Sidewalks rock (or how to make them do so!)

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San Francisco is one of the most walkable cities in the US.  So it’s no surprise, then, that it’s easy to find highly developed tool kits in this city for working with neighborhoods to improve their already stellar sidewalk system. Fortunately, any of these ideas can be tailored to each city’s unique needs and demographics. In Seattle’s Greenwood neighborhood, a tool kit is being developed for how to improve sidewalks, garner state and local funding for sidewalk-related projects and generally champion the cause of sidewalks.

Posted by Megan RisleyMay 19, 2011

One tool  for generating interest around the importance of sidewalks is organizing a large-scale decorating party.  It can be as simple as gathering your friends and a bucket of sidewalk chalk (seriously, I’ve done this!) and going to town, so to speak, on the ground.  The only real (that is, legal) issue with sidewalk chalking is that, because sidewalks are public property, you technically can’t block access to the places you’d like to draw.  Also, there are likely fines or tickets associated with offensive or derogatory expressions, so it’s highly recommended to stick to positive artistry that will attract people’s attention to the sidewalk and the fact that in many cases, sidewalks are still treated as a luxury rather than a right in urban areas.This year, the City of Seattle will be doing their own version of a sidewalk chalk party. With 15 blocks of new sidewalk projects coming this year, Seattle is commissioning artists to take part in their design.  Ever the art-conscious town, Seattle is paving the way for individuals who also want to develop, restore or maintain sidewalks in their neighborhood to do so in creative and fun, community-engaging ways. Of course, 15 blocks is but a crack in the concrete of overall sidewalk needs. Seattle, known for its city-funded urban art interspersed throughout town, is equally known for its large backlog of transportation needs.  Beyond the pressing Alaskan Way Viaduct reconstruction, the city is nursing a long list of backlogged sidewalk restoration projects as well. Of course, if it were just about the sidewalks themselves, redirecting funds to other more urgent projects might be warranted.  But sidewalks are about sustainability. They’re about health.  They’re about completing the overall transportation picture and the “last mile”.  And they’re about trees. Watch for more on the trees next week!

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