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El Paso City Council Unanimously Adopts Measure to Improve Street Safety and Health

The El Paso City Council unanimously approved a Complete Streets policy to improve the safety, health and quality of life for all who use El Paso streets. The Complete Streets policy was developed over a two-year period as a partnership between the City of El Paso and members of the El Paso Complete Streets Coalition.

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Complete Streets plans change the way cities design and build streets and roads. Instead of focusing solely on motor vehicles, streets and sidewalks are designed and built with the needs of all users in mind. These improvements not only make it easier for people to walk, bike and use wheelchairs and strollers, but they also decrease accidents and deaths.

Members of the El Paso Complete Streets Coalition had high praise for the council’s action, calling it a critical step forward for all who walk, bike, use a wheelchair, use public transportation and drive the streets of El Paso.

“We applaud the El Paso City Council for putting safety and health first when it comes designing streets all users can share. This demonstrates value of implementing a Complete Streets policy that meets the highest national standards and considers the unique needs of the City of El Paso,” said Eva Olivas, community impact director for the American Heart Association in the El Paso area.

"Today, the City of El Paso took a major step towards restoring balance to our transportation system,” said Scott White, policy director for the Velo Paso Bicycle-Pedestrian Coalition. “For too long we've been building streets and roads almost exclusively for cars, but with the passage of the El Paso Complete Streets ordinance the city has declared its intent to ensure our streets will be safer, more inclusive and equitable for persons of all ages and abilities.”

Smart Growth America released their annual Dangerous by Design report this month showing that metro areas, including El Paso, became more dangerous during the pandemic for pedestrians and other road users. The report shares that “it’s impossible to prioritize both safety and keeping cars moving quickly.” In addition, Smart Growth America compared pedestrian safety throughout the stages of the pandemic when there were fewer and more drivers on the road. The reports states that “when streets are designed for vehicle speed, pedestrians and other road users pay the price. The COVID pandemic magnified the consequences. As driving decreased, congestion evaporated, removing a barrier that helped reduce vehicle speeds.

As pedestrian and bicycle incidents increase, it’s important to prioritize educating children, teens, adults, and older adults in vulnerable neighborhoods on the importance of staying safe on the road through presentations, awareness campaigns, events and other evidence based interventions, said Ana Acosta, injury prevention and education specialist in the trauma department of the University Medical Center of El Paso

“Design features help reduce speed, provide ramps for easy access to people who need them, wider sidewalks and buffers from traffic, medians and pedestrian islands for safer street crossing,” Acosta said. At Tuesday’s meeting, she told the council she hopes it will continue to support the unit’s injury prevention programs “to make our city healthier, safer and more equitable.”

“Safe and accessible sidewalks offer seniors an important way to stay healthy and connected to the community,” said Yvette Lugo, Director of the Area Agency on Aging, Rio Grande Council of Governments. “Staying active and having the ability to walk free of road hazards and other barriers is likely to help them move more and live longer.”

Youth will benefit from the added protection, as well. Besides the obvious threat of injury, the next generation faces distinctive health needs related to a more screen time and often sedentary lifestyle. More than one-third of kids and teens are overweight or obese, which can lead to higher risk for pre-diabetes and other chronic conditions.

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About the El Paso Complete Streets Coalition

The El Paso Complete Streets Coalition includes a wide range of local leaders and passionate community groups with a shared common goal of adopting a complete streets policy. A complete streets policy is a formal policy that supports the creation of a safe, equitable multimodal transportation network through the strategy of requiring that every road construction and reconstruction project makes a street safe and comfortable for all users, preferably with prioritization of investment in communities that have historically been underserved.

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