Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

While I was driving around Rogers today, I got the idea to do a little tutorial on how to do sidewalks right, wrong, and terrible. I'm going to tackle the "awful" and the "slighly better" today.

I mentioned just a few weeks ago about how the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department likes to build sidewalks in the worst way possible: smushed right next to the highway, poorly maintained, and ever so miserable to use. The first photo is from Walnut Street in Rogers right near Scottsdale Center. Ever seen anyone walking around that area? It's no wonder why. Pedestrians weren't even a part of the discussion when they built this road; the sidewalks were just added as a footnote. "Hey, we've got sidewalks here! Woo hoo!"

How'd you like to walk down this sidewalk to the store? Notice the gravel piled up on the surface of it. It's not a coincidence that this sidewalk looks uninviting and dangerous. It IS dangerous. If you decide to walk down Walnut Street, then there's nothing but several feet separating you from four lanes of traffic moving at a high rate of speed. Even if cars never jumped the sidewalk in a million years, no one would ever feel safe and secure walking along this sidewalk.

We tend to crave a sense of being enclosed; much like being inside. It's no coincidence we like walking around places like Dickson Street and downtown Bentonville. There's always a building to your right, closing you in, acting like a wall. And there's either parked cars or trees separating the sidewalk from the moving traffic, all of which combines to make us feel secure and enclosed as we walk along. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

This next example is a little bit better, but it leaves a lot to be desired. This is from Olive Street, also in Rogers. I'm not sure if Rogers has a sidewalk ordinance or not right now (Bentonville does); requiring all new development to add sidewalks.

Just the little bit of space with grass acting as a natural buffer goes a long way to make the feel of this sidewalk completely different. It gives just a little bit of breathing room to pedestrians, separating them from traffic just a few crucial feet. Now would you actually be any safer on this sidewalk than the first one? Probably not. If a car jumps the curb are you probably going to die either way? Probably so.

But if given a choice between the first sidewalk and this one, I would imagine that most people would feel much safer walking along this sidewalk. Just a few feet of buffer is all it required. BUT, even though this second sidewalk is much better, it's still not ideal for pedestrians to use. Tomorrow I'll show two more examples. One is what I call an "almost", and the last one is about as good as a sidewalk can get.

p.s. All you NWACC folks...how come none of you left any feedback yesterday when you were reading this entry all day long? Come on! Be a part of the process! Be heard!

read more:sidewalks