Poor sidewalk drainage creates problems for pedestrians

As Minnesota transitions from winter to spring accumulated snow melts. For Minneapolis residents and visitors using our sidewalks, which have no drainage system, this can create a bad experience.

Photo via Fairfax Alliance for Better Bicycling

It is a common experience to walk down the sidewalk and come to a mini lake blocking your path. Often there is no way to walk on the sidewalk without soaking your feet. The other options are to walk or roll in the street or on the soggy grass. The lack of proper sidewalk drainage impacts the mobility of those who use them.

Whether on your way to work, headed to the bus stop, or out for a jog these sidewalk drainage issues have an impact on the community as a whole.

For those who use mobility devices such as wheelchairs, pools of water present an even more difficult boundary. Often those in wheelchairs end up using the street to get around during periods of time where pools of water cover sidewalks. This defeats the purpose of the sidewalk altogether and presents a serious safety problem.

The drainage design of roads and sidewalks are crucial to their success. The goal of good design is to avoid having water develop into pools. Most cities in the U.S. design roadways to drain water so roads remain functional during rain storms and snow melt. Yet the same design consideration is not given to most sidewalks in the U.S, despite the issues that pooling water causes.

Sidewalks exist to provide an ease of mobility for all that use them. Sidewalk mobility is not achieved when sidewalks do not drain properly.

Eliminating puddles on your own sidewalk can be possible with some work. City-wide, the problem is much more complicated and is a problem of infrastructure. The City of Philadelphia uses Green Stormwater Infrastructure to manage runoff water. This system is cost-efficient and environmentally friendly. Systems such as Green Stormwater Infrastructure reduce the amount of pollutants that enter water sources by planting trees and vegetation near the entrance of water sources, pollutants are naturally filtered out.

Rain water (and other water runoff) soaks into the porous stone bed where it is absorbed by plant roots. Graphic via Philadelphia Water Department.

To serve the mobility of all, we must design our sidewalks and walking paths with proper drainage so they are usable at all times.

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