Reclaiming the Streets
Iowa Law Review, Vol. 106, Iss. 5, 2021, pp. 2185-2213
Texas A&M University School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 20-45
30 Pages Posted: 14 Dec 2020 Last revised: 24 Aug 2021
Date Written: December 12, 2020
Pedestrians have been getting the short end of the stick in street policies and regulations. Drivers and cars dominate our streets even though automobiles’ externalities kill thousands of people every year. Given the environmental, health, safety, and community effects of cars, municipalities should embrace a policy that puts pedestrians at the center and produces more miles of wider, well-maintained sidewalks. Sidewalks make communities greener, healthier, safer, more socially connected, and even, wealthier. COVID-19 lockdowns have shown both the relevance of sidewalks, as well as the possibility of pedestrians regaining space currently allocated to cars by widening sidewalks.
This Essay identifies, first, the benefits of and potential arguments against more sidewalks. Second, it analyzes the current approach to adding sidewalks to neighborhoods without them or widening existing sidewalks. It shows the disparities created by shouldering homeowners with the responsibility of building, maintaining, and repairing sidewalks and advocates for the socialization of sidewalks’ cost. It also advocates for sidewalks reclaiming space today occupied by parked or running automobiles. Third, regarding new developments, this Essay proposes an approach mirroring technology- forcing environmental regulations that will require developers to not only not serve future road demand, but also actually reduce it by increasing the walkability score of the development and the surrounding area.
Keywords: public property, streets, sidewalks, municipalities, property, land use, property owner, lockdown
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