Monday, November 17, 2008

Where sidewalks SHOULD end?

Continuing the discussion of sidewalks and walkable streets, in response to my Saturday op-ed column, "Where the sidewalk shouldn't end," I received the following e-mail:

Why both sides? A person can only walk on one side at a time. I know some may argue safety from crossing streets, but that is on certain streets that may carry heavy traffic or number of lanes which make streets wider.

City and County standards for designing subdivision streets take some of those issues into account with “block lengths”, widths of streets, and connectivity. I believe that sidewalks on both sides of a typical subdivision street is wasteful and should only be required on busier and wider streets determined by traffic engineers.

Working for a real estate developer I know the costs of sidewalks do get passed along to homebuyers and on a typical 70’ wide lot with a 4’ wide sidewalk, the cost is +/-$850 per lot. As you said in your article “A slab of concrete. Impervious surface.” The impervious surface is also becoming an environmental issue concerning storm water runoff and municipalities looking into “post construction ordinances” which (try) to reduce the amount of impervious areas and treat the rest through a series of water quality ponds and rain gardens which drives the cost of a home way up, and limiting sidewalks to one side of a street can help the impervious area calculations and costs.

Of course, I think that in a city you need sidewalks on both sides, and for many reasons. Here's one: Today's quiet residential street in a quiet neighborhood with little traffic may, in 2030, be a high-traffic street. consider Kuykendall Road, or Barclay Downs Drive, or Sharon Road near the Queens/Selwyn intersection. All were, when built, at the edge of the city in quiet suburban areas. Now they're in-town streets with plenty of cars.


Anonymous said...

Here's something no one wants to touch: Elevated pedestrian crossings for 485. We will need them soon, certainly the upcoming Weddington Rd. interchange screams out for one.

Basnight/Perdue will pave everything east of I-95 before CLT sees a penny for such things.


Anonymous said...

Mary, your argument just doesn’t hold water.

I don’t know about the other streets you mentioned, but I live just a few blocks from Barclay Downs Drive. Rarely do I see anyone but the occasional jogger, speed walker, dog walker or school-age kid use its sole sidewalk from Runnymede to Fairview. Even then, you can bet the only reason the kid is using the sidewalk is because Mom was too busy to drive him to the Swim & Racquet Club. It’s just not cool to walk to school.

Maybe the Observer could do a survey of the surrounding neighborhoods to discover what we residents already know: There is not enough demand to justify even one sidewalk, much as less two. (And there’s not enough demand to justify Observer employees pointing out the absurd, either in print or at a blog.)

Do you really think that spending precious tax dollars to lay another stretch of seldom-used concrete will convince residents to park their cars and walk a half-mile to the mall, then lug home three or four packages in 90-degree heat or 40-degree cold? The only time that’s going to happen is in June, when Mom, Dad and kids pull a wagon full of picnic to the Pops concerts and back to avoid the seasonal gridlock on Barclay Downs Drive.

Have the city condemn the houses along the southern stretch of Barclay Downs and raze them. Then erect a mixed-used Phillips Place-type development. Lay a trolley track down the middle of the widened street. Hold Pops concerts, tree lightings and turkey trots at the other end of B.D. year-round. Issue special ID to residents living near the new development that grants them 25% discounts at shops and restaurants in the entire area as long as they can prove they walked there.

And you know what? You still won’t have enough demand to justify building a second sidewalk!

Anonymous said...

I'm still wondering where sidewalks should BEGIN.

My sidewalkless neighborhood succeeded in getting to the top of the "needs one" list over two years ago. Unfortunately, retrofitting 'hoods with 'walks in Charlotte is a time-consuming inflation-prone process that takes THREE YEARS!

The irony is that even after they build it - supposedly next summer - I'll probably be the only resident to regularly use it. I've seen other walkers here, but they seem to be from adjacent areas and just passing through as they exercise.

We, too, are within a half-mile of many restaurants, groceries and shops. But it would require a declaration of martial law to get folks to walk in Charlotte.

Buying a sidewalk for a neighborhood which won't use it is like buying a Christmas present for Richie Rich - just a waste.