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City Of Austin Looks to Open Hike And Bike Trails 24 Hours
Keeping the public safe: thats the focus of two major talkers before the City of Austin this week. One of the items city council is considering: a big change to several hike and bike trails. Some city staff believe with 24-hour access, proper lighting, and safety, it could be a safer alternative to Austins increasingly dangerous streets.
On Thursday, Council is expected to vote on whether or not to create a year-long pilot program to allow walking and biking 24/7 and waive the park curfews for three of Austins most popular hike and bike trails: the Ann and Roy Butler trail running along Lady Bird Lake, the Shoal Creek Greenbelt Trail, and the Johnson Greenbelt Trail. City leaders are looking for a way to address what they are several bicycle and vehicle incidents at night.
Still, public safety along the trails is a concern. According to a memo sent to top officials in December from the Assistant City Managers office, hiring park rangers and dispatch would cost more than $645,000. Getting extra Austin police officers in that area overnight would run $2.7 million, along with a year to train the two dozen additional officers. Overtime would be used to cover the first year. Total price tag for the first year: $3.1 million.
The memo also calls out inadequate lighting on the trails, which would need to be addressed. Police told us recently they worry most about robberies and break-ins but say the trails are generally safe. One top official credited the curfew with curbing crime. Police say theyve ramped up patrols in the last year around the trails and plan to add more this year.
Council members are also expected to vote on a resolution asking city manager to look into why traffic deaths jumped 44 percent in 2012.
By Adam Bennett