When residents walk down 11th Avenue, South of the University of Northern Colorado, they’re rubbing shoulders with traffic going anywhere from 30 to 40 miles an hour. On the skinny sidewalk that pedestrians straddle, their paths are blocked, sometimes by trash cans or lamp posts. This means pedestrians either must walk in the road or in somebody’s yard to continue their path. For people using any form of mobility aid, like wheelchairs or crutches, this trek is even more unimaginable.
This is a stark difference from the sprawling walkways across UNC’s campus.
Most students at UNC say that they walk to their classes regularly.
“Greeley is lacking accessibility that college towns should have,” said Quinn Hodge, a junior at UNC.
Hodge says that she enjoys walking around the UNC campus, as do many other students. UNC is recognized as a Tree Campus USA for its commitment to tree preservation. Students and community members can even take a “tree tour.” On this tree tour, people walk along UNC paths, learn about and enjoy the trees that UNC has to offer. In the fall, people are treated to the colorful displays of autumn. During the summer, the leafy green trees act as umbrellas as they offer shade. A majority of students prefer walking to and from class, but students like Hodge say that they don’t walk around Greeley. Her reasoning? The fact that it’s easier to navigate Greeley in car than by foot.
In a country where 90% of households in 2017 own a car, pedestrians are often thrown to the wayside.
Sidewalks and other walkways make navigating Greeley as a pedestrian taxing. Eroding sidewalks to their proximity to traffic are just some of the challenges to being a pedestrian. These challenges make being a pedestrian in some areas difficult and even dangerous at times.
UNC journalism student Drew Peters says that while he feels safe walking or running recreationally on campus, he feels less safe off campus.
“The sidewalk conditions in Greeley make it hard to walk and run, and the city doesn’t do the best job clearing snow off the sidewalks either,” Peters said.
Public walkways often don’t get the funding they need to keep up with infrastructure costs.
Infrastructure across the United States is deteriorating. The American Society of Civil Engineers releases a report card for America’s infrastructure every four years, and the most recent report in 2021 gave the U.S a C-. The report estimated that a water main breaks every two minutes and that 43% of roads are in poor or mediocre condition.
Colorado’s grade also sits at a C-.
Americans know infrastructure needs repair. Infrastructure in America is taking center stage in the political arena. Greeley residents recently renewed the Keep Greeley Moving Tax meant to fund infrastructure projects like sidewalks and roads. Infrastructure is hard to ignore when it’s such an important part of our lives. Roads, sidewalks, and more are all in need of repairs.
In response to this need, President Joe Biden signed in a more than $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill back in 2021. The money from this bill is going to transportation, broadband, roads, bridges and public transit systems. This money will be available in the form of grants that the US Department of Transportation will award. Bigger projects that require more planning by the federal government will see development in the coming years, but, for states with plans in place, they can see this money soon.
The recent bridge collapse in Frick Park, Pennsylvania is just one example of the failing infrastructure in America.
But building sidewalks carelessly is not the answer. Something called pedestrian dignity needs to be implemented when creating these walkways.
Denver resident Johnathan Stalls is an advocate for pedestrian dignity and does some of his advocacy on TikTok.
Stalls says that his passion for walking and pedestrians began in 2012 after walking from Delaware to California. He set out to prove the benefits of walking and slowing life down to three miles an hour. He has said that walking is not only good for physical health, but that walking also builds community. He also helps run an organization that’s mission is to unite communities by organizing walks and creating connections.
In his walk across America, he realized that one of the biggest challenges to pedestrians is lack of quality walkways.
This affects Greeley residents as well.
Older Greeley neighborhoods sometimes don’t have sidewalks because they were built before legislation required them.
Greeley also has deteriorating sidewalks in many neighborhoods. For some of these sidewalks, the responsibility falls on the homeowner to repair them. Projects like the Keep Greeley Moving infrastructure tax are sometimes used to offset the costs of projects like these and instead move the responsibility over to the city to repair.
Allison Baxter, Greeley’s transportation planner, says there is lots of work to be done in regard to walkways in Greeley.
“We are trying to create a more pedestrian-safe environment. We’re looking at installing barriers to help slow traffic down. We’re planning on trimming down the four lanes down to two lanes to make for wider sidewalks and more outdoor dining space,” Baxter said.
Baxter also disclosed that Greeley recently received a grant that’s going towards developing the downtown area. Baxter said that there are plans in place to slow down traffic in downtown areas and install more walkways. These walkways would also create more space for outdoor dining.
Colorado towns like Fort Collins already enjoy many miles of quality sidewalks and walkways. Baxter also warns residents that this is because Fort Collins taxes its residents at a much higher rate than Greeley does.
Upgrading infrastructure is costly and time-consuming. In the meantime, pedestrians and drivers should work together to share the roads. Pedestrians should wear reflective clothing at night and use crosswalks when available. Drivers should pay attention to signs and crosswalks signaling pedestrian crossings, especially at night when visibility is hindered.