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Can a Dallas plan bridge the sidewalk gap between low-income and affluent neighborhoods?

It marks the intersection of Overlake Drive and Ovella Avenue.

This is the connection where there are no sidewalks”, Vega said in Spanish. (“Here, at this intersection there are no sidewalks”).

Sidewalks in low-income neighborhoods are more of a necessity than a convenience. But a Dallas city plan that calls for adding new sidewalks and upgrading existing ones may not make up for decades of neglect and disinvestment in infrastructure.

The sidewalks are not adaptable, they do not have special signs, they do not have those ramps, those crossing signsVega said. (“The sidewalks here are not adaptable, they do not have ramps (suitable for wheelchairs) and they do not have good signage”).

In wealthier neighborhoods, people use the sidewalks to walk their dogs or go for a run. But in neglected neighborhoods, like Vega, they are a transportation artery. And sidewalks are key to supporting pedestrian health, accessibility and safety.

Alexandra Martinez

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KERA News

Patricia Vega said that some people take sidewalks for granted. The Bachman Lake neighborhood resident said the streets have few, if any, sidewalks, making it difficult for her to walk to the grocery store.

In the majority Hispanic neighborhood of Bachman Lake, where the median household income is about $30,000many people do not have access to a car.

Vega has four children. Three have autism and learning disabilities. He said his family relies on sidewalks to get to the grocery store, the doctor and the park.

It is dangerous and when you have children with special needs it is difficult to control them. So if a stool is required to be able to, it could be said to be saferVega said. (“It’s dangerous and when you have kids with special needs it’s hard to control them. And you need the sidewalk to feel safer.”)

Tensions in sidewalk plant

Dallas has more than 4,000 miles of sidewalks, but nearly 50% of it is damaged. And city officials say more than 2,000 miles of sidewalks need to be built.

For years, Dallas leaders have vowed to make repairing broken or narrow sidewalks a priority and building new ones. the city sidewalk master plan identifies 12 target areas for sidewalk improvements. Some of them include parts of Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Hampton Crossing, Hampton Rd. and Illinois Ave., Cedar Creek, and Elam Creek. Fixing all of Dallas’ sidewalk problems could cost up to $2 billion.

“Our core methodology consisted of six factors, so we have places of public accommodation, equity, street classification, citizen request, pedestrian safety and activity areas,” said Efraín Trejo, Senior Program Manager of the Public Works Department of the town.

The plan was intended to provide something for each of Dallas’ 14 council districts. But Councilman Tennell Atkins, who represents South Dallas, says the plan is unfair.

“You can’t just say, ‘Okay, I have 14 municipal districts. Everyone gets the same amount of money.’ No, we never catch up,” Atkins said.

For example, Atkins said that in his district, the rural neighborhood of Cigarette Hill, which is located near Lancaster Road and Simpson Stuart Road, just off I-20, is in desperate need of sidewalks and hasn’t gotten any funding.

Councilmember Carolyn King Arnold said political games inside city hall chambers often get in the way of talking about Dallas’ history of systemic racism. Arnold said it’s time for wealthy districts to share more resources with the underserved.

“You [wealthier districts] you are very fat, overweight with resources – time to share with your other brothers and sisters who have been starving for many, many years. So you’re going to have to take some food off that plate and put it on someone else’s plate,” Arnold said.

Put pedestrians first

Dallas resident Krista Nightengale pulls a black boxcar along the potholed sidewalks of downtown. The wheels grind the gravel. Ella’s dog, 12-year-old Reno, lost motor function in her hind legs about a year ago. He is inside the car.

When a Dallas sidewalk is also an obstacle course…

Nightengale has lived downtown for more than a decade. He said that in Dallas, pedestrians are not valued.

“A lot of this is Dallas’ priorities. Are we going to start prioritizing people over cars? she said.

Dallas has one of the highest rates of traffic accidents among the 15 most populous cities in America. And since 2010, traffic fatalities in Dallas have increased by 80%. Pedestrians are involved in more than one in three traffic accidents in Dallas.

Part of the city’s sidewalk plan is to improve pedestrian crossings at “intersections identified as having high accident risk.”

Nightengale said that even in a part of town where there are many sidewalks, taking a walk can be dangerous. Walking through his neighborhood, he points out streets that are missing white crossing lines and sections of sidewalks.

“Let’s take this ramp from here. That ramp launches you out onto the street a little bit,” she said. “You feel like you’re being kicked out… That’s probably something I wouldn’t have noticed if I wasn’t pulling an 81-pound dog on a wagon.”

Nightengale is the executive director of the non-profit organization best block in Dallas. He uses social media platforms to detail his personal experience of getting around the city on foot and encourages others to raise awareness about pedestrian accessibility in Dallas.

Dallas Sidewalk Ramp Accessibility

Krista Nightengale walks her elderly and disabled dog Reno through downtown Dallas to the Deep Ellum Dog Park. Nightengale says the lack of access to sidewalks has made it increasingly difficult to walk her dog with a stroller. She is pushing for more careful planning for sidewalks.

Vega said he would like to see the Bachman Lake neighborhood become more walkable. She didn’t know the city has a sidewalk plan, but she hopes her community will receive funding.

A stool, perhaps for those who have money, is nothing. But really we don’t have that money to be able to do itVega said. (“A sidewalk may not mean much to people who have money. But we don’t really have the money to do it ourselves.”)

Do you have a tip? Alejandra Martinez is a Report for America member of the body of KERA News. Email Alejandra at amartinez@kera.org. You can follow Alejandra on Twitter @alereports.

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