Sidewalk Hazards

Avoiding Injuries and Lawsuits (paid for by the taxpayers)



It's a good thing for neighbors to walk around the neighborhood. They meet each other, they talk, they pet each others' dogs. So it would be nice to have smooth, flat sidewalks that people wouldn't constantly have to worry about tripping on.

Sidewalks crack and buckle, often due to tree roots growing under them. Often the soil next to sidewalks erodes away. The results are trip hazards for pedestrians. A prudent city government checks and fixes its sidewalks as promptly as possible, both to protect the public and to avoid costly lawsuits.

One has to wonder too where the Ghent Neighborhood League stands (no pun intended) on the issue of people — particularly children and the elderly and anyone with low vision— tripping and falling on the neighborhood's sidewalks. While it may be great fun to listen to the presentations of proprietors of prospective new restaurants in the neighborhood, maybe this august body should spend more time on other things too.


An Actual Victim

June 6, 2015

The spot where it happened, a peculiar stretch of sidewalk composed of uneven paving stones rather than smooth, level concrete. Rumor has it that other people have fallen here, too, that one older woman even busted her collarbone here. One old-time neighbor says this sidewalk was not originally like this, that at some point these paving stones were added by a neighbor:


Despite the claims of some that this kind of paver stone sidewalk is "historical," portions of the neighborhoods actual original granolithic sidewalks still exist:


Sidewalk closed for repairs after the City was informed of the mishap. "Repairs" ended up being some leveling of the paver stones rather than replacing them with safer, flat concrete:


Another Hazard in the Immediate Vicinity

Falling Slate Roof Shingles

Beware! Getting beaned by a modern-day light-weight asphalt roof shingle might not be that bad, but by a shingle made of slate (a kind of stone)? Now we're talking lobotomy — or worse. And if that slate is falling from 2-3 stories up, probably the latter.

Loose slate singles:


Missing slate shingles located on a roof next to the unusual sidewalk where the aforementioned tripping incident occured:


A slate shingle or two that embedded in the ground after falling off the above roof:


More Neighborhood Examples of Sidewalk Trip Hazards

Below is a photo list of some potentially injurious sidewalk anomalies existing on or about Mowbray Arch as of November 3, 2014. It is fair to assume that most, if not all, of these have existed for some time, probably years, many years. How many of them are still this way today? Or do the very prevalence and longevity of such things make their existence more "acceptable"?


Stone Park Pedestrian Potholes

For some time now these dangerous holes have been waiting, without warning signs, orange cones, caution tape, or the like, for someone to trip into them (most likely during the night). What sort of City allows this sort of thing?



And don't forget the trees

There are plenty of low-hanging tree branches around, too. While you're busy looking down to avoid the many sidewalk trip hazsrds, you could easily get poked in the eye:


And watch out for falling limbs and branches. A direct hit on the head could be fatal:


Irrigation Hoses

Another questionable idea, putting these things in the verge (that's that strip of land between the sidewalk and street). The victim of the "peculiar stretch of sidewalk" above has also snagged one of these and taken a tumble:


A Trip Hazard on Steroids

"And the earth open her mouth, and swallow them up, with all that appertain unto them, and they go down quick into the pit; then ye shall understand that these men have provoked the Lord."

— Numbers 16:30

Even cars could succomb to this cave-in at the corner of Mowbray and Pembroke, as seen in this photo, ominously taken on Friday the Thirteenth of March, 2015, some three weeks after the earth did open her mouth. But at least someone did put that yellow tape around it. Update: March 25, 2014, and the City's started working on it. By mid April it was all fixed. Praise the Lord!


The "Mission"

from the Norfolk City Government website:

The City of Norfolk shall provide leadership and direction responsive to the needs and desires of all citizens of Norfolk. This shall be done in an efficient, equitable, cost-effective manner that uses available resources for the maximum benefit.

Leadership shall be directed to strengthening Norfolk as the economic and cultural hub of Hampton Roads, to preserving and enhancing the environmental setting and assets of the city, and to improving the quality of life and opportunities for the diverse populations living in, working in, and visiting Norfolk.



Proof positive that the Norfolk City Government does not take trip hazards seriously?

January, 2015. Behold the new Slover Library, particularly what has been done to the sidewalk in front of the old City Hall building which is a part of it. While this may look quite artistic and stylish, consider the downside, namely the injuries and lawsuits that may very well result:


Three ways to trip and/or twist your ankle or worse

— in the heart of downtown Norfolk, while going to the library even!

1) Stone edge raised about three inches above sidewalk grade

2) Absurdly short metal rails ("handrails" for squirrels) just high enough to catch the toe of your shoe

3) Uneven checkerboard grade, particularly risky for people with small feet and/or high heels and/or low vision




Here's that rail hidden in the snow. Even more of a hazard?



Official Response

A Norfolk City Government spokesperson responded to an email inquiry about these trip hazards at the new library as follows:

"I have spoken with the dept. of public works, the law department, and the building safety bureau. No alterations are proposed at this time. This is a new renovation to an existing building with an adjoining new building, and the City will continue to monitor their functionality going forward."

Did the City consult with its insurance carrier? Is "monitor their functionality" bureaucratese for count the injuries"?


"Some half-blind old spaz breaking his neck every now and then

has gotta be better than the alternative."





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