By Dom Nozzi
I am convinced that it is, indeed, quite possible to build sidewalks that are too wide.
If a street is not dense or active enough to experience more than a tiny trickle of pedestrian volumes, a relatively wide sidewalk can create a perception that the street-life is dead, even if it is not entirely dead. A narrower sidewalk can, in such a circumstance, make the street seem more alive, even if the pedestrian volume remains the same. In addition, a relatively wide sidewalk can create an ambience that is not human-scaled and the feeling of being over-exposed—particularly if there are few or no pedestrians using it.
In my experience, pedestrians often enjoy the sociability of walking a moderately crowded sidewalk (often produced by a relatively narrow sidewalk), in stark contrast to our preference when driving a car on a crowded road. I would add that some of the best walking experiences I’ve had have been on Charleston and Nantucket sidewalks, which tend to be quite narrow.
Visit my urban design website read more about what I have to say on those topics. You can also schedule me to give a speech in your community about transportation and congestion, land use development and sprawl, and improving quality of life.
Or email me at: dom[AT]walkablestreets.com
My book, The Car is the Enemy of the City (WalkableStreets, 2010), can be purchased here: http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/the-car-is-the-enemy-of-the-city/10905607
My book, Road to Ruin, can be purchased here:
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