Citizen Sidewalk Brigades?

In Los Angeles city officials want to spend $10 million dollars to do a three year survey of sidewalks to determine which need repair. Citizen Peter Griswold wants to save that money by creating Volunteers for Sidewalk Brigades to complete the sidewalk survey.

As reported in a Los Angeles Timesarticle Griswold sates “There are so many community and social organizations” that could do the survey “for nearly no costs,”. According to Griswold a 70 year old retiree, anyone with a little training can be taught how to use a portable GPS to record the exact location of a sidewalk needing repair.

The Los Angeles Department of Public Works has not ruled out utilizing some form of citizen participation but they have concerns about the lack of expertise on the part of volunteers and the challenge of evaluating information submitted by volunteers.

Los Angeles has 10,750 miles of sidewalks, with 42 percent of them estimated to be in need of repair. The city receives about 2,500 trip and fall claims every year and wheelchair users have sued the city over the conditions of sidewalks.

I am not sure how well a citizen sidewalk survey would work but why not at least give it a try? What a great way to engage concerned citizens, block clubs and other community organizations.

Do you think citizen volunteers could accomplish the task of a sidewalk survey instead of utilizing paid consultants?


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Ami Wazlawik

I definitely think that a group of citizens can pull this off. The neighborhood association that I was involved with in Minneapolis trained volunteers and had them go out and identify ash trees and record their location in order to facilitate notification of neighbors for potential removal of the trees due to problems with emerald ash borer.

Andrew Krzmarzick

Love this idea! Run competitions and give awards for the neighborhood that does the most!

@Ami – Great example of the power of citizens to organize and leverage collective energy to max out results.

Peter Sperry

These types of relatively simple surveys could also be good “community service” projects for those whose wardrobe tends toward orange.

Joseph Porcelli

They could use SeeClickFix.com as a reporting too and to create actionable cases so they city could fix in near real time as reporting. Love the idea of a competition for neighborhoods – winner could get block party kits from the city!

Sid Burgess

It is a great idea! We are doing it in OKC on a small scale but working through ideas to grow it rapidly. You could also use the Walkability Audit template seen used by Walkable and Livable Communities Institute.

I love SeeClickFix but I have also long wished for an application that was better at capturing sidewalk data, beyond single points of entry. http://www.rhok.org/problems/missing-sidewalk-data

Somehow soon, I’d like to see a legitimate company/project focus solely on pedestrian and cycle facility data. This kind of “big data” is going to be very valuable as our cities become much more populated and sidewalks continue to fall into disrepair.

Kim Salkeld

This is a good and workable idea. In Hong Kong we are seeing lots of citizens making use of our call centre and mobile phone applications similar to ‘SeeClickFix’ to help improve standards of maintenance of the urban fabric. We’ve just launched a project for citizens to propose locations for accessibility improvements, supplementing those already identified by works agencies. There has been a very good response and this seems to be a good way to make sure that effort is being directed at the areas where there is most demand for repairs and improvements, as well as to give people opportunity to participate.

Elizabeth Fischer Laurie

McKinney, TX is trying to repair potholes through citizen-engagement. Citizens can report potholes here: http://it.seeclickfix.com/mckinney/categories/pothole, and the city goes out to the site to make an assessment and possible repair. I believe I heard on the local news that the program was relatively successful and the residents were happy they could communicate with the city so easily.

Sidewalks are probably more complex because of all the potential issues, but I would think something along these lines would be a relatively low-cost way to make some level of improvements.

Sid Burgess

Yes, McKinny is doing great with SeeClickFix. I remember helping them setup. ­čÖé

I think for now, SCF is a good solution, especially if the city is already using the platform. They should probably get in touch with SCF though and get some workflow stuff worked out. Their Pro accounts aren’t that expensive and compared to the numbers above, it could be a really affordable alternative. In fact, the nice thing about a platform like SCF is that city employees can use it too.