Follow-up: Houston makes progress on fast-tracked sidewalk repairs

Sidewalk improvements
(Jennifer Draper/Community Impact Newspaper)

(Jennifer Draper/Community Impact Newspaper)

Image description
(Jennifer Draper/Community Impact Newspaper)
A 2-mile journey from Jay Malone’s home in Montrose to his office in the Heights takes him 45 minutes.

“I’ve actually walked it before, and it’s an hour to walk versus 45 minutes to take two buses,” he said.

Malone, who relies on public transportation because his epilepsy prevents him from driving, said his difficulty traversing the city inspired him to start Walkable Houston, an advocacy group that promotes accessible transportation and sidewalk infrastructure in the city.

In recent months, it appears that the city is making strides toward these goals.

In April, after a fatal pedestrian accident in the Heights involving a person in wheelchair, Mayor Sylvester Turner promised the city would “fast-track” over 40 sidewalk repair requests initiated by residents with disabilities or by residents advocating on behalf of residents with disabilities.


Since then, the city has spent $2.4 million completing 28 out of the 40 projects and has spent $100,000 improving the intersection where the accident occurred, Houston Public Works confirmed.

Long-term progress, however, will require more systemic change, Malone said.

An ordinance with ‘no teeth’


Houston’s municipal code states that sidewalk maintenance is considered the responsibility of private property owners.

If a sidewalk falls into disrepair and the property owner does not fix it, residents can file a request with the city through 311. However, there are no penalties specified by Houston’s municipal code to penalize property owners for unkempt sidewalks.

“There’s no teeth to the statute, so nothing will get done,” said Craig Stone, an Upper Kirby resident who put in a sidewalk repair request.

With a property owner’s permission, the city will agree to construct new sidewalks in certain high-need areas but typically will not assume responsibility for repairs, city officials said. In some cases, poor sidewalks can be filled with crushed rock as a temporary fix.

Stone said he filed a request with the city to repair a sidewalk along Greenbriar Drive, where his wife regularly walks with their baby stroller and has to direct her path into the street. After getting permission from the neighboring property owner, his request to Houston Public Works was initially denied, his correspondence with the city showed.

“Leaving sidewalk repairs up to the property owners makes Houston different than a lot of other major cities,” Malone said. “Austin, for example, has taken on the ultimate responsibility for the sidewalks.”

Taking responsibility of all sidewalk maintenance would have a dramatic effect of Houston’s budget, city officials confirmed.

For now, Stone and Malone both said the most meaningful progress in accessibility would come from amending the ordinance to include penalties for property owners with poorly kept sidewalks or to establish city ownership of sidewalks.

“When your main mode of getting around is walking, you feel like you might be the only one who is seeing this, especially in car-centric cities like Houston, but there’s a large percentage of Houstonians who do walk and see the problems and are frustrated.”


MOST RECENT

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner's police reform task force is gathering more community input. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Police reform task force asks Houston residents to share opinions through Aug. 9

The Houston Mayor's Task Force on Policing Reform is circulating a survey among Houston neighborhoods to collect opinions from residents.

An online training course to help prepare Houston ISD parents for the virtual return to school is set to go live Aug. 10. (Courtesy Canva)
Houston ISD to launch parent educational course on virtual learning Aug. 10

The district is asking parents to complete the course by Sept. 4.

The 2020 U.S. Census response rate is already lagging behind 2010 numbers, and officials said the shortened timeline only increases the chances of an undercount. (Community Impact staff)
Shortened census timeline could shortchange Houston, its most vulnerable communities

The 2020 U.S. Census response rate is already lagging behind 2010 numbers, and officials said the shortened timeline only increases the chances of an undercount.

The farm-to-table restaurant plans to create 90 jobs and offer familiar American meals. (Courtesy Whiskey Cake)
Whiskey Cake restaurant to open in The Woodlands and more Houston-area news

Read the latest business and community news from the Houston area.

The overall death total in Harris County hit 805, with the majority of deaths—78%—occurring in individuals ages 60 and older. (Community Impact staff)
Harris County coronavirus count: 17 deaths confirmed Aug. 5, including man in his 20s

The overall death total hit 805, with the majority of deaths—78%—occurring in individuals ages 60 and older.

Restaurants in Houston can now opt to take up to 50% of its designated parking spaces to create outdoor dining space as long as COVID-19 restrictions remain in effect. (Matt Dulin/Community Impact Newspaper)
Houston restaurants can now tap parking lots for outdoor dining

Houston City Council has approved a proposal to allow restaurants to take over 50% of their parking spaces to expand outdoor dining capacity.

Another $20 million in relief will be available soon for Houston residents struggling to pay rent. (Community Impact staff)
Houston OKs $20M in rent relief with provision to delay evictions

The new funds will also be prioritzed to the most vulnerable residents rather than a first-come, first-served process.

The Confederate Soldiers Monument stands on the south grounds of the Texas Capitol. A group of Democratic lawmakers have called for its removal, along with other statues and portraits honoring the Confederacy. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
State legislators seek removal of Confederate monuments at Texas Capitol

The decision may ultimately lie with Gov. Greg Abbott and the rest of the State Preservation Board, which last year authorized the removal of a plaque in the Capitol that said slavery was not an underlying cause of the Confederate rebellion.

This map shows the corridors that will be subject to new transit-oriented development rules, which are designed to improve access to high-capacity transit options. (Courtesy City of Houston)
Houston adopts new development rules to promote walkable, transit-oriented projects

New development moving forward will have to conform to new standards along transit corridors and new "Walkable Places" areas.