San Marcos and Texas State officials should work to improve streets, sidewalks and bike lanes in the spirit of the recently filed “Complete Streets” bill.
Complete Streets is a bill that will provide guidelines for the construction of new roads and the improvement of others, according to the non-profit cycling advocacy organization BikeTexas. Specifically, the bill seeks to ensure roads are built to accommodate users not in cars.
Complete Streets is not a progressive concept. In fact, it is incredibly regressive that Texans statewide continue to build roads without adequate infrastructure and the ideas contained within the Complete Streets bill are not standard practice already. It is plain to see how poor pedestrian infrastructure has hurt Texans and, specifically, how it has hurt the university.
North LBJ between Holland and Sessom is a prime example of how harmful our regressive policies are. This corridor contains student housing developments and is riddled with areas dangerous to pedestrians. The sidewalks are sparse, narrow and often disconnected. Areas of North LBJ were developed at different times by multiple people and under various land development codes. Therefore, the street is full of incongruous sidewalks dangerous to walk along.
The southbound sidewalk ends in an abrupt drop-off. Even worse, there is no crosswalk to direct pedestrians to the other side of the street in this area. To safely cross the street, pedestrians have to walk all the way up to Holland. Pedestrians cross unsafely rather than backtrack, putting themselves and drivers in unnecessary danger.
The northbound side possesses a more continuous stretch of sidewalk, but even it has problems. Outside of Hillside Ranch, the sidewalk is adequate. However, once you leave those property lines, the path begins to alternate between sidewalk, unpaved trail and occasional flirtations with the road itself.
Even this stretch of sidewalk lacks the infrastructure to truly support pedestrianism. The walkway lacks adequate lighting aside from insufficient paving in places. Students who live on this stretch of North LBJ are practically forced to drive to campus. For them, a walk up the street’s incomplete sidewalks coupled with the darkness and uncertainty of night is too risky. Students walking this way have to blaze their own trail and watch for cars that cannot see them on a dimly-lit road, in addition to worrying about who is lurking in the shadows.
Lastly, there are no bike lanes along North LBJ. In 2005, James Ortiz broke the school’s record for the 1,500 meters, which still stands as the fastest in school history. In 2006, he was in a bicycle accident at the intersection of North LBJ and Sessom. As a result, a portion of his right leg was amputated. Bike lanes may not have prevented his accident, but they certainly would provide a safer way for cyclists like Ortiz to traverse North LBJ. According to a June 8, 2006 San Antonio Express News story, Ortiz was riding on the sidewalk when he had his accident. If bike lanes were installed, he might have ridden with the flow of traffic instead of against it.
The North LBJ area is so close to campus it is practically part of it. Despite this, few support its renovation. Town and gown issues and a tight budget prevent the city from taking an active role, and the university has a laissez-faire attitude toward anything not involving student athletics. We focus a lot of resources on alleviating commuter issues but little on local roads and sidewalks. Why have we failed to consider investing in pedestrianism as part of the solution to our transportation options in light of the recent permit hikes and bus service cuts? Texas State and San Marcos officials should work together to fix the road issues in town, especially with regards to pedestrian infrastructure.
-Daniel Palomo is a mass communication masters student