For a series on walkability, you might think sidewalks would come first, not later. The reason they are not first in the series is that sidewalks, relative to other issues, are in decent shape. Yes, vast areas are missing sidewalks, and in many areas that have them, they are not well maintained. But looking at the whole issue of walking, it is crossing roadways that is most dangerous and unpleasant, not walking along roadways.

I do not believe that low speed, low volume residential streets need sidewalks. It is OK that some have them, and it is OK to require them in new developments (to the degree that it is OK to have new developments, which is to say, this should be irrelevant because there should be no new developments). But to build sidewalks on quiet streets that do not have them is not the best use of funds.

The city has a lot of semi-rural areas without sidewalks. Do they not deserve sidewalks? Where sidewalks would provide a route to key amenities such as grocery stores and schools, sidewalks should be provided, or at least paved asphalt paths adjacent to roadways. Too many people die walking on the shoulders of rural and semi-rural roads, so shoulders are not a solution, there must be either sidewalks or separated paths.

The most important point of all about sidewalks is the first bullet, that it is the responsibility of the city to maintain sidewalks. It is irrational to propose that roadways are maintained by the city, but sidewalks are not. If this belief and legal fabrication persists, Sacramento can never be a walkable city.

  • Recognizing that sidewalks are an integral part of the transportation network, sidewalk repair will be the responsibility of the city and not of property owners, except where trees owned by property owners, or disturbance, change or widening is initiated by the property owner.
  • All streets with an ADT over 5000 will have continuous sidewalks of no less than four feet clear path, within five years.
  • All streets with an ADT over 10,000 will have a continuous sidewalk of not less than six feet clear width, within two years.
  • All streets with an ADT over 20,000 will have a continuous sidewalk of not less than six feet clear width, with a buffer of not less than six feet, within six years. Parallel multi-use paths can be used to meet this requirement.
  • Utility poles and other obstructions will not restrict sidewalk width below the minimums above, and where these exist, will either be removed or sidewalks widened. The expense will be borne by the utilities, not city taxpayers.
  • All sidewalks will be maintained in a state of good repair by the city. Any cracks with a vertical displacement of more than one inch will be fixed within two months. The city will evaluate and implement flexible sidewalks for locations with ongoing tree root heaving issues.
  • Timely leaf removal from sidewalks will be the responsibility of the property owner, except for sidewalks with a daily use of over 5000, which will be the responsibility of the city. 
  • All development which requires new sidewalks (greenfield development) will fund a maintenance fund so that existing city residents are not financially responsible for sidewalk maintenance on new sidewalks. 
  • Sidewalks will be continuous across alleyways, in concrete and not asphalt. Every alleyway that is reconstructed or repaved will have this implemented.

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  1. Someone asked whether my use of ADT here refers to motor vehicles on the roadway or pedestrians on the sidewalk. I am referring here to motor vehicle ADT (average daily traffic), since the volume of traffic directly affects both safety and comfort for pedestrians. In other locations I refer to the volume of pedestrians, but don’t use the term ADT. No, the city does not collect pedestrian information, which is a big part of the problem. Motor vehicles are measured, bicycles are occasionally measured, and pedestrians are never measured. It demonstrates in a clear way what the city priorities and values are.

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About Dan Allison

Dan Allison is a Safe Routes to School Coordinator in the Sacramento area. Dan dances and backpacks, as much as possible.

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