Austin Residents Divided Over 'Eyesore' Traffic Delineators Amid City's Safety Efforts

Austin Residents Divided Over 'Eyesore' Traffic Delineators Amid City's Safety EffortsSource: Unsplash / Kaffeebart
Natalie Petrovich
Published on December 10, 2023

In the heart of Austin's Northwest Hills, residents find themselves grappling with a medley of rigid plastic poles, planted firmly alongside the speed cushions on Greystone Drive, meant to corral the chaos of speeding—but to locals like James Harding and Bennett Brooke, these "architectural trivia" are nothing short of an eyesore; an intrusion, they say, makes the street more obstacle course than thoroughfare.

As the city installed a total of 28-speed cushions and 32 delineators in an attempt to reduce vehicular rebellion against the lanes intended for bikes and pedestrians, residents like Harding and Brooke watched what they considered a misguided sideshow unfold. "It's the circus comes to town," Harding lamented in an interview with KXAN, expressing discontent over the measures, saying, "They’re just totally useless and all they are is just ugly and get in the way."

However, while critics like Brooke deem these poles hazards, with a grim outlook on the poles’ effects on traffic—"One vehicle can be over across the yellow line. So, the vehicle coming in the opposite direction needs to move over. Well, with the poles there, you have no room at all to move over without hitting the poles," he told KXAN—the city maintains its stance on the utility of these fixtures.

Laura Dierenfield, Division Manager for Austin Transportation and Public Works, asserts that the use of delineators, which began about a decade ago, presents a cost-effective and efficient solution for cities crunched for cash and craving change. These delineators come at a nearly $3 million total spent over Austin’s streets, harnessing their power to, supposedly, stave off up to 140 crashes annually—that's according to city studies, aimed to confirm their worth by tracking the ebb and flow of mishaps before and after installation.

Traffic management struck a more personal chord in Southeast Austin, where a hit-and-run incident took the life of 5-year-old Illiana Martinez; a tragedy that pierced the Teri Road community, prompting an outcry for heightened patrol and tangible traffic calming measures, like speed bumps, to safeguard the lives splintered by a black Dodge pickup truck's fatal frenzy, as recounted in a CBS Austin report.

Austin's infrastructural confrontations lay bare a critical crossroads: where safety interventions, often perceived as municipal meddling, diverge from local lived experiences, and the city's efforts to decelerate danger through delineators become an axis around which the community measures its grievances and grapples for ground.