Bend city councilors voted unanimously Wednesday to exempt property owners in Woodriver Village from the current requirement to build sidewalks when buildings are expanded or new homes built. Instead, they’ll pay a fee that will be used for sidewalk improvements on specific streets in the neighborhood.
More important, a majority of the council directed the city to look at the possibility of adopting the Woodriver Village model citywide. There are solid arguments for moving in that direction.
A fresh, citywide look at sidewalks would provide the perfect time to consider modifying the city’s one-size-fits-all sidewalks policies, allowing standards to be rewritten to give neighborhoods flexibility in what sort of walkways must be built.
It may be that in some neighborhoods standard concrete sidewalks are just the ticket. It may also be, however, that some neighborhoods would be equally well served by asphalt paths. Asphalt is a far cheaper product to install, and while it requires some maintenance, it’s less expensive to repair than concrete is. Asphalt paths can meet the Americans with Disabilities Act standards, as well.
Perhaps most important, a plan that ranked the need for sidewalks across Bend would allow the city to concentrate on completing the most critical ones first and leave quieter areas for a later time. Just as it does with streets, the city’s sidewalk plan could make providing connectivity along busy streets to shopping, parks and the like a priority and concentrate its efforts there.
Sidewalks, or paths, are amenities most people want, but Bend’s sidewalks to nowhere are largely useless. A coherent plan that allows the city to put resources where they’re needed most and giving neighborhoods more flexibility where sidewalks are concerned would serve the city and its residents well.