Sunday, July 26, 2009

Where the Sidewalk Ends

Nashville builds sidewalks stupidly.

In the last few years Nashville has spend millions of dollars building and repairing sidewalks. I don’t think they got a lot of bang for the buck.

About five days a week I run, walk, or run and walk about three to four miles, depending on the route I take. I have observed the sidewalk program in my neighborhood up close.

A lot of Metro’s sidewalk budget was spend making the sidewalks comply with the American’s with Disability Act. Now, I don’t know what metro had to do and what they did that was beyond the requirement of the act. Anyway, they have rebuilt the sidewalks at almost every intersection in the city to make the sidewalks wheelchair accessible. I seldom see anyone in a wheel chair using the sidewalks but the new sidewalk curb cuts are great for riding bicycles. One can now zip along the sidewalks on a bicycle and cross streets with ease. Until someone stole my bicycle off my front porch last fall, I often rode by bicycle on the new sidewalks and enjoyed them.

One thing that I observed is that the same sidewalk curb cuts were often build, dug back up and rebuild again. At the intersection of 8th Avenue and Wedgewood the sidewalks at all four corners were rebuild. The construction company came out with jackhammers, backhoes, concrete trucks and a work crew of 8 to 12. They build the sidewalk and then about six weeks later they came back tore it all out and build it again. I can only guess that it was not build to specifications. I hope the second rebuilding was at the contractors expense and not the city’s.

Another thing I found interesting was that all of the construction was not done in one pass. Someone would come out and paint big “X’s” on the sidewalk segments to be replaced. By a segment, I am speaking of those squares of sidewalk concrete about 4 x 4. On my morning run I noticed that the X’ed section had cracks in them and were the worse segments. They weren’t really badly deteriorated but were defective. A few days after the sidewalk segments were marked, the crews with jackhammers and backhoes and trunks would come out and replace the identified segments.

What perplexed me was that a few weeks after the replacement segments were build, someone came along and marked new segments and the crews came back out and replaced more segments. Sometimes the new marked segments were right next to previously rebuild segments. I don’t know why they did not identify and replace all of the defective segments at one time.

Here are some other observations that I thought I could illustrate best with pictures. From my observations I have deduced some Metro Sidewalk Construction Principles.

Sidewalk Construction Principle #1: Just build it; Don’t worry about maintaining it.

Nashville sidewalkNashville sidewalk
This is one of the new sidewalks. It really is. The new sidewalk is beneath these tree samplings that overhang the sidewalk and beneath about four inches of dirt and gravel. The first picture is looking east on Wedgewood and the second, the same sections of sidewalk looking west. This is about 200 feet of new sidewalk. I would think that if you can’t do better than this there is no point in building it. How about getting some jail house inmates to cut these trees and shovel off the sidewalk?

Sidewalk Construction Principle #2:
Don’t fix all of it, save some work for another day.
I don’t know why this section of sidewalk on Wedgewood was not replaces. Some of the sections that were replaced only had minor cracks and yet this badly deteriorated segment was not.

Sidewalk Construction Principle #3: Make those curb cuts wheelchair accessible, don’t look what is beyond.
Nashville sidewalksidewalk
Look at this: The curb cut is wheelchair accessible, but then the trashcan and sign and light pole obstruct it. Not only could not a wheelchair negotiate this obstruction, you could not even squeeze a baby stroller past these obstructions. The second picture is the same block about 150 feet south, again it is not wheelchair accessible.

Sidewalk Construction Principle #3: If you can’t build for wheelchair use, then don’t let a pedestrian use it.
What you are looking at here is a planter island protruding out into the path of the sidewalk. The sidewalk abruptly ends at the planter but then resumes on the other side of the street. Sometimes geography will not allow the required slope and area of level sidewalk prior to the curb cut. I would think that it is better to build a sidewalk rather than block a sidewalk, even if a wheelchair cannot use it. But, what do I know, I'm just a pedestrian taxpayer.

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