We sat down to talk with the city’s Pedestrian Mobility Officer, Timothy Hayes, P.E. While it’s a position that’s new to San Antonio, our city joins more than 40 cities nationwide which have someone specifically dedicated to meeting the needs of pedestrians, bicyclists, and bus riders.
What is a Pedestrian Mobility Officer (PMO)?
“The Pedestrian Mobility Officer is an important new role for the city, responsible for pedestrian planning and mobility, as well as developing a Pedestrian Master Plan. That plan will look at how we historically build sidewalks and streets – including all the lighting, bike lanes, and its geometry. I will look at things through a “pedestrian lens” to incorporate design features that create a safer environment for pedestrians.”
Why does SA need a PMO?
“Five percent of San Antonians don’t utilize a personal car, truck or van to get to school, work, get their groceries, or go to a doctor. That’s approximately 75,000 people whose main way of getting around is by walking or VIA – and not using a private vehicle. The PMO needs to be passionate about moving people in ways that don’t require a motor vehicle.”
What’s your background for this new role?
“I’m a licensed professional civil engineer with a professional background in the design and construction of highways and streets. I’ve worked in both the private and public sectors and I’m enthusiastic about championing this position, because San Antonio needs a comprehensive plan and somebody to bring a pedestrian mobility focus to city infrastructure projects with the goal of improving walkability all over town.“
How do most folks get around town?
“In our city, most people choose private, single-occupancy vehicles, but every trip begins and ends as a pedestrian trip for all of us. The five percent of non-vehicle users are the most vulnerable. They are often our children, our older residents, and people who don’t have the option to own a personal vehicle. It is my duty to help protect those people.”
How do you, the PMO, get about town?
“I’m part of that “five percent” I mentioned! My main mode of getting around is not by automobile. I ride a bike to work every day I am able, and it’s about a 15-minute ride to my downtown office. If the weather gets bad, I take VIA to work. So, I’m constantly looking at alternative means of getting around for those who don’t wish to, or simply can’t use a motor vehicle. That said, my job is not to vilify or get people out of their cars. I’m a born and raised Texan, and I own a truck that I love to drive when it’s needed. Also, when I’m headed off to do site-checks for various infrastructure projects, I will be using city vehicles when appropriate.”
What does your model city look like?
“My model city looks like San Antonio, because I love this city! There is a difference between culture and infrastructure. We’ve got a culture that’s tremendous; everyone says it’s the biggest small town. How do we build the city our small town culture thrives on? It’s about making the city a place that is better connected by safe infrastructure. I am continually looking for opportunities to promote and enhance alternate modes of transportation.”
You mention people and moving, and sidewalks come to mind. What about sidewalks?
“While the City has approximately 5,000 miles of sidewalks and a five-year rolling infrastructure plan for sidewalks — it wasn't until just this past year that there was an implementation plan to prioritize the more than 1,800 miles of sidewalk gaps in San Antonio. I’ll play a role in figuring out where sidewalks should be, how wide they should be, and make sure they meet the needs of the community where they are located.”
What will you consider a successful first year?
“If I can develop the Pedestrian Mobility Master Plan, and if I can serve residents in any way to remove barriers to deliver the already existing sidewalk projects or get new ones into the pipeline, I will consider that a success.”