Posts Tagged 'good city'

Simple as a Sidewalk

Maybe it is the recent snow pushing in on the streets and curbsides; or maybe it is the obsession of one of my colleagues, a driving  one woman force, to have sidewalks installed down Brambleton Ave or perhaps the sadness I feel when driving through parts of the town that need sidewalks and are left with dirt paths, whatever the catalyst, the sidewalk issue keeps popping in my head.  One of the lessons from my Georgia Tech days, was that good cities are made from good sidewalks.  This seems to be a simple enough concept therefore I am continually amazed when cities don’t get it.

Basically the concept is this, good sidewalks promote walking within cities. Walking within cities promotes community activity.  When streets are alive with people it becomes safer and more engaging.  It quickly becomes a place that people want to be in.   Bad sidewalks discourage the same activity.  When I lived in Atlanta it was obvious to see the walkable trendy neighborhoods had developed out of good infrastructure. Less desirable parts of town were run down, overgrown weedy roadsides and usually most unfortunately the parts of town where citizens couldn’t afford cars and resorted to public transportation and walking for their transportation.  I can vividly remember the continual news stories of kids being hit by cars as they were walking on the side of the road.  Roads, almost always, without sidewalks.

The story continues in my home of Roanoke, Virginia.  Throughout the downtown area, the sidewalks are in good shape and get proper maintenance but move a few blocks to the north and the parts of town that need the sidewalks are woefully ignored.  Just take a look at 10th street.  This is a major connection corridor.  On the Williamson Rd to 581 overpass part of tenth street, sidewalks no problems.    Once under the overpass, there is more of a gutter/leftover asphalt/trail.  Every Roanoker knows the 10th street cut through, especially fire and rescue. Inches from this busy road a continuous walk path to the local convenience store is ground into the dirt and weed roadside.  Yes I am aware that 10th street is slated to be widened and sidewalks should be put in at that time.  But how far in the future is that?  It is not uncommon to see children alone walking that stretch of road.  This is not a problem that has just occurred, but has festered there for a long time.

Just opposite the aforementioned convenience store the newly paved and barely used Brown-Robertson Park and the greenway gleams  The park has a sea of concrete and the greenway has flashing lights, smooth pathway and crossing with little use.  Now before I offend the local cycle community, please let me state that, the bike paths that Roanoke has developed are wonderful!  I use several of them for recreation regularly. When they all link up that will be a great thing for the Roanoke/Salem/Vinton area.  I already know one of my co-workers that use that particular path to help get from Peter’s Creek to downtown in order to bike to work.  My point is this ……. Cities please don’t turn your back on pedestrian infrastructure in the name of  anything else including greenway paths.  I am all for greenways in addition to sidewalk development but not at the cost of them.  In the current times of increasing cutbacks and budget tightening, sidewalks (repair and maintenance) is one area that cities would do best to continue to invest.  Imagine a walkable Roanoke.