Kyle Youth Advisory Council tackles sidewalks

A problem with lack of and condition of sidewalks was reported by members of the Kyle Youth Advisory Council.

The group presented its report on the city’s sidewalks at Tuesday night’s council meeting.

The Kyle Youth Advisory Council (KAYAC), which consists of 14- to 18-year-olds, put together a report of data and recommendations for the city’s sidewalks.

“Unfortunately, we saw a very large deficit of sidewalks in the city of Kyle,” said Aidan O’Keefe, a high school senior who is the KAYAC chair.

Many respondents to a survey conducted by KAYAC said they were dissatisfied with the current condition of sidewalks, O’Keefe said.

KAYAC determined it’s important the city focus on connecting subdivisions to schools, businesses and other subdivisions, especially for younger people who can’t drive.

KAYAC’s report recommend giving a higher priority to sidewalks connecting subdivisions to schools.

“We’ve noticed a lot of hazards with this type of connectivity in particular,” O’Keefe said.

Hays CISD only provides bus service to students living within a two-mile radius of the school if there is no safe route to school.

“But, if you look at the Lehman Road situation, you still see a lot of people walking to school,” O’Keefe said. “We think sidewalks addressing this kind of connectivity would be able to substantially reduce the risk to these young pedestrians.”

Since 66.22% of respondents said they don’t work inside the Kyle city limits, the need for sidewalks connecting subdivisions to business is the second priority.

“The increasing utility that residents of Kyle would see wouldn’t be as big as the increasing utility that young pedestrians would get, in being able to walk to school and not having to worry about dangerous conditions that may be on the road,” O’Keefe said.

Another safety concern presented in the report is insufficient lighting for sidewalks. According to the survey, 38% of respondents reported poor lighting was a “big problem” for sidewalks.

“It’s a valid concern,” O’Keefe said. “This increases the likelihood of collisions between cars and pedestrians. If you want people to use these sidewalks, they need to feel safe using them at any time.”

Another issue was sidewalk inaccessibility for residents with a physical disability. According to the survey, 7.33% of respondents reported they or a family member has a physical disability.

Paying for sidewalk maintenance is also a major issue. According to a city ordinance, homeowners are responsible for maintaining sidewalks in front of their residences.

Recently, city council considered a proposal to make this more affordable for homeowners, but has not approved the proposal. 

KAYAC’s report suggests city officials encourage private property owners and housing developers to maintain and expand sidewalks by offering subsidies, in the form of tax breaks or partial reimbursement.

“It’s not dissimilar much to what we were originally looking at and it was met with some opposition,” Mayor Todd Webster said.

Councilmember David Willson said he thinks the city has accomplished a lot when it comes to sidewalks, but the students’ fresh perspective shows that the city has more to do.

“Sidewalks is something that was a passion for me because when I arrived in this town we had 2,500 people and no sidewalks at all,” Wilson said. “We’ve certainly improved from that and there are a whole lot more sidewalks.”

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