The Northfield News ran a fun article in Saturday’s paper, What’s up with that? Local curiosities and oddities.
Why are some residential blocks either missing sidewalks or the sidewalks end mid-block?
When taking a leisurely stroll on Washington Street, between Woodley and Fremont streets, walkers have a decision to make: Saunter through homeowners’ yards or take to the street where the sidewalk abruptly ends.
The strange phenomenon of unexpectedly ending sidewalks is also found between Union and Washington streets on both Woodley and Fremont, to name a couple.
“Typically development over time has taken different approaches to construction of sidewalks,” said City Engineer Katy Gehler-Hess.
Whereas development today begins with the construction of streets, sidewalks and utilities before homes are ever built, according to Gehler-Hess, around the ’50s or ’60s sidewalks built along with streets was very spotty. City leaders believed sidewalks were not needed on streets with low traffic volume — thus the missing sidewalks.
Partial sidewalks, however, are likely due to a homeowner or group of homeowners later putting in their own sidewalks, said Gehler-Hess. If only a few chose to construct a sidewalk in front of their homes, a partial sidewalk was born.
Today, the city’s current policy is to incorporate sidewalks on both sides of the street when completing a reconstruction project, looking at areas where the greatest need is: paths taken to school or high level construction areas.
The city is also working on a Safe Routes to Schools project study and is expected to recommend completion of sidewalks near the city’s elementary and middle schools to help make routes safer for children.
I liked the question and the explanation, though an even more burning question to me than why sidewalks are missing on some residential streets is why they’re missing on our two busiest streets — West Fifth Street (19) and South Highway 3. Highway 3 was reconstructed from Woodley to Hester St in Dundas in the mid-90s, but the sidewalks run only from Woodley to Jefferson Parkway. The 1990s were not a great time for sidewalks, but certainly beyond the post-WWII idea that sidewalks were obsolete.
The further explanation regarding the abruptly ending and beginning sidewalks was interesting. I’ll use the opportunity to point out my favorite one-house sidewalk, on West Woodley Street. “A” for effort!