isolation we’ve all had to endure, having room to spread out and move in places where traditionally we couldn’t is inspiring,” said Council Member Leslie Pool.


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