WHERE THE SIDEWALK ENDS: A neat little story from The Washington Post today points to an alarming phenomenon: the lack of sidewalks throughout growing American communities. The Post focuses on Loudon County, Virginia, a D.C. exurb that is one of the fastest growing counties in the country.
A survey of 840 miles of roads in Loudoun found that 14 percent had sidewalks.... The result is a piecemeal network of sidewalks and trails that begin and end haphazardly, influenced by the date or parameters of developers' contracts. Many times, there are no formal paths between neighborhoods and nearby shopping centers, parks or schools.
Consequently pedestrians find themselves undertaking perilous journeys across six-lane roads without the benefit of a crosswalk, traipsing along narrow road shoulders and other dangerous endeavors to go even the shortest of distances. Although many local governments have begun to address this issue (Loudon started requiring sidewalks or bike trails in new developments in the 1990s), it shouldn't be left to the whims of local officials. The necessity of reducing the auto-dependence built into our landscape for safety reasons (in addition to environmental concerns, among others) is a national issue. Just as the federal government has used its considerable spending power over highway budgets to impose other rules on states, like raising the drinking age to 21, it should make pedestrian-friendly requirements for all developments (including retrofitting older ones) a requirement of receiving federal transportation funding.