Thursday, May 31, 2018

What's up with sidewalks?


Dr. Jekyll lives on the left.
Poorly lit sidewalks with sodium streetlights meant for cars, not people

by Greg Saville

What’s up with sidewalks? Walkability might be the gateway to a friendlier and safer city, but it requires a high-quality place to walk with interesting destinations. My walks of late uncovered some big-time flops. What are designers thinking when they create sidewalks?

Shrubs 1. Sidewalk 0
Too narrow and obstructed by private landscaping
Some sidewalks are inappropriate for people with disabilities. Others have street signs in the middle of the sidewalk forcing walkers onto the street. Yet others are dark at night, in disrepair, too small or are encroached by yard landscaping.

Salvation lies elsewhere.
This church dismisses walkers by fencing front stairways
Some municipalities require homeowners to keep sidewalks clean in front of their home and, in winter cities, free of snow. That is reasonable. But cities often expect too much, such as when public sidewalks are worn or damaged and homeowners are required to pay thousands for repairs.

Too often sidewalks are poorly designed and they end with no destination.

Logic lost!
Warning walkers of a crosswalk, but forcing them to walk
onto the street to avoid the sign

SMART GROWTH 

In the planning movement called Smart Growth, walkability plays an important role. One attempt to measure walkability is The Walk Score, but it is far from ideal (try it).

Activating a sidewalk with lighting, benches, and a night-time economy

My current address has a measly Walk Score of 46, making it car dependent. Yet, nearby are trails, a lake, park, and mountain views. My former address scored a dazzling 84; In one direction there were great restaurants, parks, a library, coffee shops, school, and trails. Yet, in another, you could just as easily get caught between gang shootings. Obviously, Walk Scores say nothing about neighborhood quality.

Interesting design, colors & lighting attracts people
Recent Smart Growth designs include the SmartCode concept, an attempt to replace restrictive zoning practices of the past. As yet, it’s unclear SmartCode prescriptions are any better at triggering the creative, bottom-up placemaking shown in a few of these photos. But it’s a starting place.

Street artists at night bring culture to dead streets

Leave a comment

Please add comments to SafeGrowth. I will post everyone except posts with abusive, off-topic, or offensive language; any discriminatory, racist, sexist or homophopic slurs; thread spamming; or ad hominem attacks. If your comment does not appear in a day due to blogspot problems send it to gregorysaville@gmail.com and I'll post direct.