Newspaper Column: More on Sidewalks

The You Asked For It column on Wednesday, September 29, had more information about city sidewalks, as provided by Doug Moser, city construction inspection chief. Moser explains that landowners are responsible for sidewalks abutting their land. He adds that the city has assigned an employee to drive around the city looking for hazardous sidewalks so the city will know what the problem areas are.

It is true that sidewalks are the responsibility of landowners, according to city code, but I believe the city is abdicating its responsibility towards its citizens. The city may not have a duty to repair sidewalks, but it does have a duty to enforce its ordinances. Many ordinances in this city seem to be enforced only upon the receipt of a complaint by another citizen. This is like only enforcing the speed limit when another driver calls the police to complain.

The city ought to be responsible for the sidewalks. They are a public good, like safe streets and clean water. Making private citizens accountable for public goods creates chaos. In attempting to save on expenditures by making landowners responsible for their sidewalks, the city has abdicated its duty.

Sending an employee around for years simply to catalog the problem areas makes no sense to me. If the sidewalks need repair, why not have that employee notify the landowner and initiate the procedure to get the repairs made? By the time the catalog is done, everything will be in even worse shape.

Many people have noticed the difficulty incurred by people with wheelchairs attempting to navigate city sidewalks. I do not understand why there is still a lip on new sidewalks where the concrete meets the asphalt, when the City Standard Drawings and Engineering Specifications were changed to avoid this lip in 1996.

ADA compliance does not only benefit people in wheelchairs. It benefits all of us, as the sidewalks become easier and safer to use. As it stands, city sidewalks are a tripping hazard. It’s only a matter of time before someone is seriously injured.

If the city has been trying to become ADA compliant for years, as alleged by the city information officer in response to an earlier column of mine, why is it still so difficult to use the city sidewalks? The obvious answer would be that the city is only trying to have the appearance of compliance, while avoiding actual work towards compliance. If this is not the case, I welcome a response from the city, explaining where to find compliant sidewalks.

This column was first published in the (Idaho Falls) Post Register on November 2, 2010.


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