Friday, May 4, 2012

Are Sidewalks The Road To Improvement?

Downtown has seen a lot of effort and money spent on it in the past few years. So much so, it seems like we should be looking at other areas in which to share the wealth but there is only so much wealth to go around. Still, somebody should be doing something.

Well, there are other neighborhoods which are doing something, whether with the government's help or without it. I feel that the role of government is to do those things that the people cannot or will not do for themselves. Public safety is one thing but building, repairing or clearing sidewalks is quite another.

The Main St,Vine St and South Limestone streetscape improvements clearly demonstrate the worth of making said improvements and now the Southland Dr area folks are working toward sidewalks there. Our history of auto-centric development has allowed many shopping centers built from the '50s up through the '90s to be devoid of any walking facilities of any kind. The original developers are long gone and the sidewalks need to be built, but it should not fall to the government to fund the lions share. Even in the name of public safety.

The sidewalks at your home, both the one in front of your house and the one which leads to your front door, are a focus of the curb appeal which welcome friends and family into your home. They are a big part of a first impression.

Many houses built in the last few decades seem to have walks which only go to the front driveway and appear to shun anyone who may not drive. Visitors who have to park on the street, either because the host  cannot get their autos in the garage or they have invited far more friends than they have space for, by necessity still have to use the driveway. Even the next door neighbor has to use the driveway.

I believe that by not tending to the care and upkeep of the sidewalk on or abutting ones property, one is showing utter disregard to their neighbors and, probably, to society as a whole. It is also not government's job to remind you to maintain the walks for the good of all, or to maintain them in your stead. I think that we can all agree that there are better places to apply their limited funds.

To a similar degree, the sidewalks in neighborhood shopping areas should be a large part of the curb appeal to the shops and restaurants there. Once again it should be a part of the welcoming feeling of approaching a friendly environment. Why else do you think that the office parks, despite their seas of parking, have lavish landscaping around the doorways?

When it comes to the larger “planned” shopping centers like the malls and their counterparts, it looks like the “planning” went right out the window. There may be sidewalks along the approaching roadways but getting to the entryways is strictly through the vehicular area and its many obstacles. Try walking from any of the residential areas around the Fayette Mall or Hamburg to any of their popular stores and see how comfortable you are. You might live close but the Walkscore is atrocious.

Lexington's best location for walking, with a walkscore of 85, is the downtown area. Origins and destinations within a reasonable distance, though not all of the origins are residential in nature and good availability of walking paths to take. But I wonder what the score would be if they took proper surface maintenance and simple daily cleaning/litter control into account.

Have you looked, really looked at some of our sidewalk conditions just a block or two off of the revitalized Main and Vine? What about the cross streets which connect them; Limestone, Upper, Market and Broadway which have remained untouched. Many of the sections of pavement are cracked and flaking, or the former tree wells are disintegrating and bulging. Litter and broken glass from beverage bottles are frequent sights.

I have said before that the way we use our public spaces is generally appalling and in some cases the abusers are just human pigs, but really folks don't you think that we can do better? We have a dedicated crew to police the heavily used spaces and it is the ordained responsibility of the downtown property owner/property manager to take care of the rest, but I don't think that they do that good of a job of it.

Government has the obligation to take care of the roadways and keep them in a safe and orderly manner and they have the power to enforce that the sidewalks be held to the same conditions. From where does this obvious disconnect arise? When and where was the ball dropped?

These sidewalks are the focus of our downtown curb appeal and we are allowing them to peel and fade like a bad paint job on our finest houses. When are we going to bring our downtown up to the standard where it should be? If the merchants and property owners will not maintain them, should the government do the job? Maybe yes, but the cost should be borne by those who have refused to do it themselves and not spread across the community as a whole. Or the whole nation by using Federal funds to do the job.

I think that it should be the community's desire to make our entire city into a walkers paradise, where every neighborhood has someplace attainable by walking and safe ways of getting there. It will take effort and commitment, but most likely, a change in attitude.

If it doesn't start with downtown, then the neighborhoods should start it but it need to start somewhere. I have pointed our some beginning places and I know that there are others, if you do also then lets get to work on it. 

The sooner the better.

1 comment:

DevilAnse said...

There are a lot of holes in Lexington's infrastructure, and the lack of safe sidewalks on many well-traveled streets is one of the most glaring.

There is a disturbing correlation of the lack of safe sidewalks with schools and, especially areas with high population density.

It's crazy, but there is no safe (or dry) way to walk from apartment complexes on Todds, Liberty or Richmond Rds to areas for shopping and employment.

Lexington will never mature as a City until we learn to "sweat the details" before launching elaborate
crapshoot projects like the Harrodsburg/New Circle boondoggle.

Ironically, it would still be possible to create pedestrian/bike trails using our old Rail beds, ideally positioned except to the South.

Never happen.