Trail is a start

Published 10:02 am Friday, July 6, 2012

Daily Herald editorial

A city-state effort to create a pedestrian walkway between the west side of Oak Park Mall and the Target shopping center will be a welcome edition to an area that is now not particularly friendly for pedestrians. Much more could — and should — be done to make that part of town friendlier for pedestrians.

Working with the Department of Transportation, the city plans to construct a trail that runs from the Younkers parking lot south along busy Highway 218 up to the stoplights at the Interstate, then north on the other side of the highway down to the Target area. For years, pedestrians have been forced to dart across Highway 218 mid-block because there is no sidewalk on either side of the highway. It remains to be seen whether the planned route, which is notably indirect compared to a dash across the highway, will be effective. We fear many may ignore it in favor of the most direct route.

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In any case, the trail will be an improvement to an area where pedestrians and bicyclists who value their safety now fear to tread. There is no particularly safe path across Interstate 90 on 14th St. NW, and no sidewalk at all on the north side of the interstate along Highway 218. In an age when at least some people are trying to drive less to save fuel and build up their own health, having sidewalks between residential and shopping areas is a very basic amenity. Perhaps with the crossing trail complete the city and state could move on to provide sidewalks along the entire stretch.

Creating a safe and usable pedestrian and bicycle connection between the west side of Austin and the city’s major shopping districts is good for everyone.