Where the Sidewalk Ends

The City Commission has been asked to consider whether or not we should complete the sidewalk running from Westwood to Poliska Lane. Right now, we essentially have a “sidewalk to nowhere.” A sidewalk runs from Westwood half way to Poliska Lane and then ends abruptly along the side of Fort Riley Boulevard. The gap of 200 yards is filled by a dirt path created from the tires and soles of intrepid cyclists and pedestrians.

Despite the dangers involved with navigating a bumpy path next to heavy high-speed traffic, the path is heavily used. A cliff running alongside Wildcat Creek divides the city, making this the only direct route connecting these two parts of town.

All we need is 200 yards of trail to connect these two very important and heavily populated sections of our city.

This unfinished trail and the resulting lack of direct connection between West Manhattan and Downtown is arguably the most significant gap in our transportation network for pedestrians and bicyclists. Since the only alternatives take cyclists 14-20 minutes out of their way, many decide to ride the rough trail despite the dangers. But even more people simply decide that there is no viable route across this gap by bicycle or foot, and so they drive their car instead.

This is not a special interest issue. 7 out of 10 Americans want to bicycle more than they do now, but they feel that they do not have safe places to ride, or that it is too difficult to get to the places they want to go. 74% of Americans favor using part of the transportation budget to create more sidewalks, even when it means less money for new highways (STPP). Finishing this sidewalk connects thousands of residents in the Stagg Hill, Amherst, Miller Ranch, and Redbud Estates areas to campus and downtown destinations, while also connecting thousands of downtown residents with shopping and entertainment in West Manhattan.

We all deserve a community that gives us a real choice in how we travel throughout the entire city. Bridging this gap is one of the most important steps we can take toward that goal.

Michael Wesch

Chair of the City of Manhattan Bicycle Advisory Committee, avid bicycle commuter, and a cultural anthropologist.

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2 Responses

  1. Janel says:

    Does this mean widening the “sidewalk” on the overpass directly connected to the 200 yard path? The route across the bridge/overpass is very narrow. It seems you would have to address both problems in order to make that section bike-friendly.

    • Michael Wesch says:

      I wish it did mean widening the bridge, but that is not on the schedule until 2016. Instead, this will just get cyclists and pedestrians to Poliska where they will be strongly encouraged to take Poliska to Linear Trail. They can then head south or north from Linear. In a way, Linear is acting like the “Bicycle Freeway” and the only viable exit in this area (for now) is Poliska. That bridge is up for reconstruction in 2016, at which point it will be made more bicycle friendly.

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