Imagine driving down a residential street and having to dodge around multiple dumpsters blocking the lane. Would this annoy you? Would you consider it a safety hazard? Would you call the city to report this as a problem?
People using sidewalks in our community face a similar problem every week. Many residents place their trash, recycling, and landscape waste bins on the sidewalk for pickup, thus partially or completely obstructing the sidewalk. City codes in both Scottsbluff and Gering state that obstruction of a public sidewalk is unlawful, yet city crews aid and abet this behavior by picking up these illegally placed receptacles.
When homeowners and city officials do not take seriously the importance of unimpeded sidewalks in our community, the overall usefulness and safety of our sidewalks declines. When sidewalks are not safe places to walk, people will be less likely to walk – which can have wide-ranging negative effects on our community, from reduced physical health to the potential for increased crime with fewer “eyes on the street.”
Sidewalks are a critical part of transportation infrastructure. People use sidewalks not only for recreation or exercise, but to get places they need to go, like work or school. Blocked sidewalks have a greater negative effect on people using wheelchairs or pushing strollers.
I’ve heard the argument that waste bins need to be on the sidewalk to keep them safe, because if the bins were in the street, they would get run over by cars. Should a person take the risk of getting run over instead? I don’t believe anyone in our community would be that callous. I think that sometimes, people don’t think about the full picture.
We are a community of people who support and watch out for each other, and we can all take steps to keep our sidewalks safe. Homeowners can place their waste bins in the street rather than the sidewalk. Reflective stickers placed on the bins could help drivers see them better. City departments can send out public service messages about the importance of clear sidewalks and can consider policies to decline pickup of illegally placed receptacles.
As we approach the time of year when students begin using sidewalks to walk to school, let’s do our best to take simple steps to make sure our sidewalks remain clear and safe.
Bike Walk Nebraska Board President
Member, Tri-City Active Living Advisory Committee
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