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Thread: Sidewalks to nowhere?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Clore's avatar
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    Sidewalks to nowhere?

    I'm the new Planning Coordinator for a township that is 16 square miles. The township is mostly suburban with little pockets of villages and commercial development.
    Until my hire, no one has really advocated for sidewalks although their regional plans and reviews by nonprofits have said that they need to make their communities more walkable.
    We typically see development plans for residential subdivisions from original 30-70 acre parcels. We have a few large parcels of natural areas that are parks or protected.
    My question is- should I as the new hire advocate for sidewalks for all new plans and wind up with sidewalks to nowhere, or..... how do you piece together a more walkable community when there is no starting point? Should I look at a map of the town and identify areas that should be linked together with sidewalks?
    With my Public Admin degree, I have no idea where to start here, except I know that people should be able to walk more and safely. The board of supervisors likes to recommend a grass strip that is graded as if there were a sidewalk, but I can't see people actually using those.....
    Greenhorn needs help!

  2. #2
    Cyburbian cch's avatar
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    If your new subdivisions are anything like the ones springing up in northern illinois, then they are their own isolated neighborhoods, usually accessed by one or two roads coming off a county highway or something. If we had sidewalks in our new developments, they wouldn't go to nowhere (except where we require a road to stub towards vacant land, anticipating it will connect to new development in the future). They would front lots within the subdivision and be totally contained, as the lots back up to the outer periphery of the subdivision. I hope this makes sense.

    As for connecting it all together, maybe identify some ROWs where it would make sense to locate a rec. trail, along major roadways, to connect the residential subdivisions together, and to parks and schools and those types of destinations.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    I'm the advocate that says you have to start somewhere and it's better to have the developer pay for the improvements (ie. the new home buyers), rather than existing residents subsidizing the cost if done through City dollars later down the road. When I was working for a city doing development review I would give two options. One put the sidewalk in, or two pay development fees (pre-determined) that will pay for the sidewalk installation at a later date. Now on large acreages I'm not sure its as big of an issue, though I like to see the improvements (or fees in lieu of) made to the exterior roads.

    Now I will warn you, you might not be the most popular person in town when you ask for sidewalks, lol. Choose your battles wisely, you don't have to go for all of it at one time.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian abrowne's avatar
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    I'm against sidewalks in residential blocks. I'm also against curbs. The road should be shared. I'd actually like to see, where climate-appropriate, whole residential streets using semi-impervious pavers with grass growing through and shared pedestrian space.

    Quote Originally posted by Clore
    My question is- should I as the new hire advocate for sidewalks for all new plans and wind up with sidewalks to nowhere, or..... how do you piece together a more walkable community when there is no starting point? Should I look at a map of the town and identify areas that should be linked together with sidewalks?
    Starting from where you find yourself I think that you strategy is excellent. With the community, identify corridors that are most appropriate for sidewalk additions. Perhaps a good time to also undertake discussion on street furniture, boulevard trees, et al.

    Be careful not too focus too much on maps, though. They certainly serve their use but they definitely have a tendency to give you Mount Olympus goggles. Seek comments and information from people.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    I guess I'm more old school, I do not like to see autos and pedestrians mix in most cases, yet I will agree there are places where development should be oriented to pedestrians.

    I really like pavers, but you have to becareful where and how you use them. They can be a pain in the rear to keep up. I prefer stamped concrete to delineate areas due to the maintenance issue. Now if you are looking to decrease impervious surfaces it is a good option, keeping other issue at hand. I would highly discourage pavers in high traffic areas from my experience though. Look into smaller street widths and less lot coverage. Just my two cents... I might clarify though if its pedestrian traffic I think they work well in most situations, I'm thinking more auto use...

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Plus Zoning Goddess's avatar
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    You need to have an ordinance requiring the developers to build sidewalks down both sides of every street, as well as along their frontage on whatever road they access. Better yet, on the main road, make it minor trail-width. If the development roads are not in a grid (likely), sidewalks should connect cul-de-sacs to nearby roads, and to non-residential uses, like parks or schools.

    Evaluate crash data and get out there and see how pedestrians and motorists behave at major intersections. Set up a formal system to process citizen complaints/suggestions. Pick out some major residential to commercial/school/public destinations, and start with those. Look at Safe Routes to School or trail funding from your state. A pilot project could show your community the benefits of enhanced pedestrian amenities.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Clore
    how do you piece together a more walkable community when there is no starting point? Should I look at a map of the town and identify areas that should be linked together with sidewalks?
    Actually, that's not a bad idea. This summer, as a planning intern, I'll be working on a project that identifies all the bike trails in all the neighborhoods, and then we'll know which paths are linked and which are not, and then how to clearly identify them. I'll actually have to go out and drive, or walk to find some of them. But, it's alright. With sidewalks though, that may be a little bit harder to do, but it's still doable if you've got the time.
    "Life's a journey, not a destination"
    -Steven Tyler

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Clore's avatar
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    Thank you all for your input. This has really been helpful. I went to an "Official Map" workshop last night and that helped solidify some things that I need to work on as far as examining where logical connections should be made. The info about looking at crash data is very helpful too.
    It's good to know that I am somewhat on the right track. It's also good to be reminded to not take everything on at once!
    Thanks again....

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