Why Sidewalks Matter

Sidewalks connect places, and people.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

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.

Stay Informed: Sign up for the AARP Livable Communities Newsletter

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

Subscribe to the Livable Communities Great Places Blog by email or RSS feed

Follow us on Twitter @LivableCmnty

Learn more about age-friendly communities at AARP.org/livable

Sidewalk image from Getty/Thinkstock


>> Get travel discounts with your AARP Member Advantages

  • Join AARP: Savings, resources and news for your well-being
  • See the AARP home page for deals, savings tips, trivia and more


Search AARP Blogs

Related Posts
February 14, 2019 05:41 PM
Webinar Date: February 13, 2019
February 12, 2019 06:09 AM
The idea of a group of people traveling together from Point A to Point B as a way to make transportation more efficient and more affordable isn’t exactly new. At LA Metro, we’ve been doing that with buses and trains for over 60 years. But in the age of ride-hailing (e.g., Uber and Lyft), the transportation landscape has dramatically changed, and today there are many more options to consider than there were in the 1950s. The concept of Mobility as a Service (MaaS)—which, as its name suggests, is centered on users tapping multiple transportation options as a service rather than depending entirely on vehicle ownership—is more relevant than ever. Public transit fits perfectly into this new and still-emerging landscape, and LA Metro has responded accordingly.
January 28, 2019 06:06 PM
At the United States Conference of Mayors winter meeting on January 24, a panel of mayors discussed the important role that voters age 50 or older play in local elections and how communities can best engage older adults.