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Why Sidewalks Matter


Sidewalks connect places, and people.

It seems counterintuitive that heavy snows would make people appreciative of the sidewalks they’re shoveling, but some friends and colleagues are telling us that’s what has been happening this winter.

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From Jeanne: “I had a nice encounter with a neighbor during all this snow.”¨ Sean and his family are new neighbors. This is their first winter in Northern Virginia. He has three daughters in elementary school who enjoy playing outside and riding bikes, and he has a snow blower that he’s been using to clear the sidewalks for our entire block.”¨ When I thanked Sean for being so thoughtful, he explained that his previous neighborhood had no sidewalks. When he moved to ours he noticed that neighbors young and old were out walking, kids were on their bikes, and that having sidewalks was truly important to so many people. Sean decided he would do what he could to keep the sidewalks safe and accessible.”

From Robert: “In Portland, Oregon, last week, during our snowstorm, I noticed that neighbors were clearing their sidewalks, and people were out in droves walking, playing, talking. I think major snow events end up calming traffic and creating good social conditions.”

From Samantha, a memory: “As a young kid my friends and I would shovel the length of our block after snowfalls because we still wanted to bike. No one asked us to do it or gave us money. We just knew we were helping out as well as getting the chance to play. Sidewalks have a vital role in our communities.”

From me: I know that from my own experience, living in communities with sidewalks enabled me to walk to and from my first job when I was a teenager in Northport, Long Island. Sidewalks in Park Slope, Brooklyn, helped my husband, our West Highland white terrier and me make human and canine friends throughout our neighborhood. Sidewalks leading from my house to downtown Westfield, N.J., were a lifesaver when I was a new mom and home alone for hours on end with a baby. The one-mile walk into town and the journey back could fill the better part of an afternoon because I’d bump into neighbors and stop to chat, or I’d encounter and befriend another stir-crazy new mom pushing a stroller and seeking both a change of scenery and some adult conversation.

Sidewalks connect places, and people.

I now live in a rural area of Maryland. There are no sidewalks. I need to drive most every place I go. While I love my home and I have great neighbors (who, after big snows, appear by tractor to plow my long driveway for free), I miss having sidewalks.

Do sidewalks matter to you?

Tell us how by posting a comment below, by visiting with us @LivableCmnty or by sending an email to livable@aarp.org.

Also, consider taking part in the AARP Create the Good Sidewalks and Streets Survey.

You May Also Like: Ode to New Jersey (and its walkable downtowns)


Melissa StantonMelissa Stanton is a member of the AARP Livable Communities Team.

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Sidewalk image from Getty/Thinkstock


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