Sidewalks Can Be Cool Too…So Why Aren’t They?

Cost, you say? Accessibility? Lack of imagination? Oh Europe and your ancient progressive ways…

24 Responses to “Sidewalks Can Be Cool Too…So Why Aren’t They?”

  1. Renee

    We have about 11,500 unimproved block faces in Seattle. Many of these are in urban centers and on school walking routes in the north and south ends of the city. It would be great if we could get cool sidewalks (how about permeable surface sidewalks with bioswales while we are at it). But, sidewalks at all would be a great start.

  2. Bob

    The excuse I always hear is that if they put a fancy pattern in and then had to do repairs later it would be to hard to match the new pattern to the old. *sigh* So we get broom-finished concrete instead because that’s easy.

  3. Matt the Engineer

    Clearly we need to Save the Wawona and start selling lumber to San Francisco again.

  4. Matt the Engineer

    The real difference between Europe and us? We design to 50 year lifecycles, they build to 500 year lifecycles. Imagine our sidewalks in 50 years compared to cobblestone. Then imagine the cost difference after 10 more complete rebuild cycles. As an added bonus – cobblestone is easy to repair or even move completely if the sidewalk needs to change. This means the materials aren’t just dumped into a landfill after a few decades.

    (though [Renee] has a good point – either we should bump sidewalk funding way up or maybe wait until we’re done with the first round)

  5. cle0

    I live in a neighborhood w/ a permeable sidewalk and bioswale (High Point).

    Here’s a photo of them:

  6. cjh

    More aesthetic whining by WB.

    Good thing the first comment hit on the real issue. Yes, let’s spend money on pretty central business district sidewalks when there are about a thousand miles of city streets without any sidewalks at all.

    Matt, outside of historic cores, new sidewalks in Europe (and Latin America – since some of those are pictures of Rio) are much the same as here. Oftentimes, they are asphalt. Maybe we should extend that “we” of the short lifecycles to most everyone building anything after the turn of the 20th century.

  7. Greg

    +1 for Renee’s point – Seattle is woefully behind in sidewalk infrastructure.

    One poster child example of how bad it is can be found right off of Lake City Way, Ravenna Ave NE, and NE 91th St in N.E. Seattle. Even though the photos in the link below don’t show it – the area surrounding it has a sizable amount of single family and multi-family development. And what’s also nice about this location is that it is a very convenient transit area with six Metro bus routes on Ravenna Ave alone.

    The problem is that there aren’t any sidewalks to get to those routes, nor is there any real planning going on here to bring in pedestrian friendly business services for these people.

    So the result is that they’ve got development and transit, but no infrastructure to connect the two – what a waste.

  8. David

    everyone else already said it… but the answer to your question is pretty obvious WB – because there are a lot more important things than making sidewalks “cool”

  9. Andrew

    Uh, nicer cooler sidewalks cost some god-damned money. Where is that going to come from?

  10. K

    * Too expensive. Cheaper to pour thin cement into a wooden frame. This is also quicker.

    * Too controversial. Someone wouldn’t like the colors, think they’re ugly, complain to the city, etc.

    * Europe has less income stratification and more reasonable standards of living, so they can afford to hire a team of people just to drop little rock tiles into place on the ground.

    * Doesn’t look as good when you’re widening the street to satisfy the unmanageable never-ending road capacity demand of a heavily car-based society.

  11. mike

    we’re all for better sidewalks. we’re also for a car-free pedestrian zone in the urban core between the convention center and pike place market, but that will probably never happen…

  12. Matt the Engineer

    Be careful with that word. Never is a very long time.

  13. portlander

    sidewalks in america are an abomination.

    or are the ones depicted above just an egregious waste of money by the government?

  14. Sabina Pade

    Seriously, cobblestone sidewalks, which are beautiful, permeable, and when properly laid and maintained, extremely durable, alongside their high initial cost do have some pratical drawbacks: they’re abusive to high heels, and a they’re very bumpy ride for the wheelchair-bound. Once they’ve worn smooth – after, say, 100 years of use if rough-hewn initially – or if allowed to grow covered with moss, they can be also be very slippery.

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