Tampa Mayor Jane Castor has announced her support for an amendment to city code Tampa City Council is set to consider Thursday that would eliminate a loophole allowing developers to build homes without a sidewalk.
At a Wednesday press conference, Castor praised the potential change, referencing a February community audit from Walk Bike Tampa that found the city has 1,300 miles of road without sidewalks. Walk Bike Tampa is a pedestrian and bicyclist advocacy group.
“I am standing before you today asking for the support of City Council, and our community, to ensure that we have safe sidewalks in our neighborhoods,” Castor said Wednesday.
The amendment being presented to City Council seeks to tighten home construction regulations. The measure would eliminate exceptions that exempt developers from building sidewalks, such as if a home is three blocks away from a school or on a block without a current sidewalk.
“The end result is that hopefully we will have more sidewalks in our neighborhoods, and then it will make pedestrian safety much better in our community,” Castor said.
The amendment would require developers to pay a fine if they choose not to build a sidewalk.
“We just want to tighten this up to ensure that we’re having sidewalks built in our neighborhoods, and that we are developing that pool of funding so that we can continue to create sidewalks and safe pathways around our schools,” Castor said.
Students are one of Castor’s main concerns.
“One of the goals for our administration, and I know for our community as well, is to focus on sidewalk construction around our schools, ensuring that our children have a safe path to and from school every morning,” she said. “The only impediment for that is the funding. And so, as we search for funding, and as we tighten up the sidewalk exceptions, we know that we will be able to reach a goal of lowering all of our fatalities.”
Emily Hinsdale, a board member with Walk Bike Tampa, joined Castor Wednesday and spoke about the impact to access safe sidewalks can have on communities.
“Sidewalks are an equity issue — making sure that everyone has the ability to access transportation in our city, not just those with cars, everyone,” she said. “It’s also an economic issue. There are several studies that have shown that walkers and bikers tend to spend more money at local businesses than do drivers, so this supports Tampa businesses.”
Hinsdale added the code change could raise $1.2 million a year in revenue and build up to eight miles of sidewalks per year.