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Why are people so angry over having to put in sidewalks?

stroskey

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#1
It seems no matter who or what is being constructed or renovated, contractors, owners, and everyone involved in a building project objects to sidewalks being built. It feels like despite all of our regulations regarding storm water runoff, fire codes, etc. sidewalks get the most backlash. I've had people build in a neighboring town because they didn't require sidewalks (the owners didn't realize fuel costs in the long run were a lot more), and I've had people threaten anything they could so they don't have to put in sidewalks. Why the aversion, and are your communities like this? We had one man at a public meeting even say, "We don't need sidewalks. People walk in the street."
 

Raf

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#2
It seems no matter who or what is being constructed or renovated, contractors, owners, and everyone involved in a building project objects to sidewalks being built. It feels like despite all of our regulations regarding storm water runoff, fire codes, etc. sidewalks get the most backlash. I've had people build in a neighboring town because they didn't require sidewalks (the owners didn't realize fuel costs in the long run were a lot more), and I've had people threaten anything they could so they don't have to put in sidewalks. Why the aversion, and are your communities like this? We had one man at a public meeting even say, "We don't need sidewalks. People walk in the street."

Umm no. Complete opposite, everyone wants sidewalks. Period. California has passed a complete streets act. So with that said, more urban areas that lack sidewalks are clamoring to get them.
 

stroskey

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#3
This is not for new construction - this is for old buildings and lots being rehabbed or redeveloped. Who pays for all these new sidewalks in CA?
 

otterpop

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#4
We encounter this resistance too. Sidewalks in the county are not common. We usually only require them if there is connectivity with an adjacent subdivision or a trail system. Developers consider sidewalks to be an unneeded expense. They say that Inside the subdivision those people who do walk will walk in the street anyway.

In town, we have a mishmash of sidewalks and no sidewalks. As you would expect, the older parts of towns have sidewalks separated from the street by mature trees. People squawk mostly about being expected to maintain the space between the sidewalk and the street. In the parts of town that are not so old but not so new (like where I live), you have some sidewalks but mostly not. There is a sidewalk across the street from my house that runs for two blocks. People mostly walk in the street. The new new parts of town generally have sidewalks.

I wouldn't mind a sidewalk on my property, especially if the city would foot the bill for tearing out those damn juniper hedges the previous owner planted and I hate. Those hedges have two of my son's baseballs and passing cars seem to enjoy tossing their empty soda and beer cans in them. Though I did find a perfectly good skateboard in them once and I gave it to my son (saving me some money).
 

Hink

OH....IO
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#5
Sidewalks, bike paths, pretty much anything that costs money. Around here even our citizens like to get up in arms about who the sidewalks bring into their neighborhoods....:r:

We have been much more proactive in pushing sidewalks in the last 2-3 years. It is having an effect. I find that sidewalks are like the band Journey. Everyone says they don't like them, but once they are around them more... they start to understand the value. Then people have to have them and don't remember life without them. ;)
 

Raf

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#6
This is not for new construction - this is for old buildings and lots being rehabbed or redeveloped. Who pays for all these new sidewalks in CA?
We have utilized CDBG funds to pay for new sidewalks under the whole "ADA" compitability thing for existing neighborhoods. We also have a City wide Transportation Impact Fee that is coupled with our Capital Improvement Plan to fund sidewalk construction in various parts of the City.
 
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#7
I am wondering how big the lots are in these areas without sidewalks? And are they truly semi-rural areas where people do walk in the street (or not at all)?

I do know in some really small towns in Colorado, people really do walk in the street and would see installing sidewalks as a burden (plus they would become buckled over time with freezing and thawing and poor maintenance). Made me wonder if an alternative standard (such as a sufficient shoulder, perhaps with narrowing lanes) might be more palatable.

When I worked in a larger city (pop 60,000) where most developments were on "smaller" lots (perhaps 6,500 sq. ft), most people did indeed seem to want and expect sidewalks, especially families with kids. People even wanted bicycle trails. We thankfully did not have the culture of asking "who will be walking on these sidewalks"! This is not to say standards were not needed. I did observe that where the developer chose 4' attached sidewalks with roll-over curbs, people still walked in the street to be able to walk side by side. We only required detached walks on collector streets and larger.

On the other hand, if these developments are in the neither urban nor rural category (I'm thinking of 50s and 60s ranch houses on full 1/4 to 1/2 acre lots), it seems a tough call - I can imagine an aversion to sidewalks and if traffic is low, people really do use the street. On the other hand, there may be destinations that they need to connect to. Perhaps its a context-sensitive question?

For retrofit, I have seen some cities use annual levies, perhaps with the city footing half the bill and the property owners being able to pay the cost of a sidewalk over 5 or 10 years ...
 

ColoGI

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#8
I find that sidewalks are like the band Journey. Everyone says they don't like them, but once they are around them more... they start to understand the value. Then people have to have them and don't remember life without them. ;)
Don't stop believin'!

Nonetheless, one place I worked hated them as it was rural and city folk want sidewalks. Another place required them and it was expected to have a sidewalk and no one was angry. So it depends.
 
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#9
Pardon me for getting academic here....

This is another example how shared cultural values shape the built environment. Some places strongly resist sidewalks, others consider them as essential. It's all related to how people mentally decide what their ideal environment includes or should not include.

There are lots of other examples such as who rides public transit, whether children should live in apartments, etc.
 

Dan

Dear Leader
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#10
In the community where I work, sidewalks are very rare. There's no opposition to them; in fact, it's quite the opposite. The problem is street standards that were written for a rural community in mind; not the suburb that the community has evolved into. Most new streets, even in denser residential areas, have rural profiles; open swales, no curbs, no sidewalks.

There's a lot of support for increased pedestrian connectivity, but the idea of sidewalks never crosses anyone's mind when I talk about it. Instead, they picture a network of windy nature trails, like what might be found in a 1970s-era planned community. I'm struggling to get them to connect the idea of pedestrian connectivity and complete streets with sidewalks that line all streets, rather than just a trail system that would be far more difficult to build and provide less functionality. It's almost as if the entire concept of sidewalks has been forgotten, or that sidewalks are something on the very cutting edge of street design. Maybe the desire for trails is related to the "shared cultural values" Gotta mentions.

Model stormwater design guidelines from New York State actually discourage sidewalks on both sides of residential streets, because they add impervious surface area that could increase the rate and amount of runoff.

Clarence, New York, a suburb of Buffalo, actually bans sidewalks in residential areas, because they detract from "rural character". Here's an example of some Clarence-style rural character.

For some reason, in looking at suburban areas throughout North America on Google Streetview, sidewalks are rarer in Canada than the United States; not something I'd expect to see.
 
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#11
My fair city will be requiring sidewalks for all new development under our ULDC. We are also requiring variance credits for variances over a certain amount, one of the credits is constructing a sidewalk. We have been pretty aggressive using CDBG funds to build sidewalks especially in our more economically distressed parts of town. This being Texas and it being 90 plus degrees 6 months of the year we have gotten some backlash, i.e. nobody walks, so why waste $ building sidewalks. It will be interesting to see how much backlash we get once our ULDC goes into effect next year.
 

ColoGI

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#12
Most new streets, even in denser residential areas, have rural profiles; open swales, no curbs, no sidewalks.

There's a lot of support for increased pedestrian connectivity, ...

Model stormwater design guidelines from New York State actually discourage sidewalks on both sides of residential streets, because they add impervious surface area that could increase the rate and amount of runoff.

...For some reason, in looking at suburban areas throughout North America on Google Streetview, sidewalks are rarer in Canada than the United States; not something I'd expect to see.
There is a lot to be said for swales for stormwater. If only we could make the streets safer for peds, we'd have a connected non-motorized transportation network. If only...
 
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#13
Umm no. Complete opposite, everyone wants sidewalks. Period. California has passed a complete streets act. So with that said, more urban areas that lack sidewalks are clamoring to get them.
In Huntington Beach CA you see a patchwork of sidewalks. In many older areas where there has been no redevelopment there are no sidewalks. These areas are typically very close to the CBD, while in newer development and in the CBD there are sidewalks. You would think the opposite would be true.

In my region we have a suburb that is geographically isolated because it is on an island. This island has been very progressive when it comes to bike paths as a way of getting folks off of the main roadways. However, when it received a Safe Routes to Schools grant, a very vocal minority was able to screw things up being that "only poor kids walk to school!", and "we dont want to attract 'those' people!" I guess geographically isolated areas attract people that want to be isolated but not out in the sticks!

We too have a complete streets mandate. It is currently being shaped and it is an interesting process.
 
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#14
Sidewalks can be expensive to build in areas with curb and gutter drainage systemts. In a lot of communities developers are expected to provide sidewalks in connection with their development projects, which they often do not regard as worthwhile ("nobody is going to walk here"). It's another expense they didn't account for in their pro-formas, viewed as another exaction from the town/city on top of open space requirements, impact fees/mitigation, design regulations, etc., which all cut into their bottom line. These are the usual reasons why developers squak about sidewalks, necessity and cost.
 
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#15
It seems no matter who or what is being constructed or renovated, contractors, owners, and everyone involved in a building project objects to sidewalks being built. It feels like despite all of our regulations regarding storm water runoff, fire codes, etc. sidewalks get the most backlash. I've had people build in a neighboring town because they didn't require sidewalks (the owners didn't realize fuel costs in the long run were a lot more), and I've had people threaten anything they could so they don't have to put in sidewalks. Why the aversion, and are your communities like this? We had one man at a public meeting even say, "We don't need sidewalks. People walk in the street."
Good question. Some people in some neighborhoods do walk in the street, and if the primary reason for a sidewalk is to separate from traffic they may be unnecessary in these areas (because presumably people wouldn't walk in the street if they couldn't). Sometimes developers request waivers because the sidewalk would literally go to nowhere as adjoining properties don't have sidewalks. there should be a waiver standard for sidewalks. Developers don't like them because they add nothing to their ROI and also add to the type of stormwater treatment they have to do, while simultaneously cutting into the space which they have to do it in. Generally, sidewalks are a context-sensitive requirement, and the planning board will usually want them unless it makes no sense. But the answer to your question directly is: cost.
 
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#16
I don't work for a city/town or for a developer so my experience is purely as a resident... One extremely affluent local community, Bloomfield Hills (MI), has no sidewalks, except for one small strip along the side of a large private school connecting some of its buildings and a church, and has opted out of the regional bus system. The city is only 5 square miles and is surrounded by other affluent communities (Birmingham and Bloomfield Township). In the past, there was always an aversion to requiring sidewalks in the small commercial area or along the main strip through the community, Woodward Avenue, and resistance to joining the transit system because it would bring those people to town. :r:

Neighboring Birmingham has sidewalks throughout and Bloomfield Township, which is largely residential, passed a plan a few years back to slowly begin adding sidewalks and trails to the vast majority of its streets. Some of the first new sidewalks and trails that the Township installed were along its side of the roads that make up its boundary with Bloomfield Hills. The sidewalks seem to be very well used throughout the year. In the past few years, Bloomfield Hills has seemed to put in a bit more effort at attracting commercial and retail development in its little downtown area. They have been able to attract a few nice developments as well as some redevelopments of existing properties but still do not require sidewalks. Pouring over planning commission and city council minutes for this year and last year however, I notice that the issue of sidewalks seems to be being brought up much more frequently and in a very favorable manner. It seems that residents, businesses, and the local politicians are all becoming more interested in bringing sidewalks to the main street through town and the main cross street in the downtown area. Residents are now even expressing a desire to add sidewalks to the residential areas which is interesting since most of the houses are large lot development on parcels greater than an acre.

I think a number of factors has brought about this change in opinion in a traditionally car-centric community. First, the residents in Bloomfield Hills are generally older than those in most communities and the generational turnover of younger families moving in with children has begun (in earnest compared to other areas of course) and these younger residents want to be outside and walk places, even if it is just to get fresh air. Second, the city sees the activity in the vibrant downtown in neighboring Birmingham and wants to attract more commercial and retail activity of their own and realizes that they may need to offer similar amenities (i.e. sidewalks) in order to compete. Third, maybe they have seen that there was no massive uptick in crime in neighboring Bloomfield Township when they began installing their sidewalks? I don't expect sidewalks to come to Bloomfield Hills this year, but from what I have seen, it looks like they are going to take a serious look at the costs and available funding sources for adding sidewalks through the city along Woodward Avenue and maybe it will happen sooner rather than later.

Long story short... opinions change and I think a lot of it is generational.
 

Howl

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#17
The context is very important. In some locations sidewalks are warranted and desirable, and in others they are not. I grew up in a village where there were no sidewalks on most of the local streets. Everyone drove like they expected to find people walking (and kids playing) on the streets. About 20 years ago they put a new sewer and water pipes so they took the opportunity to rebuild all the local streets to “modern” standards, including cutting down most of the 50 to 100 year old street trees that gave the village its character to fit the sidewalks in. The result is people now drive much faster on the local streets and kids can no longer play there safely. This didn’t occur to me as being a problem until I started to research “Shared Streets” a few years ago and realized that I had grown up on a shared street. Everything comes full circle.
 

Huck

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#18
The context is very important. In some locations sidewalks are warranted and desirable, and in others they are not. I grew up in a village where there were no sidewalks on most of the local streets. Everyone drove like they expected to find people walking (and kids playing) on the streets. About 20 years ago they put a new sewer and water pipes so they took the opportunity to rebuild all the local streets to “modern” standards, including cutting down most of the 50 to 100 year old street trees that gave the village its character to fit the sidewalks in. The result is people now drive much faster on the local streets and kids can no longer play there safely. This didn’t occur to me as being a problem until I started to research “Shared Streets” a few years ago and realized that I had grown up on a shared street. Everything comes full circle.
A lot of what I've read in favor of shared streets/shared spaces doesn't take into account one major concept: mixing pedestrians with vehicles is inherrently dangerous.
 
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#19
Two issues I've seen here in FL:

If it's a new development, the developer doesn't want to foot the bill (and in some cases, only has to build sidewalks on one side of the road it it's "affordable housing".)

Then the much less likely case, where the sidewalks are on the homeowner's property and have to be built at the time of home construction: "Get the hell off my property!". Those are the ugly cases. People shoot.
 

Howl

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#20
A lot of what I've read in favor of shared streets/shared spaces doesn't take into account one major concept: mixing pedestrians with vehicles is inherrently dangerous.
Not if the cars are going slow enough. Almost every mall and plaza parking lot in the world is a shared space. Statistical evidence from Europe shows that pedestrians are safer in shared spaces than they are on separated sidewalks in many locations because traffic is moving at a much slower speed.

http://www.redcross.org.uk/What-we-do/Teaching-resources/Newsthink/Discussion-store/Shared-spaces
 
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