October 22, 2013

A Tale of Two Sidewalks

I posted the side by side pictures below on Facebook and asked my friends which neighborhood sidewalk seemed more appealing. The responses reminded me that the aesthetic ideal of an urbanist is not generally how people evaluate a place.  My friends preferred the image on the right which is in West LA, because the pavement is flat and seemed that it would be easier to walk on in (especially in heels). They also liked that the sidewalk on the right is wider and unobstructed and easier to maneuver. One even noted that there were no places for bad people to hide in the more open suburban sidewalk. I argued that the street on the left, which is located in Pittsburgh, was shaded and the narrowness slowed traffic and the cars provide a safety buffer for pedestrians - all the stuff we planners love to talk about - and they didn't buy it. I suppose you could improve the sidewalk on the left by paving it properly, but that wouldn't really get at the bigger issue which is that the the image on the right more closely reflects what most people are familiar with and is more suitable for their lifestyles so they can imagine themselves walking down that sidewalk whereas with the Pittsburgh sidewalk they have a difficult time seeing themselves in that environment.

Which of these neighborhoods is more appealing to you?

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