Suburban Officials Try To Build Sidewalks Amid Local Opposition

Facing residential opposition, city officials in suburban Minneapolis are having trouble getting sidewalks built in many neighborhoods. The residents argue that sidewalks are not needed in the suburbs.

"Retrofitting suburbs with sidewalks is generating debate in some cities around the metro. Aiming to create a safe place to walk and link neighborhoods with parks and shopping areas, some suburban officials are instead encountering resistant homeowners who view sidewalks as an encroachment on privacy and pristine lawns."

"The result? The installation of sidewalks has become one of the hardest things on some city officials' to-do lists."

"While sidewalks have come back into fashion in some 'new urbanist' developments, Kevin Frazell, a former city administrator who now works for the League of Minnesota Cities said, 'When you take yard space away from people, they're unpopular.' And they grow more unpopular, he said, when strangers begin walking by on what was previously 'private space.'"

"Fans of sidewalks say they're symbolic of community, leading to encounters with neighbors, promoting safety and motivating people to get out of their cars and walk."

"Cities grappling with the sidewalk issue include Edina, Excelsior and Golden Valley -- older suburbs where many developers left them out on purpose."

Full Story: Sidewalks? Too pedestrian for some



Call Secretary Peters

Those local opponents have to call U.S. Transportation Secretary Peters in to tell their officials that walking is not transportation.

Charles Siegel

Sidewalks...Who needs 'em

Wow...that is impressive...the only reason some developer didnt want to add sidewalks to an older neighborhood was so he could save a few bucks (possibly even add more lots and make more money, cha-ching). And having a stranger walk in front of your house has got to be the worst thing possible. Who would not want to have social interaction with a complete stranger. Lets all go and hid in our houses, look at the front yards from our cars and house, and never ever talk to another human being in our neighborhood, therefore making our neighborhoods unsafe because we dont know anyone in it.

While I'd agree with you on

While I'd agree with you on the developer likely having cut costs, I don't think we should rush to judge the neighborhood's complaints. There are many neighborhoods around the country where low-speed and low-traffic streets are plenty safe for pedestrians AND kids to mix with vehicular circulation--without sidewalks present. Furthermore, while I applaud sidewalks and trails (especially wider ones) in numerous cases, I realize you don't always need them for every situation. Does anyone in the Twin Cities area know more about the street/area and can comment with more info?

local perspective

I grew up near both of these areas - they are first-ring suburbs of Minneapolis, developed mostly in the 40s and 50s. From my memory, I'd say more of their subdivisions have sidewalks than not, but in my opinion there's no reason to build new sidewalks. There should be pedestrian space reserved, but the (typically) 30-foot wide streets offer plenty of room in which to build sidewalks. How often does there really need to be room for six car widths on a street in a residential neighborhood?

That said, building sidewalks doesn't change the fact that there is rarely anyplace to walk to in these areas. Culver Road, for example, is at least a mile to the closest store, and the only institution in a walkable distance is an (I think) elementary school.

These subdivisions should never have been built at such an unrealistically low density and a question that will be more important than sidewalks in the future will be how to adapt them for a society that doesn't use such an excessive amount of energy.

Sidewalks and wheels.

Good points, but wheels get you farther, faster than walking. I, personally, like the grade separation of the sidewalk for kids to ride/skate on. Now, if there's no kids here, that's another issue.



trim the fat for sidewalks

personally, i'd rather use the cheap energy that comes from fossil fuels on heating oil rather than getting to the grocery store a couple minutes quicker. but, to each his own.

now the seperation i'm in agreement on, but i feel that the land for sidewalks can come from the existing roadway. a quiet suburban residential neighborhood like this doesn't need any more than a 15 foot wide road, but these neighborhoods typically have 30 foot wide roads. what for? trim the fat for sidewalks

Sidewalks and Suburbs

When the first suburbs were built after WWII, many included sidewalks, even though there were no destinations to walk to. Maybe they were put in as ornaments? But, as people failed to use them, and a community without them seemed more "rural," putting them in fell out of favor.

But I could never understand the opposition? I for one, refused to even look at many homes when I was last in the market, because there were no sidewalks.

Michael Lewyn's picture

Oh, please

For every situation where the residents don't want sidewalks, I suspect that there are quite a few less highly publicized situations where residents want sidewalks but the city government won't install them because it has other priorities (as is often true in Atlanta).

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