More on Why Sidewalks Matter

Sidewalks are an integral part of the multi-model transportation system connecting people from where they live to where they want to go - school, shopping, work, or recreation. They are also necessary for community walkability which is highly desired by many parts of our society, the young and old who cannot drive, people wanting to shop local and leave their car at home, and many who want to get outside for exercise and a mental health break. Our quality of life is much improved from the sidewalk network that contributes to livability, safety and supports a healthy community.

Elementary school students walking to school on sidewalk

Livability

  • Sidewalks can improve the appearance and character of a community creating an appealing space between the street and building frontage with benches, plantings, and other pedestrian scale amenities.
  • For persons who cannot or prefer not to drive sidewalks are a vital connection to transit and where they may shop, work, recreate or go to school.
  • Sidewalks provide a place for people to be out in their community and for the opportunity to meet and get to know their neighbors which fosters a sense of community and inclusion.
  • Communities with a lively pedestrian environment more easily attract and retain businesses stimulating economic vitality.

Safety

  • Younger and older households need safe, accessible walk routes to get to neighborhood destinations, sidewalks serve the most vulnerable members of the community to stay active and engaged in the community life.
  • A wide shoulder offers very little protection and is not properly delineated for other roadway users. Sidewalks provide a dedicated space for pedestrians. A bike lane, curb, gutter, and landscaping strip provides an even greater buffer from vehicle traffic. 
  • Sidewalks support traffic calming through visual cues from amenities such as benches, streets lamps and crosswalks triggering traffic to slow down and be more cautious making the street safer not only for pedestrians but also for drivers.

school children walking along side of road next to traffic

Healthy Community

  • Sidewalks allow for transportation choices and reduce reliance on motor vehicles which helps reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Recreational walking is one of the easiest ways for people to get out and exercise. Walking contributes to both physical and mental wellbeing. 
  • Sidewalks allow youth to travel more safely within their community and develop healthy habits at an early age that will be retained throughout their lifetime.
  • Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office reports the #1 outdoor activity in our state is walking and as the population ages, the growing number of walkers will increase. 

Capitol blvd bus

Transit

  • All transit trips stop and start with a walking or biking trip. Sidewalks on both sides of the street are preferred for major transit routes, as are safe crossings near transit stops. 
  • Sidewalks provide safe landings for transit, including paratransit.
  • Sidewalks also provide safe landing for transit, including paratransit. If sidewalks are not available, stops must be upgraded to provide safe landings. As Intercity Transit has moved to a fare-free model, sidewalks provide safe and stable entry points for both the front and back doors of the buses.

Trails

  • The extensive trail system throughout both urban and rural Thurston County complements and supplements the sidewalk system. 
  • When trails are adjacent to the roadway, they can function as a sidewalk. 
  • In most cases they are an alternative to a sidewalk. Therefore, in conjunction with sidewalks, trails increase the overall walkability of communities.