By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
It is widely recognized that wider sidewalks are better for pedestrians.
So the city of Bowling Green is looking at changing its standards for sidewalks – making them easier for people to use if they are walking side by side, or if the come across someone from the other direction.
Public Works Director Brian Craft has suggested that the city change its required sidewalk widths from 4 to 5 feet. The extra foot would be taken from the city right-of-way.
A public hearing on the width change will be held April 3, at 7 p.m., giving the public an opportunity to weigh in on the provision with the city planning commission.
The matter will then proceed to the City Council for a decision, said City Planning Director Heather Sayler.
The new wider sidewalks would become part of the city’s subdivision regulations, and would be required for all new sidewalks.
Sidewalks already in place will not be replaced with wider walkways unless large portions of a sidewalk are being redone, Craft said.
The city has already been installing the wider sidewalks on major corridors for the past two decades. Sidewalks on streets such as East and West Wooster, North and South Main, and East and West Poe are already five-foot wide for “improved efficiency and safety pedestrian movement.”
More recent improvements of widening sidewalks have been made on Conneaut and Fairview near City Park, and along routes to the middle school and high school.
The city installed at least a five-foot wide walk in these areas, since it is recognized that a four-foot sidewalk is too narrow when pedestrians going in the opposite direction meet, Craft stated.
This is especially true when a pedestrian is using a wheelchair or other assisted mobility device, he pointed out.
This push for wider sidewalks is also being made by the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments. The theory of the “complete streets” proposals is that wider sidewalks are one element to providing safe and efficient connections between destinations.
The theory also is that walking can be a social activity, and facilities are needed to accommodate that activity.
“Anyone who regularly uses sidewalks knows that 4-foot wide sidewalks are tight when in use by others,” Craft wrote in his recommendation.
“In the opinion of the BG Engineering Department, it is no longer a satisfactory width to meet the demands of the public,” he said.