Vision Zero Fail: Austin PD Wants to Ban People From Lingering By Busy Roads

The Austin Police Department doesn’t seem to understand what Vision Zero is about. Instead of making roads safer by enforcing pedestrians’ right of way or ticketing speeders, police are proposing to ban people from standing by dangerous, high-speed roads.

hanging around on sidewalks by dangerous roads could soon be illegal in Austin. Photo: Kellie CA via Flickr
Austin police want to make it illegal to hang out on certain streets. Photo: Kellie CA via Flickr

As if being next to roaring, dangerous traffic weren’t deterrent enough, Austin police want to fine people who stay too long on these sidewalks, according to the local CBS affiliate. Pedestrian safety problem solved!

Blake Johnson with the Austin Police Department insisted to KXAN that it’s not just an excuse to target homeless people. But it is, in fact, an excuse to sweep up anyone standing next to a road that clearly wasn’t designed with their interests at heart.

The City Council, which formed Austin’s Vision Zero task force last year, hasn’t yet taken up the measure, KXAN reports. Police spokesperson Blake Johnson said that could take a few months. (Or, hopefully, forever.)

In 2015, a record 102 people were killed on Austin streets. The city was recently chosen as a Vision Zero “focus city” to model how traffic deaths can be eliminated. In a press release from the Vision Zero Network celebrating the announcement, Austin Mayor Steve Adler said, “We have way too many traffic fatalities in Austin, but the goal isn’t fewer, it’s zero.”

Meanwhile, the police department’s traffic enforcement efforts have twice drawn national attention for all the wrong reasons, aggressively arresting “jaywalkers.”

Now Austin police want the power to arbitrarily ticket people who don’t even set foot on the roadway. What could go wrong?

Correction 4:58 pm 2/26/2016: 102 total people were killed on Austin streets in 2015. Original version said 102 pedestrians.

  • Tom Wald

    R you for the coverage. I’ve got a correction and a suggestion.
    Correction: The _total_ number of traffic fatalities in Austin in 2015 was 102. Pedestrian fatalities make up a disproportionate and sizable fraction of that, but not 102.
    Suggestion: I suggest using a different sample photo, if you have one available. The intention of the ordinance is not for commercial districts such as South Congress Avenue as depicted in the photo. It is for high-speed roadway medians and shoulders. (This is not to say that I am a supporter of the proposal.)

    I will give the proposal due scrutiny, as a member of both the Austin Pedestrian Advisory Council and (as permits) the Austin Vision Zero Task Force.

  • jarendt

    I hope Austin’s transit users have representatives on these groups. The penalty for missing a bus of having to wait at a busy street is bad enough. It should not have a loitering ticket piled on top of it.

  • Marek B.

    Number of traffic fatalities on Austin streets is just crazy. We in Prague (CZ), that has population 1.2 mil., had 25 traffic deaths in 2015. 15 of those were pedestrians and 1 was a child. so we have traffic fatality rate per 100,000 population just 2,1. And we still have a lot of things to improve on our streets for them to become safer…

  • davistrain

    Reminds me of the old sign “If you have nothing to do, don’t do it here.”

  • I agree, 102 *is* a crazy number. We had the highest in two decades last year at 59 in San Jose (population 1 million), a number we consider way too high.

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