New Poll Finds Strong Support for Investments in Safe, Walkable Sidewalks

This is a guest blogpost written by Jonathan Klingler, the principal analyst of Praecones Analytica and an assistant professor of political science at the University of Mississippi.

Overwhelming majorities of Americans value safe sidewalks in their neighborhoods and believe taxpayer funding should be spent on sidewalks according to a recent poll.

These findings are more evidence of a growing national desire for sidewalks that provide pedestrians the opportunity to safely reach friends, families, jobs, schools, and local destinations on foot.  

According to the survey conducted by Praecones Analytica, over 91% of American adults feel that it is important that their community has safe, walkable sidewalks. These views are held by a wide-range of individuals regardless of their age, geographic region, and home, residence, or community type.

Safe Walking is a Political and Environmental Priority 

Unsurprisingly, sidewalk improvements and investments are also a political priority for the vast majority of Americans. Nearly 85% of adults acknowledged that it is important that local officials use tax dollars to support sidewalks, and more than 70% of adults said they are more likely to support a candidate in local elections who is committed to fixing sidewalks and making them safer.

Sidewalks and the walkable connections they create are known to provide numerous benefits for local communities and their residents. They are the preferred accommodations for pedestrians and help to increase safety, ensure mobility, and enable an overall healthier mode of travel.  

According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), providing sidewalks has been shown to increase the number of trips made by walking, which helps reduce trips made by motor vehicles, improve traffic flow, and minimize congestion and harmful environmental emissions. 

Walkability and Mobility Fairness is Livability 

The poll also highlights how access to safe sidewalks has become a factor for adults when deciding where to live. Approximately 86% of adults feel that it is important to find a safe, walkable community when selecting a new home, apartment, or rental property. Strong majorities of adults earning over $100,000 also reported that it’s very important to find a walkable community when searching for a new home, which indicates that this aspect is a key concern for high-income adults interested in the housing market.

These unmistakable views can be partly attributed to the fact that an absence of safe sidewalks poses challenges and create great risks for all users. Roads without sidewalks are more than two times as likely to have a motor vehicle crash involving a pedestrian as locations with sidewalks on both sides of the street according to the FHWA.

Additionally, sidewalks with defects can be dangerous, especially for those with disabilities or trouble walking. Bumps, heaved slabs, spalled or cracked concrete, and tree root damage can all create difficult walking conditions and potentially lead to trips by pedestrians. 

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) demands that trip hazards be removed in order to prevent falls and provide access for all pedestrians and sidewalk users. Therefore, these types of sidewalk deficiencies represent a legal liability for property owners and local municipalities.

The poll found that strong majorities of Americans recognize the need to ensure equal walking opportunities for all individuals regardless of their ability or age, and reduce risks of ADA lawsuits for their local city or town. 

An impressive 87% of Americans understand that it is important that their local government works to achieve compliance with the ADA, and over 86% feel that local businesses should also make efforts to meet ADA standards. Another 87% of adults stated that it is important that sidewalks are easily navigable by people who have disabilities. It’s notable that these views are held by people regardless of whether or not they or a family member are disabled.

Safety is Imperative for Our Youth

Americans also believe that walkable sidewalks are important for schools and the children who use them to travel to and from their homes every day. An astounding 93% of adults feel that it is important for local schools to maintain safe sidewalks and prevent injuries by school children.

 These results clearly demonstrate a national demand to increase connectivity within local neighborhoods through safe, walkable sidewalks. It is imperative that we continue our efforts to ensure better accommodations for pedestrians and continue advocating for change.