Neighbors Appeal For Help To Fix Dangerous Sidewalks

Jul. 22, 2014Houston Public Media

There’s a lot to see on a walk through the historic Cherryhurst neighborhood in the Montrose. But sometimes it’s hard to enjoy it all because you have to keep your eyes peeled on the broken and cracked sidewalks. We’re carefully negotiating our way over a slippery sidewalk with resident Carol Rensink.

“Oops! Right there I tripped. So yes, I need to pay attention to my feet. Sorry.”

Along with the sunken spots that collect water, Rensink shows us how tree roots have created sharp peaks that make walking treacherous.

“There’s probably about a foot to a foot-and-a-half difference in elevation here, and instead of having a nice, smooth going-over kind of thing, you’ve got dominoes that are arranged over half the tree roots. There are some tree roots sticking up. It makes it really difficult.”

And the damage makes it so hard to maneuver that some neighbors don’t even bother. Ashley Streetman is with the Montrose Sidewalk Coalition. She says what worries her are people walking in the street.

“I see adults. I see children. I often see more people walking in the streets than on the sidewalks and people will tell you it’s because of the sidewalks.”

Streetman is one of those behind a petition drive calling on the city to put together a comprehensive sidewalks plan. She points to what’s going on in other places, where homeowners share the cost of sidewalk repair with local government.

Right now, Houston does offer funding for some sidewalk repair projects. But in many cases the homeowner is responsible for the sidewalk in front of their house.

Alvin Wright with the Public Works Department says when it comes to the city making repairs it’s simply an issue of money.

“When you look at sidewalks most folks want to have complete work done. They want it from corner to corner. Unfortunately the funding doesn’t allow us to do that.”

In most cases if a homeowner wants their sidewalk fixed, they have to pay for it themselves. If the city deems that a sidewalk is dangerous, it will take out the broken concrete. It will then add an aggregate, something you may see as a foundation for a new road.

Meanwhile back in Cherryhurst, Ashley Streetman says the status quo is not acceptable. She thinks the city should bear some of the cost of the repair and she’ll keep gathering signatures for their petition.

“One notable attribute of great cities is that they’re all walkable. People spend a lot of money to go to New York City and Paris and London and rave about their walkability. We believe that’s possible here in Montrose and eventually in Houston.”

And until that happens, people will continue to tread carefully as they make their way along Cherryhurst’s up-and down sidewalks.