Local pedestrians got two pieces of good news in the last week. First, the sidewalk on the south side of Paul Robeson Place has finally reopened following construction at ‘The Residences at Palmer Square‘ (see photo above). Second, Princeton Council passed an ordinance which provides for increased municipal support for maintaining our local network of sidewalks.
After several years of construction, the hoardings around the last section of The Residences at Palmer Square development have finally come down. A freshly repaved sidewalk is back open to local walkers (and some cyclists too while we were there). The sidewalk runs along a new Princeton address ‘Avery Lane’, which refers to the 3-story town homes at the corner of Paul Robeson close to the intersection with Witherspoon Street. Several new trees have been planted within the area of the sidewalk.
When we plant municipal trees in Princeton, they always go within the range of the sidewalk. This is too bad, because a lot of our sidewalks are already quite narrow, and where there are trees, it makes the path so narrow that two people will struggle to walk by side-by-side. (question: can you think of another place where the trees could be planted?)
One incredible thing about trees is their ability to break apart concrete as their roots grow. In a few years, this path will likely be broken up as these trees stake a claim for the surrounding land. This already happens all over Princeton, where the roots of shade trees break through the surface, making sidewalks dangerously uneven, and posing an extra challenge for people with strollers or wheelchairs. The good news is that this week, Princeton Council decided that municipal funds would cover future repair of sidewalks damaged by growing tree roots.
Previously, property owners in the former township were liable for repairs to sidewalks outside their home. This is bizarre, because sidewalks are almost the ultimate example of a public good that provide value for the whole town. It also makes it less likely that somebody will report a damaged sidewalk outside their house, if they are going to get handed a bill potentially for hundreds of dollars. To encourage active transportation, it is entirely appropriate that sidewalks are considered in the same category as the rest of the road. This decision is a step in the right direction for encouraging walking in Princeton. Mayor Lempert supported the measure and said:
“I believe that it’s important to have a commitment to safe sidewalks. We want to be a walkable community.”
Hooray for the Council for getting this one right! Good news for walkers, and everyone who uses our sidewalks!
What do you think of Princeton’s sidewalk network? Have you ever been affected by tree roots growing through the surface of local paths? Who do you think should pay for maintenance of sidewalks: the town, or the family who lives next to them? Have your say in the comments section below!