Walk side

Sidewalks. Great places, those. Allowing for a continuous stroll down most every street in your local city or town. Right next to shops and houses for easy access. Also create a convenient buffer between the street and the shops. Occasionally used for chair, table, or sign storage. Built and maintained by your city for free!

I’m endlessly fascinated by the different behaviors and rules in different countries.

In Portland, it is an everyday occurrence that a sidewalk is blocked — by a car parked in a driveway and sticking out across the sidewalk, most commonly. I’m sure that most people think, “I don’t see anyone coming down the sidewalk/there’s absolutely no other way for me to park {right here in front of where I want to be}, so it’ll be okay for a minute {or 20}.” Or feel that they have left “enough room” to get by. Or perhaps don’t think of it at all, and only see the sidewalk as an extension of the driveway.

I’ve seen so many examples lately in my neighborhood of sidewalks blocked by construction projects, and this is where I’m baffled. New construction of a multi-story building going up on a busy through street with many frequented businesses. To protect people from the obvious hazards of venturing too close to a worksite, the sidewalk has been closed, fenced off. A sign is placed, mid-block, right where the construction starts: PEDESTRIANS MUST USE SIDEWALK ON OTHER SIDE OF STREET.

sidewalkclosed

But there’s no crosswalk! And it’s not legal to cross mid-block! And there’s no curbcut there, either, so if you’ve got a wheeled device (pram, wheelchair, bicycle) you’d have to deal with a curb jump, too. Now it’s a half-block or more back to the corner, where there may or may not be a crosswalk.

The same situation exists in other countries, obviously. But there’s a better way.

  1. Put the sign up earlier, e.g. at the corner or previous crosswalk.
  2. Construct a walkway around the construction area, e.g. cones or a fence. This usually requires pushing into the travel lane a bit.
  3. Create a new (temporary) crosswalk RIGHT THERE. Sidewalk gone? Need to cross? Boom! Here you go!

I doubt this is something that worksite managers would do all on their own, no matter the country. There are laws that mandate this in other places. But where are the laws here? Surely any situation that created an increase in street crossings, legal or otherwise, should be mitigated. Why is it acceptable for this sort of situation to continue for six months or more?

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