When L.A. wanted to spend $10 million to study broken sidewalks, 70-year-old Angeleno Peter Griswald thought the price tag was too high and decided to do something about it. According to the Los Angeles Times, that included doing the job himself. For free:
As I surveyed the chaos, Griswold, a 70-year-old retiree, sped up on a Schwinn bike and hopped off, wearing shorts and a floppy blue Coast Guard Auxiliary hat, reporting for duty. He grabbed a portable GPS out of a bag and began punching the controls as he stood over a spot where tree roots had lifted the sidewalk 10 inches.
“You hit this here,” he said, “and you go over there.”
Anyone of average intelligence, he said, could be taught in one hour how to use a GPS to record the precise location of bad sidewalk.
In a nutshell, Griswald’s idea is to organize a brigade to inspect sidewalks. Though city officials in L.A. apparently said implementing the idea could be complicated, Griswald thinks it could work and people would be willing to pitch in.
In a smaller city like Provo with a lot of volunteering and, I think it’s fair to say, a somewhat less diverse and far flung population, there’s no reason to assume Griswald’s idea wouldn’t work even better. And though Provo has fewer miles of crumbling sidewalk this concept could be deployed for all sorts of tasks, all the while saving taxpayer money.
And the obvious financial benefits for cities are really just the tip of the iceberg here. In addition, residents who use spaces again and again are likely to know more about those spaces, offering greater efficiency and insight than professionals who may only show up for inspections. On top of that, there are less quantifiable benefits; if a lot of people get out in the community inspecting things and making suggestions, it’s fair to say that they’ll acquire an even greater appreciation and admiration for their city.