What is it about sidewalks that terrorizes homeowners? In some locales, the cost of sidewalks falls to homeowners. In northern locales, homeowners are responsible for clearing ice and snow from sidewalks in front of their property. Some communities were deliberately designed without sidewalks to maintain a “rural” ambiance. None of those apply to the Connecticut Street sidewalk issue. This week the Fort Myers Beach Town Council agreed to not extend a planned sidewalk along Connecticut from Shell Mound Blvd to the Mound House.
In January 2012, Town Council requested funding to improve pedestrian safety along Connecticut. What were they thinking? Once approved by the Metropolitan Planning Organization, the project went on a funding wait list until last year, when it came time to discuss the design. Neighbors objected and council agreed to build a sidewalk only from Estero Blvd. to Shell Mound Blvd. This week, the newly configured council brought the concept of extending the sidewalk all the way to the Mound House back for discussion and again voted to end the sidewalk at Shell Mound after hearing from neighbors who objected to the extension.
Which brings us to the question: What is so horrible about sidewalks?
Sidewalks provide a relatively safe place for pedestrians to walk. They give a neighborhood a more friendly, less isolated feel. The U.S. Department of Transportation found that roads without sidewalks are more than twice as likely to have pedestrian accidents as those with sidewalks. Sidewalks encourage walking as a means of transportation and exercise. Most everyone, outside the auto industry, wants walkable communities. Sidewalks are huge part of that, as anyone who observes the new Estero Blvd. sidewalks can see for themselves.
Sidewalks are a community benefit. They aren’t designed to serve the adjacent homeowner, but the community at large – the people who would utilize them to walk through neighborhoods or to community attractions. They are an appropriate use of publicly-owned right-of-way (ROW).
Neighborhood objections to sidewalks run the gamut from landscape destruction to safety. Any sidewalk would be on public ROW, where private landscaping is subject to removal if the ROW is needed. Best to plant on your own property not the ROW.
Safety and privacy concerns boil down to a fear of people coming any closer to homes than the street. Bad people. Strange people, people they don’t know. Does anyone really believe that bad, strange people can’t walk down the street and up a driveway just as easily as down a sidewalk?
And what about the safety of the over 12,000 people who visited the Mound House last year? Isn’t that important?
This town has a deep aversion to the use of publicly owned property to serve the public. Whether it’s side street ROW, sidewalks or beach/bay accesses, repeatedly, our Town Councils have demonstrated that the only people with a say in the use of publicly owned property in this town are outspoken adjacent property owners. Everyone else is out of luck.
Notice the increase in pedestrian traffic on the new Estero Blvd. sidewalks?
It’s a good thing Lee County didn’t ask for homeowner permission to build them.