TAMPA, Fla. — In the city of Tampa, it’s pretty common to see a sidewalk randomly end and force people to walk in the street. But installing them on both sides of every street within the city, “would take at current funding levels hundreds of years,” said Vik Bhide, the Director of the Mobility Department within the City of Tampa.
You read that right, far beyond our lifetime, our kids and even potentially their grandkids.
“Sidewalks are kind of a safety necessity, it seems like it should be self-explanatory, unfortunately, it’s not,” said Emily Hinsdale with Walk Bike Tampa.
She said there’s a few reasons why the city has fallen so far behind — funding and loopholes within the city ordinance.
“The current code says that when a new home, a new residence is constructed the builder is required to install a sidewalk outside of that residence,” Hinsdale said. “There are, however, many exemptions to that.”
If builders choose not to install a sidewalk, they’re supposed to pay into a fund that goes to repairing existing sidewalks and building new ones but, you guessed it, there are loopholes there too.
In 2020, Walk Bike Tampa said more than 2,000 new houses were permitted all across the city of Tampa. They took a random sampling of new properties, 93 homes, and found 41% did not build a sidewalk or pay into the fund. They said if that trend held true for all houses built last year, it’d equal between seven to eight miles of new sidewalk and around $1 million not paid into the fund.
“We’ve adopted vision zero, and we’re committed to seeing full elimination of major injuries and fatalities on our roadways,” said Bhide.
It’s why his department has worked closely with Walk Bike Tampa on solutions, which are internal too.
“As a city, we have to track this better, we have to quantify our challenges very clearly and formulate policy that addresses and moves that forward,” he said.
Hinsdale said they aren’t advocating for cutting down giant oak trees and understand certain areas are just not capable of having sidewalks installed but said the city should be investing in places that are.
Thursday, the Tampa City Council will hear recommendations from Walk Bike Tampa, and the mobility department which includes closing some of those loopholes.