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Aesthetic Preference Vs. Pedestrian Safety

I read a very disturbing articale in the newspaper this morning
Sidewalks? Too pedestrian for some
describes the concerns many suburban homeowners have about sidewalks. Mostly, they object because of the "Ugly factor".

My first thought when I read this article was "Give me a break!" Since when did having a big, concrete-free lawn become more important than saving lives? How did a preference for grass and not having to shovel snow become more important than making a safe neighborhood? It makes me incredibly angry that the safety of those who choose to walk is less important.

There's also an argument in the article that sidewalks are "bad for the environment". I'm sorry, I don't buy that. Can you prove to me that "run off" is worse for the environment in the long-run than an SUV and the gas it consumes and the fumes it emits? Yes, it's more inconvenient, but a well-designed sidewalk makes walking safer for children, people with disabilities, the elderly and pets with their owners.

What this article shows is exactly why I don't want to live in a suburb. From what I have seen, it's hard enough to get things like accessible pedestrian signals in the city, where there are more pedestrians. I think a certain inferno would have to freeze over before we'd get them in the suburbs.

People love to complain about global warming. But really, what are most of us doing? Driving, or riding. Why do we do it? Because it's generally unsafe to walk. If I've been hit in the relatively-pedestrian friendly area around my college (which has a sidewalk), I'd say it's more likely when there isn't one. Further, people don't think things have heavy traffic, until they walk it. And what's safe for a sighted person isn't always safe for a blind person.

Quite frankly, many times, sighted people do things which are very unsafe. Sighted people can get hit by cars. But until it happens to someone you know or you, most people have no reason to ccare about it. And that's where the danger lies. If sidewalks are available, pedestrians will use them. If they're not, pedestrians won't always make safe choices. They don't always have a choice. Either they don't walk the unsafe street, or they walk it. If they don't walk, they don't get where they need to go at all.

It's easy to forget about the needs of those who don't have the same resources. But the beauty of sidewalks is that they are a resource that everyone can use. When planning any street, safe, effective and, when possible, aesthetically pleasing pedestrian options must be available. Without them, people are certain to get hurt or die.


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Aug. 19th, 2007 11:11 pm (UTC)
That is ridiculous that people dislike sidewalks for being "ugly" - I never thought of that in my life!! They are so much safer - I wish a lot more people would use them. I've seen people pushing their baby strollers in the street (not being that close to the curb either) rather than walking on a perfectly good sidewalk. Why?? I feel much safer on a sidewalk than walking in a street.
Aug. 20th, 2007 01:53 am (UTC)
Wow... Pushing a baby stroller in the street? That wouldn't occur to me, unless, maybe, I was really near the curb and had to use the sidewalkless route..
Aug. 20th, 2007 05:44 am (UTC)
beauty versus utility
apart from the fact that i don't have a clue why sidewalks should be ugly - even if they were, why make such a dichotomy? if they're too ugly, beautify them! same thing with safety. no reason why something can't be safe AND esthetically pleasing. geesh.

btw, i don't agree that people use cars because it's unsafe to walk. they use them because they think they're necessary (whether they are is a different question) and because they LOVE their cars. one of the biggest addictions in north america.

i'm lucky that i live in a city - vancouver, bc - that has lots of sidewalks.
Aug. 26th, 2007 09:48 pm (UTC)
Re: beauty versus utility
You're probably right about the fact that people think they need cars. And I can understand that in the winter, when it's really cold. I wish there were some way to get people out of their cars, and help them understand how great walking can be.

Even though it's painful, I don't ever want to give up the independence of walking, and the fun it can be when there are other pedestrians.
Aug. 22nd, 2007 09:05 pm (UTC)
Years ago some developers sold planning commissioners and buyers on the idea that their homes would look like "estates" if there were no sidewalks. Right cracker box estates. So many suburbs were built with few sidewalks. Besides the safety, it's why so many suburbanites are so fat today. They can't walk any place.

Jan from
Aug. 26th, 2007 09:50 pm (UTC)
It seems to me that we could really get some where in the obesity, global warming etc... debates if we actually tested what would happen if there were inscentives of some kind to walk.

Thanks for commenting!
Aug. 24th, 2007 01:24 pm (UTC)
no sidewalk = no park
I dearly wish there was a continuous sidewalk between my house and the nearby park - there's a 2 block strip with no sidewalk on either side where the property owners have let tall plants and trees grow right up to the edge. My only choice would be to walk in the street, which is a steep incline with low visibility for cars coming over the top of the hill towards me. I've done it several times myself back when I was more agile, but I won't do it once I'm pushing a stroller in a couple of months.

So unless we buy a second car, I'm at home all day with a baby and can't safely get to the park that's only 1/2 mile away. All this so there won't be a 3-foot wide strip of concrete next to the street? Madness.
Aug. 26th, 2007 09:52 pm (UTC)
Re: no sidewalk = no park
Wow, that is rediculous! I can imagine how frustrating that could be!
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