Tuesday, May 02, 2006

No Fun to Walk on 8th Street

I was going to save this photo for the day when I finally tackle some of the 8th Street issues, but it was really just too good to pass up. I see this sight all too often, I'm afraid. As the main east/west corridor between Central Ave and Hwy 102, it's a crucial road for automotive traffic. But I think its sad that those few who brave this stretch of roadway have to resort to navigating a thin line between near-death in the roadway and a difficult walk through a drainage ditch, dodging rocks and garbage.

It's no wonder that you don't see more pedestrians on streets like these. They're designed in such a way that they're not only unaccomodating, they're downright hostile to anyone not cruising along in 1 or 2 tons of glass and steel.

Whether or not the road gets four-laned from I-540 all the way to Elm Tree (read more here), there's no doubt that it needs to be improved. I know it's not feasible to go back to all of the city's older gridded streets and add sidewalks, but major corridors certainly need to have them.

But that leads to the next question. Should we be happy with just any sort of sidewalk, even if it looks like this?

Or should we all be pushing for sidewalks that are not only functional, but aesthetically pleasing and pleasant to walk on like Main Street here?

I really believe that aesthetics and the idea of enclosure actually are components of functionality. The more disconnected a sidewalk feels from a four or five-laned road next to it, the more likely people will be to use it. If on-street parking or trees separate the sidewalk from the road, more people will be likely to use it. If the trees are tall and mature enough to provide some shade and enclosure, the more likely people will be to use it. People like this lady above probably will walk on the sidewalk either way; since it looks like she has no choice. But people who live along 8th Street and are thinking about walking towards downtown or somewhere like that might choose to get in the car rather than to take a walk on a strip of concrete right next to a busy roadway.

The time isn't quite here yet, but when the city of Bentonville begins to work with a contractor or design firm on the 8th Street project, the people of Bentonville need to make their voice heard.

Just a strip of concrete smashed up next to the road isn't good enough. It's worth the extra design effort and money to make the sidewalk functional for everyone.

read more: eighth street, sidewalks