Where the sidewalk ends: Roosevelt Drive

October 30, 2009

Roosevelt Drive West at Truman Court

Roosevelt Drive is a residential street started in the 1970s and completed in the early 2000s. Though not considered a collector street by the City’s transportation plan, it is the primary access for 14 “presidential” streets. The older portion of the street has no sidewalks whatsoever. The southernmost portion (from Truman Court to Tyler Court) has a sidewalk on the south side.

Roosevelt Drive is walking distance to three schools, the NCRC, and arguably the downtown. There is some redemption in that there are shared-use paths that connect at several points to Jefferson Park and the sidewalk along Jefferson Parkway West. (This is the reason it was not included in my top 10 list.)

One particularly irritating issue with Roosevelt is that the road itself is very wide — I have not measured, but at least 40′ (32′ is standard). With little on-street parking used and no marked bike lanes, all this width serves to do is increase runoff and encourage cars to drive faster.

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Northfield’s 10 worst sidewalk omissions

September 19, 2009

As I’ve already mentioned, Northfield is in the process of making full sidewalk coverage the standard. In the last few years, they’ve consistently added sidewalks during street reconstructions — many on both sides. All new roads within the last fifteen years (save for a few rogue culs de sac) have sidewalks. However, there are definitely some areas that are missing this essential piece of a safe roadway. Note that these roadways are not limited to city-maintained streets or the city limits. This is about Northfield-area problems, and I do note when an entity other than the City of Northfield is responsible.

10. Greenvale Avenue and North Spring Street

Greenvale Avenue -- Image by Google Street View

This is only #10 because it actually no longer is missing a sidewalk. The City installed a sidewalk along the north side of Greenvale Avenue when the road was reconstructed in 2003 and along North Spring Street in 2008. Why do I mention it? Because it’s shocking to think that for more than 40 years, two busy residential collector streets less than half a mile from a school had no sidewalks whatsoever. While only one side of each street received a sidewalk, the sidewalks function well and, outside the downtown, Greenvale’s is one of the most heavily used sidewalks I see. Both of these are City-maintained streets.

9. Spring Creek Road

Image by Bing Maps
This could be a poster for problematic suburban design. The 1980s Mayflower Hill development has sidewalk coverage. It’s not terribly far from the downtown. And yet Spring Creek Road — which for years was the only access road — is extremely narrow and has no sidewalks. It makes the neighborhood isolated from the surrounding community, and essentially treats walking as a novelty — not any serious form of transportation. Spring Creek Road is the responsibility of the City of Northfield.

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Sidewalk explanation in Northfield News

August 17, 2009

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!

The one-house sidewalk


Where the sidewalk ends: Hall Avenue

August 3, 2009

Ontario Circle/Superior Drive sidewalks

This is by far the most amusing dead-end sidewalk I’ve found in Northfield. It’s not often you find a sidewalk following a gravel road, but this stretch following Hall Avenue (Spring Creek Road) is a clear exception.

The design of this is actually a very good one: the houses will eventually face a completed, paved, sidewalked Spring Creek Road, while cars and garages have access from the alley behind. It encourages walking, and I think it makes for a friendlier neighborhood. So thumbs up.

My complaint is that if it had only been taken about 100 ft further south (left in picture), it could connect with the sidewalk on Superior Drive (the City already has right of way to accommodate the sidewalk). Instead, we’re left with two dead-end sidewalks, pending eventual development.


Where the sidewalk ends: Jefferson Road

July 28, 2009

Where the sidewalk ends profiles mostly frivolous, sometimes serious issues and quirks in Northfield’s sidewalk network. For this initial post, I’m starting somewhere in-between.

Sidewalk disruption on Jefferson Road I was riding south on Jefferson Road today and spotted the sidewalk across the street already covered with gravel from the construction project at the Northfield Hospital CSMR.

As of yet it doesn’t seem to have prevented sidewalk use — that jogger continued under the Cat machine — but it is a frustrating reminder of the lack of full sidewalk coverage on the street. (The entire grassy area seen in the left side of the picture is city-owned.)

Thankfully, Northfield’s new Land Development Code finally makes sidewalks on both sides standard. Hopefully the next time Jefferson Road is redone it will include full sidewalks.