Are Sidewalks Good for Cobourg

At the risk of flogging a dead horse but hopefully providing a summary and “last word” on the subject, it’s worth reporting details about a memo from the Sustainability and Climate Change Action [Advisory] Committee (SCCAC) that was provided to Council at the last Council meeting. The Committee was strongly supportive of providing sidewalks everywhere in Town. This year will see a sidewalk built on Abbott Blvd against the wishes of some but not all residents on that street.  I will attempt to summarize SCAAC’s reasoning plus the history of the issue plus where Councillors and staff stand on the issue.  In the future (that’s what we used to say before “going forward” became fashionable), deciding whether to construct a sidewalk will be only a budget issue and where to construct will be decided by the approved priority plan.


In June 2017 Council decided to approve a sidewalk on Abbott Boulevard but some local citizens objected.  After much debate, Council decided that a formal policy and plan was needed and meanwhile no new sidewalks were built.  The first version of a sidewalk plan made a sidewalk on Northwood drive top priority but on 25 June 2018 Donna Woods made a delegation to Council where she objected to this.  Her comments were taken into account and a revised Plan was finally produced in October 2019 (see links below) – and surprise, Abbott Boulevard was now number one.

Here are the top five:

Street Name Location / Road Section Estimated cost
Abbott Blvd. From Coronation to King, from Lakeshore to Coronation, from Coronation South to Coronation North $133,600
D’Arcy St. From Elgin to Nickerson $20,800
Hayden Cr. From Burwash East to Burwash West $66,000
Heath St. From William to Burnham $42,600
Densmore Rd. From Division to Otto, from Otto to Birchwood $ 83,000

Once again some residents objected.  Notably Kevin Burt made a delegation to Council and James McGrath wrote to Councillors (with a copy to Letters to the Editor) but Councillor Darling said he’d received 20 emails from people disappointed that the Abbott Blvd sidewalk did not go through. And further: “I think we’ve hashed this out pretty good”.  Staff made it clear that the decision was not theirs to make. Director Laurie Wills said “we were asked for a priority policy, not whether there should be sidewalks or not”. The Transportation Advisory Committee approved the revised plan.

Abbott Blvd - from Google Maps
Abbott Blvd – from Google Maps

Deputy Mayor Suzanne Séguin and Councillor Emily Chorley wanted further consultation with residents but Council voted 5 – 2 to proceed with the sidewalk on Abbott Blvd.

New Statement

Although the contract to proceed with the sidewalk is now approved and work has started, the Sustainability and Climate Change Action Committee was asked by Cobourg’s Transportation Advisory Committee and a Cobourg resident what the SCCAC position on sidewalks was.  They provided that as correspondence to Council at their meeting on April 26.

Download their seven page statement below (or here) but in essence they say that sidewalks are more healthy and that they are safer.  SCCAC strongly supports Cobourg building more sidewalks within its existing communities as quickly as it can.  They also want the Town to clear snow on sidewalks.

It is time to give pedestrians treatment equal to that given to cars; in fact, given the Climate Emergency, active transportation infrastructure and maintenance/snow removal by Cobourg should be given priority over cars.


Some people don’t want sidewalks and some do but in a democracy, we elect councillors to represent us and make decisions.  The majority of Councillors have decided to add sidewalks to all streets and have chosen a process to choose which sidewalks are built first.  This process does not require consultation of residents of streets where sidewalks are planned but simply approval (or not) of the budget.  Short of further revision of the process, not approving the sidewalk budget would simply defer the build for a year. But given the drawn out process for approval of the sidewalk priority plan, further revision of the process seems unlikely. It also seems that objections will get no support from advisory committees.



Recent reports on Cobourg News Blog

Earlier Report

Notification by Town – 3 May 2021

Abbott Boulevard Sidewalk Construction begins May 3, 2021

The construction of a concrete sidewalk on the east side of Abbott Boulevard, from Lakeshore Road to King Street East will commence on Monday, May 3, 2021 and will take approximately one (1) month. This project is being undertaken to expand the Town’s pedestrian network. During this period there may be minor lane disruptions and parking on the east side of Abbott Boulevard will be limited during construction, as the work progresses.

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6 May 2021 7:09 pm

it’s a little refreshing seeing such a mild debate around walkability, ive been surrounded by the depressing reality that is how suburbs and roads are developped in the modern canada, aside from like, vancouver and downtown toronto. kinda.
just today ive spent most of my time looking for a place to live where i can actually walk places i want to be within at least 30 minutes.
my journey brought me to genuinely considering montréal and québec residence, all while coming to realisation that the current government would not be happy with a person like me moving into their province.

so, again, it is quite nice to see this.
in general i appreciate this blog a lot, but this page specifically is so down to earth and resonates with me.
sidewalks are very important!

i guess, they are only a half and reckless measure for what im looking for, but, this is still quite nice to see. i dont know really, just thanks to the authour of these blogs.

2 May 2021 8:02 pm

As a pedestrian who walk all over Cobourg, from Wilmont to Wilkins Gate, I welcome all sidewalks. Walking on the street is much more hazardous than walking on a sidewalk, and since I obviously do most of my walking on streets where I don’t live, I don’t think residents on any given street should have any say in whether a sidewalk gets built. I applaud council’s decision to add sidewalks to any street that doesn’t have one.

Barb rusk
2 May 2021 10:10 am

A street that is nearly 70 years old needing a sidewalk?

Reply to  Barb rusk
3 May 2021 7:29 am

That is absolutely one of the three most fundamental and important questions. Rather than a myopic adherence to a master plan, the questions should be: where are the risks; what are the costs versus benefits; and can we better allocate our finite resources elsewhere?
For years Council has reviewed the state of the Town harbour. I suspect that at each point the level of disrepair, along with the cost of the fix, has grown. It has now reached at least $12 million. Sound management strategy would be to perform financial triage and address those capital projects that are most consequential to the whole or the majority of our community. Issues, like the harbour, will not fix themselves and will only become more costly over time. Clearly, it is easier to throw $250K away on a concrete slab than to make the politically difficult decision to fix a major, $12M known problem. Better to continue to study, ad nauseum, until each member leaves office; full in the knowledge that someone else will wear the burden of the hard decisions while they endorse the little ones, like an inconsequential and unnecessary sidewalk.

2 May 2021 9:55 am

How does “Climate Emergency” have anything to do with sidewalks?

Reply to  cornbread
2 May 2021 12:47 pm

Concrete is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions

Reply to  Rae
3 May 2021 5:30 pm

The manufacture of concrete, that is. It has to roast in an extremely hot rotating cement kiln, requiring an immense amount of fuel to achieve the necessary temperature for the required length of time.

Reply to  JimT
4 May 2021 2:05 pm

Also releases co2 from the calcium. Carbonate

2 May 2021 9:44 am
  • There are a lot of pretty “useless” sidewalks in high traffic areas. “Useless” as they are:

too narrow to allow a couple to comfortably walk side by side
obstructed by hedges etc planted too close, not trimmed etc making them even more narrow.
bumps of all kinds dangerous for some walkers, wheelchairs and scooters.

Good example is Ontario Street from Albert to Lake Ontario, lots of pedestrians walking on the road because of obstacles, the only sidewalk is on the east side so not only COVID rules force you on a well travelled street…..

Albert street sidewalk from Hibernia to Third is another useless walk in a very high traffic
area. There are lots of other examples….

Why not spend money (capital or not) where there is sufficient need and full public support…..

Bill Thompson
Reply to  Marie
2 May 2021 10:51 am

Another issue with sidewalks and important as a pedestrian safety issue ,
is from Queen St. post office to D’Arcy St.,a well known dangerous noisy car speedway year round.
A worthy investment would be to install a few Low speed bumps as used in the Northumberland Mall in that stretch of road.
Council reason given some years ago against speed bumps was that it hindered the rapid movement of emergency that stretch of
which there are four Stop signs.
As sidewalk snow clearing is a resident responsibility (24 hr time frame compliance) and snowploughs fill the driveways back in several times a day the plowed road itself is utilized by many pedestrians every day.

Reply to  Bill Thompson
3 May 2021 7:17 am

A sidewalk is planned for the north side of Queen St. The same problem of snowplows filling driveways will happen.

Bill Thompson
Reply to  Kevin
3 May 2021 8:18 am

That plan was shelved a few years ago I believe when it originally was proposed.

Reply to  Bill Thompson
4 May 2021 6:42 am

That may be but it is on the list in the Sidewalk Priority Plan.

Lemon Cake
2 May 2021 9:20 am

Definitely in favour of sidewalks – this makes our town safer for everyone and is a necessary step forward as the community grows. Let Council make the decision and allocate the budget as they were elected to do. This is a step forward to correcting planning decisions made decades ago that prioritized car traffic – a regressive approach to planning that has largely been rejected since (see New Amherst). Let’s get it done!

Reply to  Lemon Cake
3 May 2021 7:20 am

Council is not making the decision. Public Works has created a Sidewalk Priority Plan and wants to follow that. The Transportation Master Plan has provision for public input which is being ignored by some on council and Public Works.

Reply to  Lemon Cake
3 May 2021 5:33 pm

Let Council do whatever they want without lots of pushback from citizens? Seriously?

Russell Hilder
2 May 2021 8:32 am

In New Amherst we have sidewalks on both sides of all the streets. Best thing ever. Majority of homes built here have porches and the sidewalks are an essential part of the whole neighborhood.

Reply to  Russell Hilder
3 May 2021 9:09 am

I suspect that it was understood, by all concerned, that in New Amherst sidewalks would be constructed as part of that community’s development plan. I also suspect that the New Amherst project developer was responsible for the cost of those sidewalks rather than non-resident taxpayers. Those are two obvious differences when considering a sidewalk on Abbott. The families that purchased homes on Abbott, from the early 1950s on, bought what they saw; a block of homes on an over wide street that had no sidewalks. Over the decades there have been at least two mayors, a Town police chief and a Town Fire Chief (not sure if there have been any other Councilors) living on Abbott. This makes me me believe that if they had wished to install sidewalks on their street they likely would have had the political sway to accomplish it. Yet, 70 years of history and no sidewalk.

2 May 2021 8:11 am

The real cost of the sidewalk on Abbott is much high than the amount above. The contract this year is higher, 3 fire hydrants had to be moved, last year there was survey work and mature trees were cut down. The actual cost is well over $200k and maybe closer to $300k. Laurie Wills has made it clear she does not want anymore public input. She just wants to keep building sidewalks according to the priority plan. Adam B. is on the SCCAC, he does not live in Cobourg. Sustainable Cobourg, a different organization, has a very different view of removing mature trees to build sidewalks. Brian Darling has refered to some as the ‘vocal minority’ as a reason not to listen to residents. Has he provided the 20 emails of people supporting sidewalks? 20 is a minority. The active transportation network is very important. Building a multi-use path across Donegan Park (as shown in the Transportation Master Plan) would encourage people to walk, ride bicycles, etc. Sidewalks are important but we need to build them in the right places.

2 May 2021 7:29 am

What’s the real cost of this sidewalk project?

I’ve seen several figures 130K, 200K but in the end, it will be interesting to see how much this project costs tax payers. Agree or disagree with the sidewalk issue, we are paying for it.

There are also other costs associated with this project – process and people. Was there an open forum for all residents of Abbott blvd to discuss why they want or don’t want sidewalks? Were alternatives discussed that would be a compromise for each side yet achieve a similar result at a reduced cost?
The real cost is alienating residents, not including them in a process. We can’t understand how someone feels about an issue until we have listened to their side of the story. For the sidewalk issue on Abbott blvd, I’m sure that residents have an opinion-after all it’s their street and their property. Really though, you can pick any issue, Brookside, CCC, harbour. Hopefully resident’s voices are going to be heard.

Going forward, I’d like to see a more open and inclusive process. Councillors, just don’t ask the public for their opinion, but actually listen to what they are saying. Consider all aspects of an issue and weigh out the costs of the project from a dollars and cent perspective and from the people perspective.

Suzanne Seguin
Reply to  Seth
2 May 2021 11:01 am

Hello Seth,
On February 22, 2021 I requested a breakdown for all the costs related to the sidewalk construction on Abbott Blvd. from Public Works Director Laurie Wills. Here are the costs:
Survey – $2,700
Construction – $190,000 (low bid)
10% Construction contingency – $20,000
Utility Relocations (hydrants/guy wires) – $20,000 (estimate)
Materials Testing (soil/granulars/compaction/concrete) – $5,000 (estimate)
Non-Refundable HST – $4,000

Total $240,000 (approved budget in 2021 is $240,000) *Actual estimate is $241,700
This budget item for the Bi-Annual Sidewalk Program will be financed from the Federal Gas Tax.

Last edited 1 year ago by Suzanne Seguin
Reply to  Suzanne Seguin
2 May 2021 12:36 pm

Thanks Suzanne for providing the cost breakdown. I wonder if an alternative solution could have reduces these costs?

Reply to  seth
3 May 2021 7:25 am

Yes. On Abbott there are very few parked cars. Reducing parking to one side of the street and painting a line on the other provides a relatively safe space for walking, cycling etc.

Reply to  Suzanne Seguin
3 May 2021 8:29 am

Suzanne, nice to hear from you and thanks for the cost breakdown.
I was hoping we would have heard from you and others on council re: Michael Sprayson’s story about building affordable housing.

Last edited 1 year ago by Frenchy
Reply to  Suzanne Seguin
5 May 2021 9:01 am

I had been wondering where the federal gas tax goes these days. Would be nice if we could add the Federal Carbon Tax to finance our “green initiatives….

1 May 2021 10:21 pm

At the end of the day there is only so much money to be spent by any governmental entity. In Cobourg we have a good number of worthwhile and important capital projects, all more necessary than sidewalks. Myopia breeds bad decisions. How much will repairing our harbour cost, 12 million? Why waste $250K on a concrete slab?

Reply to  MCGA
3 May 2021 2:42 pm

But you need the “concrete slab” in order to walk to the harbour to see where your 12 million dollars are being spent.

Reply to  Conor
3 May 2021 3:09 pm

Not in the least on either count…the walk to the harbour can be easily affected, as it has been for 70 years, by employing the oversized Blvd to Lakeshore (also sans sidewalk) to the waterfront; and there is zero tangible evidence that the harbour will be fixed anytime in the next 70 years.

Ken Strauss
1 May 2021 9:23 pm

I’m puzzled by why sidewalks must be cleared of snow by the residents whose property is fronted by the sidewalk. Why is the sidewalk treated differently from the actual roadway that fronts a property? Surely it would be better for the town to clear sidewalk snow than for each individual property owner to do so.

ben burd
Reply to  Ken Strauss
2 May 2021 7:44 am

Ken as a taxfighter why do you ask this obvious question – the answer is cost! And you as person who wants to keep costs as low as possible should be fiscally against it but as a resident who doesn’t want to shovel snow you are willing to pay for it. Why should residents without sidewalks have to pay for your reluctance to shovel?

Ken Strauss
Reply to  ben burd
2 May 2021 9:00 am

I suspect that my neighbourhood will never have sidewalks so snow shoveling is not a personal concern. (My roadway doesn’t have curbs and there are drainage ditches on both sides of the road.) The cost of clearing snow should be considered when deciding to build sidewalks rather than blithefully assuming that residents will be forced to do the work without pay. Our Council ignores the obvious — many in Cobourg are seniors with medical issues that make snow shoveling impossible. Some relocate to warmer climes in our coldest months which necessitates hiring someone to remove snow. Younger folk need to work so snow is often not removed until the evening or even the weekend. Building more sidewalks is not a solution to any of these concerns. Why does Council make things worse without obvious benefits?

Reply to  Ken Strauss
2 May 2021 8:33 am

If the town, which means cost to tax payers, is to be responsible for removing snow then this should be a design decision. Just like arterial roads and bus routes are given priority over other streets, parts of the active transportation network should be given priority. A network of multi-use paths that provide a reasonable option to driving should be cleared of snow by the town. This would help the active transportation network function as intended. The cost of removing snow should be part of the decision on what and where to build. Abbott, a bus route, already is cleared of snow regularly. A painted line on one side would not increase snow removal costs and is much more sustainable than pouring concrete.

Bill Thompson
Reply to  Ken Strauss
2 May 2021 3:04 pm

The same rationale applies with resident responsibility to cut the grass verge between the road and sidewalk in front of one’s individual property.

1 May 2021 4:31 pm

John, a brave venture into this topic. But continuing a wholesome dialogue is warranted because IMO every street is unique. The public right of way belongs to the public. Over the years, decades, most of the space has been given over to the wants and needs of the car. Pedestrians were regulated to their own lane (the sidewalk or gravel shoulder or even prohibited access) so that vehicular traffic flow was optimized. In many residential neighbourhoods where destinations were within walking distance, the ‘peds’ and drivers found a way to get along and share the street. The good news is that street designers are now better able to create what has come to be known as complete streets. This approach looks at different ways to accommodate all users of the public right of way; and, can create street spaces and include traffic calming measures which add to the quality of the neighbourhood and help make safer neighbourhoods. There are more options and standards available to design a street. And, a street type hierarchy looks at circulation in the whole network. I grew up in the east end area which includes Abbott Blvd. I do not know all the facts used to justify adding a sidewalk to Abbott Blvd. However, I do not recall hearing discussion about the assessment of alternatives for the space between curbs edging the asphalt pavement. For example, was the width of street between the existing curbs reviewed in terms accommodating user needs within the existing curb lines and using current street design standards. I do not know for sure, but have a hunch that improving convenient and safer drop off/pick up amenities for the area high school may have contributed to the building of a sidewalk on Abbott Blvd. Also, it could be argued that building… Read more »

Old Sailor
1 May 2021 4:06 pm

I wonder if we could see a 5 year capital expenditure plan prepared by the town, that includes all discretionary capital costs like sidewalks, financing the purchase of Brookside and a phased in restoration of the harbour seawalls. And include a discussion on how we would pay for them all over five years. Maybe we would have to make choices. Capital budgets have to be affordable and flexible.

1 May 2021 3:58 pm

Of course sidewalks ae good for Cobourg or any other town or city. Where else would kids learn to ride a bicycle without getting hit by a car. There are also there so you can meet your neighbours and shoot the breeze. It might take you a couple of minutes to shovel the snow in the inter but so what?

Reply to  Conor
2 May 2021 5:31 am

It is illegal to ride a bicycle on the sidewalks in Cobourg. Even if the roads are icy and there is no pedestrian in sight. Even William St., where the traffic is heavy and fast and the sidewalks scarcely used, you have to ride your bike out there beside the cars and trucks.

Last edited 1 year ago by JimT
Reply to  JimT
6 May 2021 8:42 am

It’s illegal to ride a bicycle on the sidewalk everywhere in Ontario. There’s an exception for wheels under a certain diameter, (can’t remember the exact figure), to allow for children’s bikes.

Reply to  Conor
2 May 2021 8:17 am

Learn to ride on low traffic streets. Children have learned to ride on Abbott for about 70 years. Sidewalks cross driveways so there is the danger of cars backing up which is a good reason for not riding on sidewalks. A painted line on one side of Abbott with all cars parked on the other side would provide a safer place to learn to ride at far less cost.

Lemon Cake
Reply to  Kevin
3 May 2021 11:51 am

I don’t agree with the argument that, to make room for more cars, children should be transported to other neighbourhoods with low traffic to learn how to ride a bike. I don’t think that is the kind of community we should be building. Streets need to be safe for everyone, not just through-traffic. It’s not just about kids either: my mother is unsteady on her feet and uses a walker – walking on the road isn’t a great option for her. If sidewalks make communities safer, then we need more sidewalks.

Reply to  Lemon Cake
3 May 2021 12:37 pm

Your mother, with her walker or cane may well be safer walking on the road. On my walks around town, I have seen numerous “seniors” with a walker or cane walking on the road instead of the sidewalk just 6 ft away.
I have asked them why.
The answer is always the same. The road is safer, especially in winter. The road is reasonably smooth, mostly free of ice and has grit for traction, compared to the sidewalks which are uneven, frequently covered with ice that is “rutted up” by foot prints and often without grit for traction.

At Council, perhaps 6 months ago, Ian Davey (Town CFO) confirmed that Cobourg sidewalks are dangerous, noting that many (most?) of the Town’s insurance payouts are related to sidewalk accidents.

While I would not recommend walking on Elgin, King, University or D’Arcy due to the high traffic speed and volume, Abbott Blvd, with its 70 years without a pedestrian accident and numerous other side streets are quite safe for pedestrians walking on the street.

One other item: if safety is the main factor in deciding that Cobourg should have sidewalks, why does the Town’s sidewalk priority guideline not contain any safety metrics such as pedestrian accident history and police pedestrian safety ranking or rating