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 […]

garden sidewalk buffer on Q Street

garden sidewalk buffer on Q Street

The purpose of sidewalk buffers, also called planting strips, is to isolate pedestrians from moving motor vehicles, where parking does not provide a sufficient buffer. Sidewalks adjacent to the curb are called attached sidewalks, while sidewalks with a buffer are called detached sidewalks.

Traditionally all residential, collector, and arterial streets had buffers. Retail areas often did not, in order to make getting from the car to the sidewalk more convenient.

Modern suburbs, however, usually eliminated the buffer strip from all streets in order to maximize the area available for development and roadways. Pedestrians do not like to walk next to fast traffic. In part, the elimination of buffers is why there is much less walking in the suburbs. The lack of buffers also makes an area look harsh, with a bland expanse of pavement rather than the welcoming and beautiful strip of nature. The planting strips and their vegetation require maintenance, and responsibility for those areas is another question of responsibility.

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