I understand that this latest repaving effort is suppose to be for the complete street, including the sidewalks. Now our streets are bad, but our sidewalks are much worse.
We have a lot of people in our Burncoat neighborhood who like to walk - when it's nice out, it's not uncommon for me to see a dozen of so people out walking along Burncoat St. and other neighborhood streets.
- On our street alone, we have a number of families with preschool age children who like to take walks together as a family and are often walking with strollers, tricycles and other accessories. The broken up sidewalks are the biggest issue with little ones, but a little extra width would go a long way in giving parents and caregivers some space to walk beside their children to assist as they inevitably get off track or loose their balance.
- School aged children living on our street are considered walkers for not only the local public elementary school, but also the middle and high schools. We walk our elementary school aged kids to school everyday, and everyday I am glad they are getting a little bit of exercise and I don't have to deal with the school drop-off/pick-up traffic jams. If we expect our children to walk to school, I think it is our obligation to provide them with Safe Routes to School.
- During the day, caregivers with babies are often seen walking side-by-side with strollers, more often than not, in the street as the existing sidewalks are too narrow (and too broken up) to do so.
- A number of Hanover Insurance employees take walks along our street during their lunch breaks, and again, most choose to walk in the street as opposed to the sidewalk.
- On nice evenings it's not uncommon to see couples taking a casual stroll, again, usually in the street instead of on the sidewalk.
- Finally, one benefit of a road in poor condition is that it tends to keep the average speed of the cars down. With a freshly paved road, average speeds will be up and it will be even more dangerous for pedestrians to walk in the road.
Our street has unusually wide grass strips, 9 feet, so it would seem to me that adding another 2 feet would not be a problem, resulting in a 7 foot grass strip and a 6 foot sidewalk. We do have new white oak trees planted in the strip, and adding two feet would mean locating the edge of the sidewalk within 2 feet 6 inches of the center of the trunks. Assuming a mature white oak tree trunk grows to a radius of 2 feet, this would result in the tree getting as close as 6 inches to the new sidewalk, certainly inviting trouble. One option to address this concern would be to keep the 6 foot width and narrow the sidewalks near the trees to 4 feet 6 inches with a semicircular cutout around each tree (4 feet 6 inches is admittedly tight for two people walking side-by-side, but it is only this dimension at a point so I think it could work). This would result in about a minimum 2 foot buffer around each mature tree trunk and the edge of the wider sidewalk.