Monday, August 29, 2011

Where the Sidewalks End

 Post, photos, and image by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

When my family went to Finland a few summers ago, one cultural difference they picked up quickly was what was considered "a short walk."  Essentially anything under two miles was a "short" walk, and about 1.5 - 2 miles was no reason to get into the car and drive.  The walking route above is a 2.25-mile round trip, meaning that much of downtown Minneapolis is only "a short walk" from many parts of NoMi.

The problem, though, is that along significant stretches of Washington Ave. N and 2nd St N., saying the sidewalks are in a state of disrepair would be a charitable statement--assuming the sidewalks exist at all.  To make matters worse, it's actually easier to navigate your way to the Mississippi River by bike than it is on foot.  The bike lanes, while lacking a direct route, are at least clearly defined.  Pedestrians have to guess where sidewalks start and stop, or contend with heavy industrial traffic if they are to reach the Mississippi River on foot.

The photo above is at the corner of...

...Washington Ave N and 26th Ave. N.  On the west side of Washington, the sidewalk stops.  Well, let's just cross the street and walk over to 2nd Street then.

That's where we find out that there is no sidewalk on the south side of 26th between Washington and 2nd.  We could just cross back to the north side of the street, but let's continue south, shall we?

This is where we first come across the Hawthorne sidewalk obstacle course.  Two people walking side-by-side, or one person in a wheelchair, would have difficulty navigating certain stretches.  Under ideal circumstances, there isn't enough room.  In the winter with snowbanks narrowing the sidewalk, forget about it.

At the Holiday Station on 24th and Washington, there are no walkways on either side of the street.

Same goes for the stretch in front of Bauer Brothers.  No sidewalks on either side of the street for at least part of 2nd St N between 24th and 26th.

More obstacle courses.

Once again, the sidewalk disappears.  Only this time you can see there WAS cement underneath, but it's overgrown with grass.

And covered with a wall of vegetation.

Without 26th connecting directly to the river, 22nd Ave N becomes the main thoroughfare.  And one of the two sidewalks dead-ends on the north side of the street between 2nd and the West River Parkway.

We turned back at Club Jager, the northern outpost of downtown establishments.

The west side of Washington Avenue continues to offer obstacle courses.  By far, the worst offender in this category has to be the northeast corner of Washington and 22nd.

Fun fact:  this is the only semafore in the city where the pedestrian "walk" signal flashes ironically.

If you want a place to re-enact horrible slapstick comedy movies, here's the spot.  If you have the audacity to want to walk on a sidewalk, you're out of luck.

We end our walking tour at the bus stop across the street from the Holiday Station, where once again the sidewalk ends.

Yes, we'll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
and we'll go where the bike/walk arrows go,
for city planners, they mark, and the Hawkman he knows
The place where the sidewalk ends.
As connections to the Mississippi River are strengthened, let's make sure that people can easily navigate their way to the river on foot.  Maybe a land bridge will help with that too.


  1. The Shel Silverstein poem that inspired the title:

    There is a place where the sidewalk ends
    and before the street begins
    and there the grass grows soft and white
    and there the sun burns crimson bright
    and there the moon-bird rests from his flight
    to cool in the peppermint wind.

    Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
    and the dark street winds and bends.
    Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
    we shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow
    and watch where the chalk-white arrows go
    to the place where the sidewalk ends.

    Yes we'll walk with a walk that is measured and slow
    and we'll go where the chalk-white arrows go
    for the children they mark, and the children, they know
    the place where the sidewalk ends.


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