I haven’t seen this topic discussed here yet (apologies if I’ve missed it), and I’m curious how the Strong Towns community works with it.
Demand trails are where public lawns get worn down due to frequent pedestrian use. They’re so-called because there where the public “demands” a trail, in the supply-and-demand sense, but the city hasn’t supplied one.
There are a few chronic demand trails in my community. Here’s a photo of one I took recently:
Since you can’t see everything from just the photo, here’s context: I’m standing on a multi-use path. Behind me is a neighborhood. In front of me is a 2-lane road that’s widening into 4-lanes. On the other side of that are some storefronts. There are no crosswalks anywhere in sight.
This trail is heavily used. There are actually two other ones very close to it as well, used by the same population. Almost every single time I pass it (I’m a frequent user of the MUP) I see someone using this trail to cross the road.
I think the reason why this trail exists should be obvious. People live next to it, there are businesses on the other side of the road, and people want to get from point A to point B in the shortest possible route.
Some more context: This trail has been in use since before I moved to this city (about 5 years ago). It's obviously dangerous. It's poorly lit at night and the traffic on the road moves fast. Once the road is finished widening, it will be much more dangerous.
Here’s my question:
To me, this seems like a clear opportunity for a city to provide for a community (create safe crossing) yet it’s doing the opposite (widening the dangerous road). Are there any good ways to draw attention to this issue? Are there any success stories where cities have taken positive action in these scenarios?
I’m hesitant to formally speak up because I worry that doing so may have a negative effect: drawing attention to a low-income area may inspire public opinion against it, officials may try to “solve” the problem by banning pedestrians altogether, I may look like a busybody, etc.
However, I think everyone can agree that the safety and dignity of a community is worth speaking up about. Is there any good advice out there?