The Politics of Sidewalk Funding

Do cities that make homeowners repair sidewalks subsidize car culture? Or do cities that fund sidewalks subsidize sprawl?

1 minute read

August 24, 2016, 5:00 AM PDT

By Elana Eden

Suburban Sidewalk

Alita Xander / Shutterstock

After paying to fix the sidewalk outside his home in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, walkability advocate Randy Garbin argues in CityLab that municipalities should fund sidewalk repair as part of regular public infrastructure maintenance.  

Pedestrian infrastructure, he says, is too often neglected in favor of facilities that serve cars.

"The [Jenkintown] policy struck me as yet-another example of how towns and cities subsidize automobile usage and neglect walkability," he writes. "Freed from responsibility for its sidewalks, the town spends the money elsewhere, often on pedestrian-unfriendly projects."

Aaron Renn of urbanophile challenges that perspective, arguing that in some cases, privatizing sidewalk repair can further progressive urban values like walkability, density, and sustainability.

Particularly in suburban areas, he says, homeowners should bear responsibility for an improvement that "benefits [the homeowner] personally more than anyone else," rather than outsource the costs of unsustainable neighborhoods to municipalities.

"The best way to curb sprawl is to make these developments start internalizing their infrastructure cost," Renn writes. "Once these costs start becoming visible, change is possible."

Wednesday, July 27, 2016 in CityLab

View of Mount Hood at golden hour with Happy Valley, Oregon homes in foreground.

Clackamas County Votes to Allow ADUs, Residential RVs

County officials hope the zoning changes will help boost the housing supply in the region.

June 18, 2024 - Mountain Times

Single-family homes in a suburban neighborhood in Florida.

New Florida Law Curbs HOA Power

The legislation seeks to cut down on ‘absurd’ citations for low-level violations.

June 16, 2024 - The Guardian

Archer Aviation Midnight eVTOL aircraft on display at Dubai Airshow November 13th 2023, dark colors, bright background, indoors. Electric aircraft, electric helicopter.

FAA Approves Air Taxis

Two Bay Area companies are planning to develop autonomous commuter flight services between San Francisco and local cities.

June 24, 2024 - Smart Cities Dive

People on bikes riding across 4th Street Bridge in Los Angeles during 2010 CicLAvia event.

The ‘Virtuous Circle’ of Bikeability

Research reveals that, once a city reaches a certain threshold of bike infrastructure, opposition decreases and residents want more.

3 hours ago - Streetsblog USA

Overhead view of black asphalt parking lot with white lined parking spots with EV charging logos.

Study Highlights Equity Gaps in California's EV Incentives

A UCLA research team identifies gaps in incentive uptake and electric vehicle registration rates in disadvantaged communities.

4 hours ago - UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation

Three dark brown wild horses stand in a meadow near Farson, Wyoming.

Utah and Wyoming Sue BLM Over Conservation Rule

The states allege the agency overstepped federal regulations in its attempt to boost conservation efforts on public lands.

5 hours ago - WyoFile

Senior Planner

Town of Los Altos Hills

City Planner I

Department of Housing and Community Development

City Planner II

Department of Housing and Community Development

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.