Sidewalks in residential areas may now be 5 feet wide. Avon City Council approved legislation Jan. 11 intended to improve interconnectivity for city neighborhoods and encourage more walking and biking.

The measure, which council passed 7-0, affects new developments and construction, not existing sidewalks, said Law Director John Gasior.

Gasior and Service Director Mike Farmer said that it is not the city's intention to redo, or have homeowners redo, existing 4-foot-wide sidewalks. The change was prompted after council adopted a Safe Routes to School program for the Avon Local School District, Farmer said. These programs, in other local communities including North Ridgeville and Sheffield-Sheffield Lake, encourage students in grades K-8 to walk or ride their bicycles to school and help make it safer for them to do so. In addition, communities must install 5-foot-wide sidewalks to qualify for grants associated with the program, Farmer said

Avon has used grants funds from the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency to develop plans to make the city more walkable and bikeable. Farmer said the city is working to connect or create sidewalks, especially on busy streets such as Detroit and Avon Belden roads. He added that it is challenging because long lengths of frontage that used to be farms remain undeveloped and do not have sidewalks even though there may be housing developments on either side where sidewalks have been installed.

He was unsure what projects featuring new, wider sidewalks might happen this year. He said their sidewalk projects were slowed last year when revenue plummeted from COVID-19 economic shutdowns and he said 2021 is anticipated to be the same.

Both Gasior and Farmer stressed that homeowners who plan to replace all or part of the sidewalk in front of their homes will likely replace it with 4-foot-wide walkways to ensure uniformity with neighboring homes. Gasior said they don't want to create a “hodgepodge look,” with one home having 4-foot sidewalks and the next 5-foot sidewalks.

Contact freelance writer Michele Murphy at avonlakemurphy@gmail.com.

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