Sidewalks: Trampled under foot

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Christopher Brooke


Let’s take a look at one of the most under appreciated civic improvements ever — the public sidewalk.

These concrete walkways serve the citizens in a surprising variety of ways.

Consider: They can be used as places to exercise; as approaches to our commercial cores downtown; as a self-guided tour of our architecture and historic places — for example, as a vantage point to study an interesting old train station; or as a place to find an excuse to multitask and bask in the sunshine.

Sidewalks provide a tidy boundary in city planning, defining such places as the classic courthouse square in New Castle.

Sidewalks also provide a backstop for water runoff after a rain that will, hopefully, direct the overflow from the street harmlessly into culverts.

Beyond all that is the pedestrian safety needs — the separation parting the foot traffic from the humongous, hurling blocks of metal, fiberglass, vinyl and combustion that are just a text message away from violating with disastrous results the personal space of others.

Happily, much more often than not, people taking to the streets live in harmonious peace with other traffic.

Only slightly less useful than sidewalks are the trails popping up in nearly all urban environments to give users recreation and connectivity.

All this arises because of good community planning.

Whenever I want to better get to know a place, I climb down out of my subcompact vehicle to see what’s hidden at 30 mph. The walkways provide the intimacy that cars can’t.

That’s when I really got to appreciate what the county and the cities are like up close — seeing what went on in the windows of the storefronts, the details of the Oddfellows building, the number of lawyers’ offices and the offerings of the eateries.

Whenever there’s a free moment, I plan to take to the sidewalks to step off some or all of my daily two-mile walk.

As this is part of my effort to integrate into the community, the streets could become my unofficial second office, when not suffering from harsh weather extremes.

Say hello, if you see me. If you have a lot to say, I may ask you to walk and talk.

I see it as the perfect place to pursue public business.