Nobody Knows the Sidewalks I’ve Seen

Duluth Sidewalk Inventory

You might have seen a wiry, long-haired fellow wandering the streets of Duluth staring intently down at his phone over the last few weeks. That guy is me, the MIC’s intern for this summer. And that phone is actually a GPS device called a Trimble Juno. I’m using it to record the condition of every section of sidewalk in the city. With my trusty GPS in hand (which I call Lil’ Julie) I walk slowly through the streets recording three different bits of information for the Duluth Sidewalk Inventory.

Condition Rating

The first is the sidewalk condition rating. The options are Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor. “Excellent” is basically for brand new sidewalks, immaculate and brilliant white. “Good” means that they don’t have any cracks and haven’t sunken or heaved. “Fair” means that there are cracks and vegetation growing up through those cracks. They generally have some sunken or tilted sections that leave small raised edges. “Poor” sidewalks are pretty rough. These have major surface defects—broken pavement, big holes and the like.

Curb Ramps

The second criterion is the condition of the curb ramps. A curb ramp is that sloped portion of sidewalk on each corner. It allows disabled persons to transition from the street level to the sidewalk level and vice versa. These are rated along the same scale as the sidewalks. Some sidewalks don’t have curb ramps at all. In situations like that the sidewalks are almost entirely inaccessible to disabled persons.


The third thing that I do is note any obstructions in the sidewalk. These generally consist of raised edges greater than ¾” and overgrown vegetation; though sometimes I do spot obstructions like raised utility access panels or signs in the sidewalk.

Targeting Scarce Resources

It’s not an easy job (did you know there are over 400 miles of sidewalks in Duluth?), but it really is important information to collect. With this data the city can target its resources to the spots that are in greatest need of repair. Lots of people, young and old, able-bodied and disabled persons alike, depend on these sidewalks for their own personal mobility and freedom. It’s good to know that the MIC’s sidewalk inventory works toward improving that.

Do You Have Your Own Examples?

Follow my progress on the MIC’s Facebook page. I’ll be posting updates on my progress all summer and adding pictures in the Unhappy Sidewalks of Duluth photo album. Do you have some real gems in your neighborhood? Some epic branches blocking your morning run? We’re also looking to identify sidewalk segments—in any condition, good or bad—that are important because they’re so heavily used.

Take a picture and post it to our wall or email it to me.

We are committed to seeking out and incorporating stakeholder input as a key part of our planning work. That’s where this blog comes in. We hope you will learn a bit more about what we’re recommending for transportation improvements in this area, and why.

Please chime in with your comments and questions.