I don’t know whether to call this post a public service announcement, a plea for mercy, or a rant–maybe it’s all three.
One of my greatest joys is going for long walks. I enjoy the fresh air, my body benefits from the exercise, my computer-fatigued eyes appreciate looking at far-away things, and my mind welcomes the opportunity to roam a bit. In short, I thrive on walking outdoors.
I most enjoy walking around my neighborhood, partly to check out what’s going on with my neighbors, but also because I think a strong pedestrian presence is an asset to a neighborhood. It conveys a vibrancy and energy that speaks well of the community.
And, I hope, boosts property values.
My neighborhood is a subdivision on the eastern edge of Memphis. It was built about 40 years ago and has solidly-constructed homes (mostly brick) and lots of tall trees and landscaped lawns. It’s a good neighborhood, and I’m fortunate to live here.
The only negative thing I can say about my neighborhood revolves around the sidewalks. Forty years is a long time to be a sidewalk, and many of them (including one square of my own) are starting to show their age. Sidewalks aren’t cheap to repair, so believe me, I understand why folks aren’t rushing to get them fixed.
Another problem is that some people don’t seem to comprehend that sidewalks are intended for pedestrian traffic and should be kept clear of…well, name something, and I’m sure I’ve seen it on a sidewalk around here. I don’t think these particular people understand that using a sidewalk as a storage facility is not only a safety issue but one of liability as well.
In anticipation of a presentation to my neighborhood association at some point, I’ve been researching the city’s sidewalk ordinances and collecting a few photos for
evidence demonstration purposes. Here are a few examples, with excerpts from City of Memphis Sidewalk Ordinances
Sec. 34-117. Obstructions generally.
It shall be a misdemeanor to obstruct any sidewalk or walkway with boxes, barrels, or other things interfering with the free passageway of the public or which may render such sidewalk or walkway unsafe for public travel. (Ord. No. 894, § 1, 4-6-71; Code 1967, § 36-104)
This was actually a street just outside my subdivision. Apparently they were doing some remodeling and felt that piling all the lumber with nails sticking out every which way was perfectly acceptable.
Besides the obvious potential for contracting lockjaw from bumping into a protruding nail, the complete blockage of the sidewalks means kids on their bikes will likely veer into the street. Also, it looks awful.
Sec. 34-118. General duty of property owner to build, repair and clean.
(b) It shall be the duty of every owner of property, whether vacant or occupied…to keep clean and open for public passage all public sidewalks or walkways abutting on or adjacent to such property, and to keep such sidewalks or walkways in good repair and condition.
There are several dangers in these badly broken sidewalks: 1) certain walkers might slip on the loose rock, 2) someone in a wheelchair could get stuck, or 3) strollers or wagons with little people could tip over.
Sec. 34-120. To be kept free of mud, weeds, grass, etc.
Every owner, tenant, lessee or occupant of any building or lot, whether vacant or occupied, within the city, shall keep, or cause to be kept, the sidewalks or walkways adjacent to or abutting such property, free from mud, weeds, grass, noxious growth, obstructions, encumbrances, trash, debris and foreign substances of every kind.
Again, these are a slipping, tripping issue–especially those &$#* gumballs!
Sec. 34-127. Foliage and tree limbs projecting over sidewalks.
It shall be a misdemeanor to permit shrubbery, hedges, or foliage of any kind to project over sidewalks or walkways so as to interfere with the free use of such sidewalks or walkways by pedestrians. All trees upon or near sidewalks or walkways shall be so trimmed that the lower branches thereof are not less than eight (8) feet above the sidewalks.
Magnolias, fountain grasses, and other pretty landscaping don’t present a huge danger to me, but imagine if I was blind or had other significant vision issues. My friend Wally, for example, would run right into any of those obstacles. Also, I’ve actually seen some of our younger biking “newbies” drive into one of those bushes.
Sec. 34-122. Time and Method of sweeping.
Sidewalks adjacent to business premises shall not be swept or cleaned, except in cases of necessity, between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. Sidewalks shall be carefully cleaned or swept so as not to unnecessarily raise or spread dust, dried sputum or other substances which may carry the germs of infectious or contagious diseases.
Okay, I don’t have a photo for this one. I just thought it was a strange ordinance and one I have violated many, many times. I think I’ll leave it out of the presentation.
Here’s a sidewalk violation for which I can’t find an ordinance:
Surely there’s some law that says sprinkling the sidewalk (and walkers) is prohibited.
While different cities or counties will have different ordinances, I’m sure most follow the same general principles. If you’re a homeowner, you might want to take a look at your sidewalks, both in terms of the regulations and through the lens of the people who are using them. On behalf of walkers everywhere, I thank you!
What are the sidewalks like in your neck of the universe?