Joe Urban | Sam Newberg, Urbanist

Where the Sidewalk Ends

Dateline: 2:46 pm January 9, 2008 Filed under:

(All apologies to Shel Silverstein)

While on a recent site visit while writing for ULI Case Studies, I saw where the sidewalk ends. I was touring a new affordable housing project located along a commercial arterial road in Hayward, California, a post World War II suburb of San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose. As shown in the photo (see the “where the sidewalk ends” link above), the project, called Sara Conner Court, is pedestrian-friendly in spite of its surroundings, complete with sidewalks, (drought-resistant) landscaped boulevards and street trees. However, at the property line the sidewalk peters out and becomes a sort of partially paved hybrid path/shoulder of the road.

This is all too common in the real estate development world. You know the scenario – a fantastic mixed-use, pedestrian friendly community is built next to a major road thoroughfare that is uncomfortable or impossible to cross. As a result, there is no practical way to get there other than by car.

Luckily, this problem is beginning to be addressed. I have written about one solution on this website, and that is the town center in San Elijo Hills, near San Diego. There, the arterial street is broken in to narrow one-way streets on an urban grid, allowing for easy pedestrian crossings. As well, in Glenwood Park, a new community in Atlanta, the major access road, the Bill Kennedy Way, was made more pedestrian-friendly, with trees and on-street parking, but not before transfer of ownership from the Georgia Department of Transportation to the city of Atlanta. At Excelsior and Grand in suburban Minneapolis, the developer and city had to jump through hoops to get a simple traffic signal and crosswalks approved across the adjacent county road. (Incidentally, all three of these projects can be found on the ULI case studies website.)

One organization tackling this issue is Complete the Streets, a Washington D.C.-based non-profit whose mission is to make our roads friendly for automobiles, bikes and pedestrians. They work with partner organizations around the country to help municipalities, counties and states adopt and implement complete streets policies.

Let’s make sure the sidewalk doesn’t end. Completing our streets will help ensure that our wonderful, visionary development projects are all the more vital and well-connected to our greater communities. Lend your support to Complete the Streets today, and improve your urban place.

(This Joe Urban message was approved by Sam Newberg, who was not prompted or prodded to write this by any organization or company, including those mentioned herein, although he is a frequent paid writer of ULI case studies!)

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