In D.C., Sidewalks Don’t Equal Walkability

In theory, sidewalks are what make cities walkable. But in Washington, D.C., many sidewalks are not accessible to the people who use them.

1 minute read

September 26, 2019, 9:00 AM PDT

By Camille Fink


Free-Photos / Pixabay

Barbara Moreno writes about Project Sidewalk, an online crowdsourced accessibility audit of sidewalks in Washington, D.C. Volunteers reported sidewalk obstructions on almost 1,500 miles of city sidewalks, and an interactive map shows the results. Sidewalk accessibility was most often impeded by obstructions such as trash cans, notes Moreno. A lack of curb ramps and surface problems—a broken pavement, for example—were the other most common impediments.

The most issues were located around the National Mall. The findings also show that sidewalk obstructions were not limited to less affluent neighborhoods: half of neighborhoods with the most obstructions were in high-income D.C. neighborhoods. 

The Project Sidewalk findings illustrate how the presence of sidewalks does not automatically mean neighborhoods are walkable and accessible. "For parents pushing babies around in strollers, a big crack in a sidewalk can be an unwelcome nuisance. For wheelchair users and others with limited mobility, obstructions like these can make a sidewalk almost entirely inaccessible. A city is only as accessible as its sidewalks. And access to quality sidewalks is paramount for all people walking," says Moreno.

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