How to get our city to fix the sidewalks

Sidewalk has been pushed up by tree roots

Sidewalk has been pushed up by tree roots

Visitor Question: One of the best virtues of my hometown is that it is very easy to walk to stores, restaurants, bars, and all kinds of services. It's just delightful how many places I can walk. But lately my enthusiasm is weakening because I see so many of our sidewalks not being maintained. The roots from the street trees push up some sections of the sidewalk, and then when they cut down the street trees because they planted the wrong kind, eventually the sidewalk nearby starts to subside, making another trip hazard. Some places the sidewalks are just plain old, and there are cracks and various degree of concrete failure.

A couple of us thought we finally convinced the city they had to get started on repairing the walks, but now I am so discouraged because the sections that had been marked for replacement in the early summer still aren't being demolished. Winter is about to set in here, and I'm afraid it will be yet another few seasons before we get them started on this again. Is this common behavior from city governments?

Editors Reply: Unfortunately it is very common for city governments to ignore sidewalk condition.

The first thing to ask yourself is whether the city is really responsible for the sidewalk. In some communities, the individual homeowner or an HOA is responsible for sidewalk repairs, both financially and logistically.

In a few situations, it might be a state highway department or a private developer who is responsible for sidewalk maintenance.

Fortunately, more enlightened cities usually recognize that a public sidewalk in a residential area is a public amenity and will consider that part of their infrastructure.

In your particular situation, it seems that the city has recognized its responsibility to provide for pedestrians and ultimately for their safety. Trip hazards are no laughing matter, and every year many municipalities are sued because of fall injuries on their sidewalks.

The delay that you are experiencing is unfortunately somewhat common. With winter fast approaching, you need to contact your public works department to "remind" them that your sidewalk markings have been there for months, as we can readily see by looking at how fuzzy the marks have become.

Ask them what went wrong with their contract and whether they are able to hold the contractor accountable for this delay. It's also possible that the city didn't push for a tight enough calendar in their contract, and contractors can and will take advantage of this situation by dealing with their contracts with the stiffest penalties for delay as their highest priority.

Even worse, perhaps your city did not include a timeline in their contract. This leaves the contractor the option of doing the project when they get around to it. The city may have obtained a better price by having a loose calendar for completion of the project, but in the meantime, you the resident are not getting the service you deserve.

Call public works and find out.

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