Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Sidewalk Hall of Shame

Inspired by KECT's recent request to submit photos of broken sidewalks in LA, I took a stroll around my neighborhood to "show off" some of the most absurd examples of what passes for a sidewalk in Woodland Hills--AND, since I'm a transpo geek that way, I came up with a point system to rate just how bad they are. Think of it as a sort of anti-WalkScore.
If you squint, it almost looks like modern art on Medina Rd near Baza Ave.
Disconnectivity (0-10)
One of the most critical elements of walkability, this criteria rates whether or not a sidewalk actually takes you anywhere. Like the roller skate without its mate, the lone sidewalk won't get you anywhere if it's not part of network. Sure, it's well and good to have a beautiful smooth sidewalk in front of your house, but if your neighbors aren't on board how far are you really going to be able to walk?
 A dead end at Campo Rd near Celes St.

Non-maintenance (0-7)
While this is the focus of KECT's piece, and indeed much of the discussion of sidewalks in LA, I believe it's merely one of many key factors to consider. Still, it's an important one, particularly given the abysmal level of maintenance that takes place here in LA. Much of the problem is that back when our sidewalks were first constructed, we didn't understand quite as much as we do today about street trees, and which ones have a nasty little habit of reaching out their roots to trip unsuspecting pedestrians.
Trees gone wild on De La Osa St near Velicata St.
Inaccessibility (0-8)
As with the street tree issue, many of LA's sidewalks were poured back in the dark ages before we considered travel something that people of all physical abilities should be able to do. Thus the city's many narrow sidewalks, heavily encumbered by utility poles and sorely lacking in curb ramps--problems I'm particularly aware of now that I'm trying to navigate the sidewalk with a stroller. Add to these the issues of steep driveways that extend into the sidewalk, overeager shrubberies, illegal signage and unfortunate street furniture, and you get an idea of the many obstacles that can prevent a sidewalk from being truly accessible.
Enter if you dare...or don't because there's a mailbox in the way on Campo Rd near Ave San Luis

Anti-aesthetic (0-5)
Sure, we can all be satisfied with a sidewalk that is simply wide and smooth enough to walk on, but isn't it so much nicer if it's also pleasant to look at? Granted, care must be taken to avoid those well-intentioned decorative sidewalk treatments that actually make walking more difficult (ladies who have trod cobblestones in heels will understand me on this point), but a it's worth throwing a few extra points into the mix for "pretty."
I guess if you're going to have sidewalk cracks, you should at least make them interesting.

Insult to Injury (0-10)
To finish us off, I had to throw in a category for all those sidewalk situations that go beyond normal measures of pedestrian-unfriendliness and truly grind the walkers face (foot?) into the metaphorical dirt. Or in this case, a tree:
An obstacle course on De La Osa St at Velicata St.
These are sidewalks where there has been such a lack of consideration for even the rudimentary needs of the pedestrian--often while adjacent roadways are meticulously maintained--that they deserve special recognition.

And without further ado, and with thanks to my daughter for tolerating a very bumpy walk, I bring you some highlights from the Woodland Hills Sidewalk Hall of Shame:

No Parking Anytime...or Walking, Apparently
De Roja Ave near Medina Rd

Disconnectivity: 5 - This sidewalk actually is part of a (small) network
Non-Maintenance: 4 - Well, underneath the dirt it's in pretty good shape
Inaccessibility: 5 - Between the street signs and the dirt, this is inaccessible for many pedestrians
Anti-aesthetic: 2 - I guess the trees are nice to look at
Insult to Injury: 7 - The placement of those street signs say "LA cares more about signage than pedestrians."
TOTAL: 23 (out of 40)
 Tendilla Ave near Medina Rd

Disconnectivity: 5 - Again, this sidewalk actually is part of a (small) network
Non-Maintenance: 5 - The stroller hides all the good cracks
Inaccessibility: 6 - Even the baby doesn't get an easy ride here
Anti-aesthetic: 3 - Sadly, I've walked on uglier streets
Insult to Injury: 8 - While the sidewalk literally slips away (or at least, into the road), the roadbed was recently repaved to give drivers a nice smooth ride
TOTAL: 27 (out of 40) 

Sidewalk Safari
Yes, this really is the "sidewalk" at Dumetz Rd and Ybarra Rd

Disconnectivity: 8 - It would be part of a pretty good network, if you could use it
Non-Maintenance: 7 - I don't need to explain this one, do I?
Inaccessibility: 7 - I will allow one point for those who might want to use this for a trail run
Anti-aesthetic: 5 - Unless you like the "jungle" motif
Insult to Injury: 10 - Come on! There is a mudslide across this sidewalk that has been left there for so long it has grown its own HABITAT. Would the city ever allow a roadway for vehicles to degrade to this state?
TOTAL: 37 (out of 40)

Have your own sidewalk hall of shamer? Send me an email and I'll add it to the gallery.

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