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Pepper Pike to add sidewalks to improve safe walkability on 3 major roadways

Working smoothing freshly laid cement for a sidewalk.
Recreational trails, also known as sidewalks, will be coming to Lander and South Woodland roads and Shaker Boulevard in Pepper Pike after receiving nearly 65% of voter support on Election Day.

Pepper Pike is moving forward with plans to add recreational trails, also known as sidewalks, to the rights-of-way on South Woodland Road, Lander Road and Shaker Boulevard to improve walkability in the city.

Resident William Thompson lives on Lander Road and said he and his wife were largely motivated to support the sidewalk project by the lack of safety when walking outdoors.

“We just will not walk up and down Lander Road because the two choices are walking the street... and to have cars... going 35, 45 miles an hour past,” he said. “Or walk in the grass, and it's very, very, very easy [to] step in a hole or twist your ankle.”

Though most roadways in Pepper Pike are quiet with fewer vehicles coming and going, the high traffic volume along Lander and South Woodland roads and Shaker Boulevard makes walking in the street an unsafe option for most residents, Mayor Richard Bain said.

“There's upwards of 13,000-plus cars that go up and down Lander Road every day,” he said. “It's simply not a safe walking environment. So these sidewalks are going to provide that sort of access for people to get along these major thoroughfares safely.”

The sidewalk project is part of a larger walkability project that will connect to a recreational trail at Gates Mills Boulevard. The project received majority support from nearly 65% of Pepper Pike voters in the November election.

The city conducted three previous surveys ahead of Election Day to guage public opinion on the sidewalk issue. Resident Michelle Halloran, who advocated for sidewalks in the city for the last 10 years, said the outcome of the election aligned with the outcome of the surveys.

“Statistically speaking, we pretty much expected to track in this way,” she said. “When you look at the split of the percentages, I think you're looking at like 64.4 [percent] versus 35-and-some-change percentage of for versus against. That tracked with the last survey, so it statistically was spot on.”

Sidewalk projects like Pepper Pike’s make the outdoors and other amenities more accessible to children, people with disabilities, the elderly and those without access to personal vehicles, said Executive Director of America Walks Mike McGinn.

“Those of us that can drive and have a vehicle take for granted all of the access we have, not just [to] retail and restaurants and the like, but to jobs,” McGinn said. “Creating that type of community where people can have access ... it's good for them, but it's good for everybody.”

Walkable communities also come with a variety of health benefits, McGinn said, like reduced risk of stress, diabetes and heart disease.

“Oftentimes we say to people, 'Well you should walk more. It's good for your health,' and people have to try to figure out how to fit that into their day,” McGinn said. “But if you actually have a place that's well-designed for walking and you naturally walk to get to the store or ... to the bus stop because you have the transit service, you'll just get more walking in your day, and that's what that's what these studies show.”

Some who opposed the bill expressed concerns over concrete sidewalks making the city of Pepper Pike less “semi-rural,” but Bain said he disagrees.

“I don't agree with that,” he said. “I think they will simply improve the walkability and improve the sense of community and the ability of residents to connect by walking instead of getting in an automobile to visit their friends or get up to the stores.”

The city will undergo additional surveying to determine which side of the street the sidewalks will be on. Residents will not be responsible for the maintenance of the sidewalks, regardless of the side of the street they are placed on, Bain said.

Zaria Johnson is a reporter/producer at Ideastream Public Media covering the environment.