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Sidewalks: Safety with a Hefty Price Tag

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RALEIGH — Drive through most neighborhoods and you'll find people walking and kids playing in the roadway. In a lot of cases, those same neighborhoods don't have sidewalks.

There's also a lack of sidewalks next to public roads. The reason: they cost a lot.

We use sidewalks just about every day.

Without them, there's an increased safety risk.

North Carolina was recently ranked the seventh most dangerous state for child pedestrians. A lack of sidewalks plays a role.

"With suburbia the norm became the private car, walking is no longer an activity," said Dr. Fatih Rifki, an urban planner at NCSU.

In our urban areas you can find lots of sidewalks.

But there are a number of neighborhoods, even relatively new ones, that don't have sidewalks, and there are other neighborhoods that only have sidewalks on one side of the street.

Part of the reason: builders don't want to foot the extra cost, which can be $1000 per home.

"It is an expensive item, and we are looking at cost all the time," said Jim Wahlbrink of the Raleigh-Wake Homebuilders Association.

Some homeowners have even considered starting a petition drive to get more sidewalks.

"Lots of people walk in this area and they're constantly having to walk in the street, and children going from the bus to their homes have to walk in the street," said Cary resident Cherie Ellmers.

But the sidewalk situation will probably get better over time. Communities like Raleigh and Cary now require sidewalks in new subdivisions.

"Most subdivisions did not have sidewalks prior to 1993, when we changed our standards," said Tim Bailey, Cary's engineering director.

And Cary may soon have even more sidewalks. A bond referendum next year includes over $1 million for them.

The sidewalk requirements in Raleigh and Cary usually don't require them on both sides of the street. And builders rarely have to put them in cul-de-sacs.