SIDEWALK WARS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I never really gave sidewalks much thought. If I had thought about them at all, I would have imagined they had always existed, which is only partially true.

The first sidewalks came into being around 2000 B.C. – a millennium or two after the invention of the wheel. Here’s the interesting part: they were rare luxuries in most of the world until as late as the 19th Century.

Ancient Roman road with no sidewalk

That’s when big cities like London and Paris built hundreds of miles of sidewalks to deal with the chaos in the roadways. Until then, “For most of human history, vehicles, pedestrians, vendors, musicians, drinkers and strolling lovers all mingled in the same amorphous muck of the avenue.” Washington Post, June 30, 2019, “The Death of the Sidewalk,” by Avi Selk.

The 1800s saw the first attempt to make the roadways more efficient by dividing them up into sections with regulated use designated for each section. The word “jaywalking” didn’t even exist until the early 20th century. That’s the first time pedestrians were fined for using the part of the street where they weren’t supposed to be.

Non-walkers were also penalized for using the sidewalks without proper authorization. Cities started prohibiting and/or regulating all kinds of sidewalk activities, like vendors, food stands, musicians, panhandlers, and prostitutes.

Cobbled street with narrow sidewalk

The division of space into walkers and vehicles eroded over time with bicyclists and stationary homeless people, among others, invading the precious territory of the walkers. Cities kept coming up with new limitations, like bike lanes, to try to deal with the problems that came up. But as vehicles became more prevalent, from horse-drawn carts to trolleys to cars, streets got widened and sidewalks narrowed.

Urban bike lanes

In 1896, The Times started a “Crusade against the sidewalk grabbers.” It wrote, “The pedestrians now … must spend their time in a hurdle race over skids, climb platforms, dodge moving boxes or else run the risk of being crushed under horses’ hooves in the street.” Washington Post article cited above. Apparently, pedestrians felt they had to fight for a safe walking space among the vendors and construction crews that were encroaching on their walking space.

Today there’s a new threat to the safety and sanity of pedestrians all across America.

Electric scooters are usurping sidewalk space at a dangerous, 10, 15 or even 20 miles per hour. They clog the sidewalks, endangering walkers and creating obstacles when they are left strewn carelessly in the streets. There have been many reported injuries from collisions as well as from people tripping over randomly abandoned scooters.

Scooters on a modern city street

As in the past, there’s a backlash of pedestrians trying to “… restore the sanctity of the sidewalk, with anti-scooter vigilantes appearing wherever the machines do.” Washington Post article. Disgusted pedestrians are throwing scooters into dumpsters and rivers, setting them on fire and hanging them from bridges. So cities now have to try to make peace in the scooter/pedestrian wars. Washington, D.C is experimenting with solar-powered charging docks in the hopes of getting people to stop dumping scooters wherever they happen to stop.

Another possible solution is limiting scooters to the bike lanes, where those already exist. Nashville gave up trying to negotiate a cease-fire and is trying to ban scooters from the sidewalks entirely.

Scooters left randomly on the street

Understanding the history of urban roadways gives perspective to the current sidewalk wars. This situation keeps cropping up periodically as new uses for sidewalks come into vogue. Cities have been dealing with these issues for centuries so this will be resolved over time – until the next sidewalk crisis emerges.

WALKS, TRAILS AND THE SIDEWALK – Marilyn Armstrong

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Walks, Trails, Sidewalks

We have many paths. Some of our roads look more like paths. We are kind of rural and not overly tidy.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

TIS THE SEASON TO DO ROAD WORK

Cee’s Which Way Photo Challenge – August 17, 2016


All the roads are under construction. This is not an exaggeration. This is literally true. The only places not under construction are scheduled for construction shortly, or they are taking a break before the next phase begins. This is not only true here in the valley. It is true pretty much everywhere in North America where you get a real winter … from the east to the west coast and north into Canada.

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Someone in the grocery store commented that the places not under construction have really terrible roads. Because winter destroys roads.

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The ice, snow, plows. The deep frozen cold and the thaws in succession. The bridges crumble, paved surface heave in the frost. So. From whenever the ground emerges from the cover of snow until the first new snowfall, it’s construction season.

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There are no other seasons. Just these two: winter and road work.

Cee which way photo challenge

WALKWAYS – CEE’S WHICH WAY PHOTO CHALLENGE

Cee’s Which Way Photo Challenge: 2015 Week #3

This week, I’m featuring the sidewalks of city and village … and one famous boardwalk. Because before there was any other form of transportation, there were our feet. And when all else fails, even today, we still have feet. You don’t have to buy them, make payments on them, or upgrade them every few years. They are original equipment. If you are lucky, they last a lifetime and take you from here to there.