Why Are Residential Sidewalks Important?
Residential sidewalks are located alongside a road, providing a safe walkway for pedestrians and sometimes accommodating moderate changes in the terrain. Walkways serve an important purpose minimizing interaction between vehicles and pedestrians, and are especially important in areas where more pedestrians are present.
Sidewalks are much more prevalent in urban, suburban, and residential areas since walking is a common form of commuting for individuals. Sidewalks are less common in rural areas because the amount of traffic, pedestrian or vehicle, is much less.
Sidewalks can be good for the environment! When sidewalks are present, pedestrians feel safer leaving their vehicle at home and walking to their destination. In fact, a study of sidewalk and transit investments in Seattle determined a reduction of 6-8% vehicle travel and 1.3-2.2% reduction in CO2 emissions. Every little bit counts.
In 2005, the Florida Department of Transportation released information that revealed that the likelihood of a pedestrian/car accident was reduced by 88.2% when a sidewalk existed. Other studies have shown that riding a bicycle on the sidewalk is actually more dangerous than riding in the street. Bicyclists face more risk of collisions with cars at driveways and street crossings. Moreover, bicyclists should not ride in the opposite direction to traffic.
For people who choose to walk places, there are a number of health benefits including lower rates of cardiovascular disease, obesity, and other issues. Numerous studies show that children who walk to school tend to have better concentration.
Sidewalks become social spaces for the community with sidewalk markets, cafes, and more. Vendors set up stalls to sell their goods, and restaurants may have a few tables set on the sidewalk for outdoor eating. In some cases, sidewalks allow parking for vehicles. For kids, it’s an extra area for play or a quick and safe way to visit friends down the street.
Deaths are most common at night when pedestrians walk on the roadway. Therefore, in areas that see a lot of pedestrian traffic as well as vehicular traffic, it may be important to have sidewalks.
The Federal Highway Administration helps to oversee sidewalk regulations nationwide. However, individual agencies such as city councils often regulate the sidewalks of their city and surrounding towns. A good sidewalk provides a long line of sight and a gentle slope, and a pedestrian crosswalk features reflective paint and signs. Along with these basic details, sidewalks and their surroundings are customizable. People tend to prefer streets with light, trash cans, and shade.
Sidewalks are not cheap. In 1999, the Federal Highway Administration reported that sidewalks could cost between $150,000 and $250,000 per mile. In 2012, a CityLab article showed that sidewalks could cost $5,000 per 50 feet, and that cost doubled on street corners. These steep costs can make sidewalk construction harder to implement.
Meanwhile, some people don’t like sidewalks because they cut into the visual appearance of the neighborhood. Wealthier and more suburban areas often don’t have sidewalks because they have little car and walking traffic. But sidewalks can be a wonderful addition to these neighbors by providing a designated walking space for leisure walks, exercise, and kids walking to school.
Quick Reasons Residential Sidewalks Are Important
- Strategic sidewalks are economically beneficial for neighborhoods, businesses, and community centers.
- Maintained sidewalks encourage use, such as exercise or commuting.
- Neighborhood walkability increases property value.
- Sidewalks can be the conduit to local businesses, foster social interaction, and benefit health.
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