Speaking of hometown emergency preparedness

Why did anybody think it was a good idea to block off the Congress Avenue bridge to benefit a for-profit operation on one of the busiest weekends of the year here in Austin? So it was called “Batfest” and some of the money nominally went to benefit Bat Conservation International. But underneath it all, it’s the same Roadstar Productions that brings us the Pecan Street Festival.

Yes; the bridge looked festive with all those canopies set up. But such events are much more pleasant when they take place on Sixth Street, where the buildings provide some shelter from the sun, heat, and wind.

In fact, all indications are that this event was a new and revised version of the Labor Day Festival inaugurated last year in the First Thursday zone of South Congress. And it was just as loud, with such excellent amplification and sound word that every word was audible for at least a mile and a half from the event in all directions.

The bridge was barricaded beginning at three in the morning overnight on Friday. The event ran from 11 am to 11 pm on Saturday night and from 11 in the morning to 9 in the evening on Sunday, spoiling one of the rare weekends when the bells in the fire-training tower and in the downtown churches can still be heard these days. Congress Avenue is a main emergency route. Congress Avenue is the most walkable route across the river (yes; better than the nowhere-to-nowhere pedestrian bridge). We shouldn’t be required to pay a three-dollar pedestrian and bicycle toll or go a mile out of the way in either direction to cross the river.

The bias here is that of a person who actually does some walking in Austin, the “walkable city” that isn’t very. And of a person who doesn’t think it’s prudent to block a major route across the river for a paltry, for-profit reason.

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