I’m dedicating my first post to the sidewalk. Why? As I wrote in my About page, I want to use this space to focus on topics around walking and biking, and what could be more basic to the topic of walking then sidewalks?
Yet, for a generation we stopped building and maintaing this basic piece of infastructure and now the costs are mounting. Our broken relationship with sidewalks is now costing governments billions, hurting your health, and is making you poorer. How?
There is a monetary cost to ignoring sidewalks. In Los Angeles, sidewalks have become a $1.5 Billion problem. Years of neglected maintenance has taken a toll. L.A now has almost 5,000 miles of bad sidewalks. Thats enough bad sidewalk to stumble from L.A. to New York and then back again.
There are also health costs. Doctors and public health professionals are finding evidence that one cause of the current obesity epidemic in North America is linked to people lacking access to sidewalks. Medical research has shown that merely the presence of sidewalks increases physical activity and fitness among neighborhood residents.
Ignoring sidewalks also has economic costs. The Brookings Institute found that neighbourhoods that were less walkable suffered far more during the great recession, while walkable neighbourhoods were able to maintain higher rents and home values.
Lastly, sidewalks save lives. Pedestrian crashes are more than twice as likely to occur in places without sidewalks. Streets with sidewalks on both sides have the fewest crashes.
So don’t ignore the lowly sidewalk. Its far more than just a place to walk.