Thursday, March 6, 2008

When Good Neighborhoods Go Bad

Contiguous sidewalks are the lifeblood of a walkable neighborhood.

Any mode of transportation, including walking, must be thought of as a “system” and planned as such. Otherwise, viability and practicality is compromised.

According to, “system” is defined as an assemblage or combination of things or parts forming a complex or unitary whole.

Think about other systems and how they work.

If the electrician does not connect the fixture to the switch, would you expect light?

If the carpenter decides to omit an exterior wall, would you expect your house to stay warm in winter?

If the plumber installs pipes randomly here and there with few connections, would you expect water to appear when you turned the faucet? Forget about flushing.

So why should it be different with sidewalks.

I took the first photo (above) in my neighborhood, 3 blocks from the university. Notice the conspicuous absence of sidewalks; walkers are forced by default to share the road with cars or walk on the occasional boggy lawn.

There is actually one sidewalk up ahead in between sidewalk-less blocks. A very good thing, but without being plugged into the system, it is rendered practically useless. A couple of weeks ago, a contractor parked his van right in the middle of that one lonely pedestrian consideration and left it there for the day. When I asked him if he had ever considered that he might be blocking pedestrian traffic, he told me to “walk around” and “nobody walks here anyway.”

“Who could?” I asked pointing to the van. Could have used a laugh track. Tough crowd.

The second photo is of a neighborhood in Baton Rouge. Again, here is a sidewalk - very nice. But wait! It ends abruptly as it “dies” into a brick pier. The same density of housing is just beyond this terminated sidewalk. Another disconnection.

This on again-off again patchwork frustrates and discourages walking even in very dense areas. The contractor was very observant when he indicated that nobody walks here.

And really, how could they?

1 comment:

Greener Building . blogspot said...

The deadend sidewalk, almost funny but instead tragic. Do developers suffer some kind of unidentified brain damage?? Surely this is an obvious kind of wrong?