road closed sign

As cities begin to reopen there are a lot of moving parts taking place in order to ensure the safety of citizens and workers during this time of the pandemic. Along with COVID-19 came many closures of events but also the doors and operations of businesses nationwide as America took a hard-economic plummet. Businesses are now taking new actions to ensure consumers safety as well as their business.  

One city that is planning to follow suit of others is Austin as it has chosen to begin a “Healthy Streets” initiative. Austin isn’t the first to do this. The Healthy Streets program is like others across the country including cities like Oakland and Seattle. Local parks and popular outdoor recreations have been flooded will people looking to get a break from quarantine as the gyms and other venues were closed to the public.    

The first group of “Healthy Streets” to be closed to vehicular traffic took place on Thursday last week as part of the new initiative put in place by the city of Austin.    

The streets that are a part of the first batch in the initiative include Bouldin Avenue, South Third Street and Garden Villa from Bannister Lane to Barton Springs Road; Comal Street from Lady Bird Lake to Manor Road; and the Country Club Creek Trail Extension that includes part of the trail itself and parts of Wickersham Lane, Ventura Drive and Madera Drive from Mabel Davis Park to Lakeshore Drive. 

The three areas of closures connect to or are within blocks of neighborhoods in South Central East and Southeast Austin to the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail. The street closures will allow for more space for people that choose to exercise outside and provides a safer route for folks commuting downtown 

Signs, cones, or barricades will block off streets to deter vehicular traffic will the exception for residents of those areas and emergency vehicles and deliveries said Austin transportation director Robert Spillar in a memo to the mayor.  

“The first batch of Healthy Streets will be closely monitored to ensure they are operating safely and meeting the needs of the community,” wrote Spillar. 

Austin parks have remained open throughout the pandemic apart from some amenities that were a response to overcrowding. The Trail Foundation recommended people stop using the Butler Hike and Bike Trail incredibly early in the pandemic stating that the trail was overcrowded and was not in complying to social distancing guidelines.  

The initiative was brought by Paige Ellis, Austin City Council member, where it received unanimous approval. She stated that Austin residents can sent a request that their streets be included in the Healthy Streets program.