Where The Sidewalk Ends

During the Urban Next Summit last fall I partook in a session related to connectivity in cities. At the end of the session each participant was asked to state one important thing we would do to increase sustainable transportation in our community. I said that I would create a map of walkability issues in my town to draw attention to it – and here it is! 

Most every Sunday my husband and I go for a walk. It is a nice time to chat and enjoy the scenery and fresh air that surrounds us here. It is also a great opportunity to get a feel for our community. However, on one of our first walks here we encountered this:

And this is precisely why I’ve chosen the title for this post. Because I live in a town where the sidewalks always end or, in many cases, never start.

The map above outlines everywhere there are sidewalks (the little yellow areas are small sections of sidewalk that don’t connect to the main system…very useful).  From first glance it may not look too bad and, in reality, there is likely a decent continuous stretch of sidewalk present. However there are a number of issues which make this town difficult, or in the very least unpleasant, to navigate as a pedestrian. Our town is definitely designed for cars, and since my husband and I don’t own a car, we have to deal with many of these issues daily:

1) Most of the sidewalks run along side highways or heavy traffic streets, with little or no barrier between the sidewalk and street:

2) Outside of the small downtown, very few residential/side streets have sidewalks:

3) Most sidewalks (on and off main streets) have no tree cover (shade, wind breaks) and many of the ‘sidewalks’ are just a wider shoulder:

4) Sidewalks that end on one side of a street and pick up on the other side:

5) Streets with more welcoming sidewalks are juxtaposed with non-existent pedestrian space on the other side of the street (leading to increased car traffic):

6) Precarious and confusing intersections (most every day I am close to getting run over at this intersection):

Now – that isn’t to say that you can’t find nicer routes that feel more welcoming… you just run out of them quickly unless you continuously walk around the block.

To be fair, the town does have designs on improving the pedestrian network (they developed a new pedestrian/bike plan a few years ago). But with a less-than-rosy economy there’s been little real movement made to connect disjointed sidewalks, put in traffic calming measures, and start extending the pedestrian realm into the side streets.

It is unlikely that there will be much change in the few years that we live here, so I just continue to strengthen my defensive walking skills (for safety) and fantasize about how many people I’d see out and about if there were a great pedestrian realm.

** What are the walkability issues where you live? Does the feasibility of walking change with the season)?

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Where The Sidewalk Ends

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