Sidewalks get no love in Mankato

The City Council in Mankato, Minn., has shot down a plan to construct sidewalks for kids walking to an elementary school. The vote wasn’t close, the Mankato Free Press reports.

Only one of seven council members voted for the sidewalks around Washington Elementary School and near the Mankato hospital.

Sidewalks hearken back to a day in America where people walked to places, maybe even stopped to talk to neighbors. But that romanticized view has no place in America, judging from the reaction of people at a meeting Monday night.

Homeowners in Mankato appear to hate sidewalks.

“My initial thought when we got the announcement was ‘Why on earth do we need sidewalks?'” said Ray Hager, who lives on the corner of Glencrest Drive and Division Street, describing his neighborhood as being dominated by retirees. “… Just on the surface, it didn’t seem a good use of public funds.”

Six of the seven council members offered similar sentiments on immediate construction of the sidewalks, which would have cost $220,000 with nearly $152,000 coming from the federal funds.

Council member Trudy Kunkel said she examined statistics on pedestrian and bicycle accidents in the neighborhood and found only one in a decade-long period that may have involved a young person traveling to or from school.

“The data does not support the project as far as ‘safe routes to school’ …,” Kunkel said.

Mayor Eric Anderson praised the city’s engineering staff for seeking out locations where sidewa

One council member says the decision wasn’t against sidewalks per se, and that the city will install sidewalks whenever roads are reconstructed. But she said the Safe Routes program “consumes too much time, energy and emotion of city staff, council members and neighborhood residents,” according to the Free Press.

  • KariBemidji

    Sidewalks are the best use of public funds! I lived in the Midway of St. Paul until I was 9. We knew every single person that lived on our block because we went for evening walks after supper. When we moved to Alexandria, we lived on a busy street without sidewalks and knew none of our neighbors. Without a safe place to walk, people stay inside and don’t get a chance to meet and to get to know the Republican next door (who posts questionable political opinions on Facebook but has a lovely garden).

    • I always wonder how communities would be different if central air conditioning and backyard decks hadn’t become a thing. How life would be more connected if we built sidewalks and put porches on houses again.

      • Jeff C.

        Chris Coleman, the mayor of St. Paul, has a patio in front of his house. I love it that he hangs out there, not on a backyard deck.

        • seedhub

          Zoning requirements in some cities won’t even allow a patio in front of your house.

      • Kassie

        With no air conditioning, we spend a lot of time in our front porch in the summer. Being on a busy street, we are the only neighbors who do, so we don’t really get to meet them. We’ve talked about lowering our fence when we replace it in hopes of getting to know people better.

      • seedhub

        Also: make lots smaller and streets narrower, and build alleys in new neighborhoods.

  • Joe Klein

    ‘the Safe Routes program “consumes too much time, energy and emotion…’

    I guess the safety of children isn’t worth these politicans’ time. Disappointing.

  • Rob

    Wow. We’ve surely arrived at the End Times, if sidewalks are no longer considered an essential community and safety asset. I would never live in a neighborhood that didn’t have ’em.

  • Will

    This is dumb…this appears to be super cheap too… Bloomington is installing curbs and charging residents around $5,000/home and they say that’s only part of the cost. Seems like an easy choice and they got it wrong, sidewalks are very useful and I say that as a person who walks about 5 miles a day.

  • Erick

    Which came first – the sidewalk or the pedestrian?

  • Ray Hager

    The article misquoted my statement at the council meeting last night. Not only out
    of context but inaccurate, making it sound like I question the need for sidewalks (plural) anywhere at any time (implied). Instead, I specifically questioned the need for a sidewalk (singular) on the east side of Division street where my property is and pointed out that a better location would be on the west side of Division. No, I did not
    question the need for “sidewalks” in general and the distortion leads meto question the integrity of the writer, if not his competence…

    However well meaning, the sidewalk recommendation came from a group that is seemingly unaccountable to the taxpayers. Our elected officials acted appropriately in not giving “rubber stamp” of approval.

    When I search “Mankato Free Press” on the web, the emphasized result is: | Trusted. Local. Indispensable.

    As a current Free Press subscriber, who reads the Free Press daily, and who is now
    questioning whether he needs it, it is now clear to me that the word “trusted” is hardly earned by this kind of shoddy “reporting” by Mr. Fischenich… and “indispenable”…. maybe not… I’ll be checking out the internet local news sources.

    Ray Hager

  • Zachary

    It’s not clear in the MFP link – but was this a proposal to install new sidewalks, or to add sidewalks in addition to other street improvements?

  • Jeff C.

    The pro-sidewalk side should have presented it as a job-creator. Construction jobs would have been created when the sidewalks were installed. Sidewalk-shoveling jobs would have been created after they were installed. Sidewalks would Make Mankato Great Again.

    • Also a great way to keep kids off your lawn.

    • AmiSchwab

      the willmar sidewalks i used were still from the wpa.

  • Nato Coles

    My grandpa always said “the only people who should live in a place without sidewalks are farmers”. Then again, he poured concrete in the summer as a side job, so I suppose he had a particular interest in sidewalks…

  • Thomas Mercier

    According to the incident data, a very small number of pedestrians are ever injured on freeways. Therefore freeways are a safe place to walk.

  • seedhub

    It’s not just a safety issue. Walkable communities foster community, improve public health, increase property values, and decrease traffic and resulting air quality issues.

    And while I applaud Councilmember Kunkel’s use of statistics, she would do well to look at a larger data set than just that neighborhood over the past few years. According to the DOT, 8% of pedestrian deaths occur when pedestrians are forced to walk along the roadway — and sidewalks reduce those deaths by 88%.