A weekend wanderer sends a few photos of the new sprouts now poking out of some recently beheaded trees alongside the Lyric Centre parking garage construction site on Smith St. It’s unclear exactly when the shortening occurred, though a shot taken of the site back in late October seems to show at least a few of the trees still tall enough to peek over the construction fencing:
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FINDING THE RIGHT WORDS TO TALK THROUGH HOUSTON’S RELATIONSHIP WITH SIDEWALKS Taking together a recent rash of of essays complaining about Houston’s walkability, public transit, and sidewalk situation, Joe Cortwright over at City Observatory offers some thoughts on why it might be harder for city planners to buff up the city’s walking infrastructure than focus on its car standards: planners, both locally and nation-wide, don’t have as many ways to measure unpleasant walking experiences, or sufficient language to describe them. Cortwright writes that the anecdotes and narratives put forth by Houston’s frustrated would-be walkers are “rich and compelling in their detail, but lack the technocratic throw-weight of quantifiable statistics or industry standards to drive different policies and investments in our current planning system. [ . . . But] this isn’t simply a matter of somehow instrumenting bike riders and pedestrians with GPS and communication devices so they are as tech-enabled as vehicles. An exacting count of existing patterns of activity will only further enshrine a status quo where cars are dominant. For example, perfectly instrumented count of pedestrians, bicycles, cars in Houston would show — correctly — little to no bike or pedestrian activity. And no amount of calculation of vehicle flows will reveal whether a city is providing a high quality of life for its residents, much less meeting their desires for the kinds of places they really want to live in.” [City Observatory] Photo: Flickr userbpawlik
Struggling to make themselves heard above the whoosh of traffic along the Washington Corridor, Better Houston’s Pedestrian Pete (a.k.a. one-time mayoral candidate Peter Brown) and visiting Harvard prof and city planner Peter Park take a very short stroll in this recently uploaded video. Their objective? To lament the guy wires, utility poles, and other hindrances for would-be pedestrians on the few feet of sidewalk they traverse in front of Five Guys Burgers and Fries and Buffalo Wild Wings in this strip center near Leverkuhn at 3939 Washington.
Video: Pedestrian Pete
Thanks for your continued concrete vigilance, Swamplot pedestrians. The mysterious unpavednesses documented in this catalog of sidewalk lunch breaks in Hyde Park and North Montrose appear to have raised a couple of (tiny) red flags. On Welch St., at least. In case you’re updating your own dogwalking map, you’ll find these walkway gaps on (clockwise, from top left): Van Buren between Peden and Bomar; Welch between Waugh and Van Buren; West Pierce between Eberhard and Marconi; and Peden between Montrose and Van Buren.
Photos: Hal Werner
COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE RICE MILITARY MARCH “I walk around in Rice Military and between the old homes, new townhouses, ditches, curbs, overgrown lots, old pea-gravel concrete, newer brick-u-luxe pavers, electrical and cable boxes, new mailbox clusters, construction vehicles, and general chaos, there is hardly any contiguous sidewalk in any block in any direction.” [Miz Brooke Smith, commenting on Where the Sidewalk Takes a Little Break]
Sure, send us anything: “I think I read in your blog recently that you wanted people to send you photos of blocked or unpassable sidewalks in Houston,” writes the reader who sent in these images. They show a tiny community garden — which appears to support its own utility pole — implanted in the sidewalk area on Ferndale St. just south of Westheimer, across the street from the River Oaks Plastic Surgery Center. The sidewalk break fits between 2712 Ferndale St. and its big brother next door, The Belle Meade at River Oaks condo building, at 2929 Westheimer.
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A KINK IN THE PATH “Walking the sidewalks in the Heights is sometimes tricky,” quips the reader who sent in this pic of the year-or-so-old sidewalk in front of the year–or-so-old house at 919 Arlington St.: “This walk is built to the 5′-0″ standards currently in place where as the older walks are built at 4′. However the alignment was so off from the 2′ distance required from the property line location of the other residents’ walks. I could only assume that the developer was thinking that he could allow more room to park a car between the street and walk if he shifted it west two feet.” Photo: Swamplot inbox
Blogging machine Charles Kuffner returns to the scene of a Memorial Heights sidewalk he photographed 2 years ago, and finds it’s grown. The Ed Sacks Waste Paper Company building that stood at the non-intersection of Memorial and Studemont has been replaced by the 25-story Legacy at Memorial. That apartment tower opened recently, but the set of sidewalks that wraps around it is still under construction:
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COMMENT OF THE DAY: BRING YOUR MUD BOOTS “There are too many high-speed arterials, especially outside the Loop, with no sidewalks. I was taking the bus to work for about a month earlier this year (I work in an office on the North beltway). There are bus stops there but no sidewalks. Speeds on the feeder road tend to be 45 to 50 mph. There are few pedestrians (for obvious reasons) but there are some; bus commuters like me, kids walking to school every day, etc. They will walk on muddy paths to avoid walking in the street. And bus riders with wheelchairs or strollers are simply SOL. I liked riding the bus, but not the sidewalk-free walk at the end of the ride.” [RWB, commenting on Where the Sidewalks End]
WHERE THE SIDEWALKS END “On Airline Drive, for example, up to 40,000 people arrive every weekend to visit flea markets that line both sides of the road. The neighborhood’s management district is gearing up to spend $2.9 million on pedestrian improvements, including two new, signalized crosswalks on Airline, as well as sidewalks on nearby streets that are heavily used by local residents. . . . [Harris County] has a policy of not installing sidewalks when it builds a new road, unless a group or city provides the extra money. ‘It’s an expense that doesn’t have to do with transportation,’ said Mark Seegers, a spokesman for Harris County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia. ‘The county does not do sidewalks; it’s not what gets cars from point A to point B.’ . . . In the eight-county region that includes Houston, an average of 100 pedestrians died every year between 2003 and 2008, and an average of 1,175 were injured, mostly within Harris County, according to statistics compiled by the Texas Department of Transportation. More than half of all pedestrian deaths occur on [high-capacity, high-speed roads called ‘arterials’], often as people are trying to cross to reach retail shops or bus stops.” [Houston Chronicle]