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Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Opinion

Houston has walkability problems affecting the environment, disabled people


A person walking crossed out

Cindy Rivas Alfaro/The Cougar

Houston’s walkability and accessibility problems only continue to build a dependency on fossil fuels and put barriers in place for disabled people and their ability to traverse the city and parts of the University. 

Houston ranks fourth among the largest cities in the U.S. and is considered to be the most diverse city in the nation despite these issues. 

With a walkability score of 47/100 and an even worse score of 36/100 for its public transportation, according to Walk Score, Houston faces a car dependency problem. Many city residents can’t see themselves completing daily activities such as going to work, school or shopping without using a car. 

Not only is this placing strains on people’s budgets with the rise of gas prices, but it is also emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases will continue to break down the Earth’s atmosphere further if no action is taken to reduce emissions and an increase in its amount could prove to be disastrous for the environment. 

However, cars have grown to be the most convenient form of transportation for many cities such as Houston. 

Unfortunately, many of the benefits provided for pedestrians by the government, such as sidewalks and bike lanes, serve only to help cars and not pedestrians.

Most of these projects lead nowhere or are actually dangerous when considering the areas in which they are placed. This then makes pedestrians fear walking as uneven speed limits clash with supposedly pedestrian-friendly areas.

To make matters worse, state governments are also unable to do much about the situation since the infrastructure in place for the greater Houston area has been ramped up to this after several decades. 

As detailed in a recent report by the American Society of Civil Engineers, when the communities around Houston grew into more developed parts, Houston and its housing had to develop a patchwork surrounding the city. 

Because of this, the only way for these communities around Houston to travel into the city is through roads and highways. This destroys Houston’s walkability. The ASCE gave Houston a C- in its infrastructural report of the city.

These issues also make navigation massively inconvenient for disabled people in Houston and in other car dependent cities in the nation.

The University has faced delays in its efforts to make walkability better through its Lighting Project, due to COVID-19. 

Although improving security is the main focus of the project, delaying projects like these only make walkability in a campus filled with construction much more dangerous for disabled students.

In a university that promotes diversity, disabled students have often faced unnecessary barriers that make their experience on campus much more of a hassle. 

The car dependent infrastructure of Houston will continue to severely harm the environment and the lives of its residents. The University’s delaying projects like the Lighting Project only place risks for disabled students when they navigate around campus on a regular basis. 

JJ Caceres is a political science sophomore who can be reached at [email protected]

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