Built Environments #13: Sidewalks and Playscapes- New and Old Sidewalks

Sidewalks aren’t very exciting. They’re something that it’s easy to be indifferent about. But sidewalks can really say lot about a neighborhood. The Old Fourth Ward has a lot of foot traffic. In some places it easy to get around, even with limited mobility, and in other places it’s almost impossible. Having access to intentionally designed sidewalks can increase foot traffic and improve health.

The ideal sidewalk is at least five feet wide and has trees and/or on-street parking and/or a bike path that act as a buffer zone between pedestrians and the roadway. The corners of sidewalks would be wider and curved to accommodate those with disabilities and provide maximum visibility (saving you from bumping awkwardly into a person coming around the corner). In  O4W some of the sidewalk are the model for sidewalks, others a thin strips on concrete that get swamped when it rains.

Let’s check out the sidewalks, y’all:
IMG_20130615_193412This sidewalk is on John Wesley Dobbs in between Boulevard NE and Randolph St NE. It is a pretty perfect sidewalk. The corner is wide and rounded, providing high-visibility. The sidewalk is wide enough for some using a wheelchair and a friend without a chair to walk abreast and pass someone. There is a buffer zone of trees and parking. And there are bike racks in the buffer zone. The only think lacking is lighting. There is a giant new-ish apartment complex looming over this sidewalk.
IMG_20130615_193437Just across the street is the sidewalk outside of the Helene Mills Senior Center. The corner provides low visibility for approaching foot traffic. The sidewalk is poorly maintained. Street parking acts as a buffer zone between pedestrians. There is an obstruction that reduces the width of the sidewalk, probably making it impassable to wheelchairs. The lighting is better on this side of the street.

IMG_20130627_193258This sidewalk runs along Boulevard NE, it is steep. It is also poorly lit and a bit narrow. However, the trees that have been planted do act as a buffer zone for pedestrian traffic and the sidewalk is relatively well-maintained and unbroken.


This sidewalk on Edgewood Avenue is too narrow for two people to walk alongside each other. It’s too broken to navigate comfortably. The light poles, and parking meters crowd the sidewalk encroaching on pedestrian space. The sidewalk is not well-maintained and is poorly lit.

IMG_20130611_160337Right across the street from the terrible sidewalk above they’re remodeling this sidewalk in preparation for the Edgewood street car. It appears that they are widening it and adding a buffer zone of on street parking and trees. Edgewood’s sidewalks in the Old Fourth Ward range from very close to the ideal sidewalk to too broken for an able bodied person to traverse comfortably.

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