For Some, Sidewalks Are A Rallying Cry

Who would have ever thought sidewalks would be a divisive issue? Those of us who grew up with them (I used to think most people) know that they’re a thriving part of a community. They’re where we learn to ride bikes, where we spontaneously gather with our neighbors to talk about events, where we sell lemonade to earn summer cash. But neighborhoods that don’t originally have sidewalks built when the houses are express a surprising amount of resistance to the idea of adding them.

For instance, in the Des Moines, Iowa suburb of Windsor Heights, residents have joined forces to protest a initiative favored by the City Council to install sidewalks in their community. Calling the City Council a “haughty group of ne’er-do-wells”, they have vehemently opposed the measure, which they say comes from recent transplants of busier neighborhoods and not true residents of Windsor Heights. “Many of us older residents wish they’d go back where they came from,” says Chris Angier. Adding sidewalks would remove the rural feel and extra-long lawns that residents enjoy, but it would make the whole city more accessible for pedestrians. “People are afraid of change,” says City Councilwoman Threase Harms. “They are very passionate, but I think they’ve gone a little too far with their passion.

While this small town of 4,800 might not seem like an especially telling sample, residential areas all over the US are experiencing similar opposition to sidewalk additions. Most of the people protesting are older residents, while younger families with children tend to support sidewalks as an integral and safe aspect of a neighborhood for their children. However, don’t chalk this up to purely a get-off-my-lawn mentality; we’re sure that if the roles were reversed and neighborhoods wanted to tear up sidewalks, the protests would be just as harsh. Suburbs, it seems, just don’t like change.