Monday, August 22, 2005

Walking Blues in the Outer 'Burbs

County planners in suburban counties in Virginia and Maryland are trying to retrofit a trail and sidewalk network, says this Wash Post story, in hopes of giving residents a chance to walk or bike. Planners in Charles County, Md., have rewritten their development rules to "encourage a series of urban-style villages where people would feel more comfortable walking to shop, eat and go to work." New roads are now required to have trails for walkers and cyclists.

Spotsylvania County in Virginia used to let developers build subdivisions without sidewalks. Now, says the Post, "developers that choose not to lay sidewalks must pay into a fund that covers the cost of connecting critical areas throughout the county, such as linking schools with older subdivisions where the developers are long gone."

A study released last year by the Coalition for Smarter Growth named Charles and Spotsylvania the Baltimore-Washington region's two most dangerous counties for pedestrians.


At 10:17 PM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

I support walking and bie paths and trails, but even where theya re heavily used they account for only a few percent of traffic. Requiring every road to have sidwalks or trails may be an expensive mistake.

Sidewalks and curbs cost nearly as much as another lane of road, and once built they make the road harder and more expensive to expand. Building sidewalks and trails in rural areas where they might be used the least sounds like a mistake.

Studies have shown that houses with sidewalks are valued at less than homes with sidewalks, so requiring builders to provide them means that owners will pay more for homes that are valued less, because of government regulations designed to help a minority at the expense of many.

The good thing about this is that when people flock to these rural areas to take advantage of the amenities, then they will already be in place, and they won't have to be provided later at even higher expense.

Pedestrian deaths in rural areas are a scandal and we should build paths and trails where they are needed and used, but a blanket provision that every new road have trails sounds like a mistake.

Considering the road backlog we have, can we afford to spend something like a third of the money to support trails that 3 or 4% of the population will use?


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