Someone should check on whether sales of sidewalk chalk go up in Edina this fall.
The city is installing new sidewalks on three streets in the Golf Terrace Heights neighborhood, south of the Edina Country Club. The newly sidewalked streets, which have dozens of children living along them, feed into perhaps the city’s busiest social area — one that includes two elementary schools, a middle school, an athletic field and a community center.
And in a surprising twist, the residents actually asked for the sidewalks.
That’s not always the case. I’ve covered bitter sidewalk disputes in other parts of Edina, as well as in St. Louis Park. Those suburbs began their lives as quiet retreats from urban life. Once on the edge of things, they’re now considered inner-ring suburbs.
But many residents, often older people who have lived there happily for decades, don’t want their neighborhoods to lose the qualities that drew them in the first place. Sometimes, that means no sidewalks.
“We have a beautiful, natural neighborhood, and now they want to citify it, make it like Minneapolis,” a 40-year Edina Highlands woman told me at a raucous public hearing.
Sidewalks will turn St. Louis Park into “an inner-city wasteland” with “hoodlums standing around on the corner to harass the young women,” fumed a 45-year resident of that city’s Aquila neighborhood.
Some west-metro neighborhoods have sprouted “Say no to sidewalks!” signs, as residents try to pressure city leaders who have adopted transportation policies that give less priority to cars.
The arguments typically made against sidewalks, in no particular order: They require shoveling; they impose on privacy; they bring in undesirables; they spoil neighborhood beauty, and they take away lawn square footage (although that’s actually a city-reserved right of way).
Others, however, make a concrete case for sidewalks.
According to AARP, 8 in 10 Americans prefer to live in a walkable community with sidewalks. The group’s collaboration with the Walkable and Livable Communities Institute also found that homes with sidewalks and trees on the street sell faster than those without and that they post sale prices from $4,000 to $34,000 more than identical properties lacking sidewalks and trees.
AARP believes that cities should treat sidewalks as a public benefit — building and maintaining them with city dollars, as they typically do with streets. (Richfield actually uses city crews to plow sidewalks.)
People who live in neighborhoods with sidewalks are nearly 50 percent more likely to be active at least 39 minutes a day, according to a study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
That can save us all a lot of money. According to Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases, a medical journal, the cost of American inactivity amounts to nearly $120 billion a year.
And you can’t put a price on the simple joy of seeing your neighborhood kids chalking out a hopscotch court on the sidewalk.