Corey Corleon was on a late-night scooter ride heading to Liberty on East Sixth Street about a month ago. He’d had a couple of beers earlier but says he didn’t feel buzzed and was riding in the bike lane. After that, his memory of the night ends, but witnesses saw a white truck hit him and then drive off.
As a result of the crash, there was bleeding in his brain and he sustained four broken ribs. He was rushed to the hospital where he was unconscious for 16 hours. A nurse who treated him said they weren’t sure if he was going to stay alive. But after a week, Corleon was well enough to take on his recovery from home.
“I had to sleep on my side, but that’s dissipating now,” Corleon told Austonia. “I’m pretty much getting back to as normal as you can, but oh my god—four broken ribs. I mean, your ribs have every movement of your body."
Lately, scooter crashes in Austin have caused serious injuries and some fatalities. Local graffiti artist Adam Gaconnet died scootering home from work late last month, and on Monday another died and two were injured in separate scooter crashes downtown.
E-scooters first came to Austin in April 2018. Shortly after, the Austin Public Health Department, with assistance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, carried out a study on scooter injuries and found that 16% of the injured riders from September to November 2018 had a crash that involved a motorized vehicle.
Also during the early days of Austin’s scooter craze, Austin-Travis County EMS reported an average of about two scooter-related calls a day. Injuries ranged from minor to critical life-threatening, with the majority of critical ones being head injuries. The top points around scooter safety include helmet wearing, being cautious of terrain and using bike lanes where available.
Shortly after scooters started spiking in popularity years ago, the National Association of City Transportation Officials released guidelines for shared bikes and scooters. It included points on safety provisions and infrastructure investments such as device parking options in the form of on-street corrals and docking points, as well as guidance on safe places to ride.
But some don't think the city has gone far enough to address scooters, calling for more ordinances surrounding scooter operations and complaining of scooters blocking sidewalk access throughout Austin—not just in popular areas for scooter riding like in downtown and the University of Texas campus. In Austin, it's law that micro-mobility devices must not impede or obstruct pedestrian traffic on sidewalk paths.
Map of routes where shared micromobility is used.
Still, ridership holds steady. In the first three months of the year, Austin reported an average of 7,853 scooter rides a day with a median trip duration of eight minutes. Active micro-mobility operators in Austin include Bird, Lime and others.
Corleon says he doesn’t blame the company of the scooter he was on or the city.
“I think it can be a driver of a car being stupid, or it can be the people on the scooters being stupid. So I don't blame the scooter. And I don't blame the city,” Corleon said. “That scooter ran fine. It did what it was supposed to do. So me getting hit by somebody, it's not anyone's fault but that person driving that car.”
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By Jonathan Lee
The Planning Commission was split Tuesday on whether to help save an eclectic lakefront estate from demolition by zoning it historic amid concerns over tax breaks and the likelihood that a previous owner participated in segregation as a business owner.
The property in question, known as the Delisle House, is located at 2002 Scenic Drive in Tarrytown. The main house, with Spanish and Modern influences, was built in 1923 by Raymond Delisle, an optician. A Gothic Revival accessory apartment was built in 1946. The current owner applied to demolish the structures in order to build a new home.'
Historic preservationists, for their part, overwhelmingly support historic zoning, which would preserve the buildings in perpetuity. The Historic Landmark Commission unanimously voted to initiate historic zoning in July, citing architectural significance, landscape features and association to historic figures. City staffers recommend historic zoning, calling both structures one-of-a-kind examples of vernacular architecture.
Tarrytown neighbors have also banded together to stop the demolition. Many have written letters, and a few spoke at the meeting. “How could anyone buy this property with the intent of destroying it?” Ila Falvey said. “I think it’s an architectural treasure.”
Michael Whellan, an attorney representing the property owner, said that the claims made by preservationists are shaky. The buildings are run down, he said, and have had substantial renovations. A structural engineer hired by the owner said any attempt at preservation would involve tearing down and rebuilding – an undertaking Whellan said would likely cost millions.
Whellan also argued that any historical significance derived from the property’s association with Delisle and longtime owner C.H. Slator is dubious. “These men are not noted for any civic, philanthropic or historic impact,” he said.
What’s more, according to Whellan, Slator likely participated in segregation as the owner of the Tavern on North Lamar Boulevard between 1953 and 1960.
A city staffer, however, said she found no evidence to support the claim. “We would never landmark a property where a segregationist lived, or there was a racist person,” Kimberly Collins with the Historic Preservation Office said.
Commissioner Awais Azhar couldn’t support historic zoning in part due to lingering uncertainty about Slator. “Focusing on that factor is not here to disparage an individual or family. It is not about playing the race card. This is an important assertion for us to consider as Planning commissioners,” Azhar said.
Commissioner Carmen Llanes Pulido said that allegations of racism should come as no surprise. “We’re talking about white male property owners in the 1950s, in Austin, on the west side – and of course they were racist,” she said. But she argued that allowing the house to be demolished based on these grounds does nothing to help people of color who have been harmed by racism and segregation.
The question of tax breaks was also controversial. Michael Gaudini, representing the property owner, said that the tax breaks associated with historic zoning would exacerbate inequality by shifting property tax burdens to less affluent communities. City staffers estimate that the property, appraised at $3.5 million, would get either a $8,500 or $16,107 property tax break annually, depending on whether a homestead exemption is applied.
Commissioner Grayson Cox preferred the commission focus not on tax breaks but on whether the structures merit preservation. “To me, nothing in the historic preservation criteria lists, is this person deserving of a tax break or not?”
Azhar, on the other hand, said he plans to propose a code amendment getting rid of city property tax breaks for historic properties.
The commission fell one vote short of recommending historic zoning, with six commissioners in support and three opposed. Azhar and commissioners Claire Hempel and Greg Anderson voted against.
The odds of City Council zoning over an owner’s wishes are slim. Nine out of 11 members must vote in favor, and there have only been a handful of such cases over the past several decades.
What's new in Austin food & drink this week:
- Nau's Enfield Drug closing after losing their lease. Did McGuire Moorman Lambert buy the building, with its vintage soda fountain?
- Nixta Taqueria Chef Edgar Rico named to Time Magazine's Time 100 Next influencer list, after winning a James Beard Award earlier this year.
- Question: From what BBQ joint did pescatarian Harry Styles order food this week?
- Austin Motel is opening the pool and pool bar Wednesday nights in October for Freaky Floats.
- Vincent's on the Lake closing due to "economic conditions and low water levels [at Lake Travis]."
- Cenote has closed its Windsor Park location. The East Cesar Chavez location remains open.
- The Steeping Room on N. Lamar has closed.
- Local startup It's Skinnyscored new financing for its gluten-free pasta business.
- P. Terry's opened a new location in Kyle, at 18940 IH-35.