What objections might homeowners make to installing sidewalks in their neighborhoods and how can I address these concerns?
Walking is the most recommended form of exercise. People are more likely to do it when the "gym" is just outside the door. Yet landowner objections sometimes result in disconnected sidewalk systems that make walking in neighborhoods or on work breaks difficult and/or dangerous.
Common concerns about sidewalks and potential answers to address them include:
Concern: Sidewalks are associated with urban settings and we live in a rural or suburban setting.
Answer: Roadways are part of urban, suburban, and rural settings. Few people would argue against streets being built in suburban or rural environments. A sidewalk is part of a complete street. Moreover, the majority of quaint, small towns sport sidewalks that provide freedom and mobility to young and old alike.
Concern: We'll lose established trees if we install sidewalks.
Answer: Sidewalks do not have to be linear. They can curve around trees. Does a neighborhood or community concerned about removing trees to install sidewalks apply the same logic to removing trees to build new homes, schools, and commercial buildings?
Concern: I don't want my neighbors walking near my house; that's an invasion of privacy.
Answer: Walkers are the eyes and ears of a neighborhood. This can be a good thing if your house is on fire or you need help. Sidewalks and walking paths promote neighborliness and good health. Motorists drive by houses every day. Those who pull into residential driveways for one reason or another may get closer to a house than would a walker on a sidewalk.
Concern: Sidewalks are conveyer belts for crime, strangers, undesirables and renters.
Answer: Statistically, cars and trucks are the conveyance of choice for the perpetrators of home burglaries and assaults by strangers in a home. Streets convey all manner of people past and to our homes, and there is little evidence to show that sidewalks increase the chance of crime.
Concern: I don't want to pay for a sidewalk.
Answer: In new development, sidewalks are typically required by the design standards of the local jurisdiction and should be paid for and installed by the developer of the property. Whether sidewalks actually appear is another question. If a developer waits until all the lots are built before installing sidewalks, this opens the door to homeowners objecting to a sidewalk in front of their home. Some communities pay half — or all — the cost of installing sidewalks, viewing sidewalks no differently than streets.
Concern: A sidewalk will reduce my property value.
Answer: Sidewalks seldom negatively affect property value unless they are in poor condition. The property value may actually increase for homes in walkable neighborhoods.
Concern: Snow removal is a problem for me; I don't want to (or can't) shovel snow.
Answer: Sidewalks save lives by keeping walkers, joggers, and children off busy roads. The Swedish believe cold fresh air is good for the immune system. Teenagers can earn extra money by shoveling your sidewalk. Perhaps the person who clears your driveway of snow could also shovel your walk.
Concern: Sidewalks are a sign of suburban sprawl in rural neighborhoods.
Answer: Where feasible to install and likely to be used, sidewalks in rural areas give children a place to walk to the school bus or to a friend's home for transportation and for healthy, daily physical activity. A lack of sidewalks has contributed to the sprawl of waistlines in the U.S.