THE BALLOT PROPOSITIONS DO NOT DIRECTLY STATE THAT THEY ARE BANNING ADDITIONAL SIDEWALKS. HOW DO WE KNOW THEY WILL MAKE ANY FUTURE SIDEWALKS IMPOSSIBLE?
The ballot propositions are cleverly worded to sound harmless but the intent is obvious.
--Proposition A requires immensely expensive studies to be done before any new sidewalk project is even proposed to City Council. No one will be willing to spend that kind of money before a project is even considered.
--Proposition B requires that 50% of residents on a street approve a sidewalk project within three months of the beginning of construction. We all know how often new construction is postponed. Would residents have to be polled again each time construction is delayed?
--Proposition C would require that any sidewalk construction be offset by elimination of any impact on drainage or runoff within the city. This last amendment is particularly absurd in view of the size of homes and driveways being built in Bellaire—far more spacious than any sidewalk-- without any consideration of impact on drainage. Bellaire engineers concluded long ago that sidewalks have a minimal effect, if any, on flooding.
HOW DO SIDEWALKS IMPROVE THE SAFETY OF OUR RESIDENTS?
We live in a neighborhood where people walk! Walking has become even more popular since the pandemic began, because it is a safe way to get out of the house, breathe fresh air and get some exercise, as long as social distance is observed. Every day we see our neighbors walking, jogging, walking dogs, and pushing babies in strollers. Children are out riding tricycles or small bicycles. On too many of our streets they are all in the roadway and in danger, because there are no sidewalks. To make things worse, the most activity is usually early in the morning or at dusk when driver visibility is reduced.
The Governors Highway Safety Administration calculated that there were 6590 pedestrians fatalities in 2019, a 60% increase over 2009 and the highest number in 30 years. Five states—California, Arizona, Texas, Georgia and Florida—accounted for 47% of these deaths, though they only contain 33% of the US population. Fewer drivers are dying in accidents because of improvements in the design of cars. But more pedestrians are dying.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most accidents occur in urban areas, at non-intersection locations and at night. In 2017, 5977 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes, but an estimated additional 137,000 pedestrians were treated in emergency rooms for nonfatal crash-related injuries. Who is most at risk? Pedestrians aged 65 and older and children under the age of 15. Our elderly population is increasing and walking is a very common form of exercise for this group. What is one of the CDC’s primary recommendations for pedestrian safety? “Walk on a sidewalk or path instead of the road.”
Neighborhoods with sidewalks have lower crime rates because residents use them and become the "eyes on the street" to recognize and thwart criminal behavior (50 Reasons Why Everyone Should Want More Walkable Streets), and the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommends that neighborhoods have sidewalks to reduce pediatric pedestrian injuries from vehicles (Pedestrian Safety).
WHAT EFFECTS DO SIDEWALKS HAVE ON OUR PROPERTY VALUES?
According to an AARP Livable Communities Report, “In a scenario where two houses are nearly identical, the one with a five-foot wide sidewalk and two street trees not only sells for $4000 to $34,000 more, but it also sells in less time.” The report adds that people who live in neighborhoods with sidewalks are 47% more likely to be active at least 39 minutes a day.
WHAT IS THE LEGISLATIVE PROCESS FOR CREATION OF ANY FUTURE SIDEWALKS?
City Council now as the authority to address sidewalks with our current legislative process. If Charter revisions are accepted future sidewalks would be very costly and complex, therefore probably no future sidewalks. The charter would require a costly, complex, detailed design analysis of the proposed sidewalk, which could then be rejected by citizens, wasting taxpayer dollars.
IF THESE PROPOSITIONS ARE VOTED DOWN, DOES THAT MEAN NEW SIDEWALKS WILL BE BUILT EVERYWHERE?
Absolutely not. Any new sidewalk project would have to be justified and voted on by City Council. There is no plan or project afoot to suddenly place sidewalks on every block. Voting no on the propositions only means that it will still be possible to construct new sidewalks in the city of Bellaire, instead of having that possibility closed forever.
WILL SIDEWALKS INCREASE THE RISK OF FLOODING?
No. Our engineers have said no. Please think for a moment about the space covered by a sidewalk as compared to the very large houses and driveways being erected daily in our neighborhood. There is no reason why we cannot have continued efforts at flood control and also have more new sidewalks in Bellaire. Storms that come to
Houston can be catastrophic events, as we all know too well. Or they can be great annoyances that cause less damage but result into prolonged power outages. But the absence of sidewalks on busy streets is a constant danger, posing risks that never “blow over” and affect our quality of life every single day.
IF SIDEWALKS ARE PUT IN PLACE, WILL TREES BE CUT DOWN OR DIE?
NO. Previously sidewalks have routed around trees and roots protected.