On my morning run with the dog, I was feeling the same pedestrian angst that riles me every time I leave the house on foot: the sidewalks—in my neighborhood and in many areas of the country—aren’t made with pedestrians in mind. Instead, they’ve been constructed for cars and drivers, to ensure a smooth transition from street to snout-nosed garage.
In my city, I can’t run (or walk) even a few feet without the sidewalk dipping a full six inches to a foot (or, in certain areas, disappearing altogether). For this reason, I’m forced to run on the street and dodge speeding traffic, so I don’t break my ankles or fall flat on my face. (Of course, getting run over would be more painful, though I hope this fate is less likely.) Moaning about sidewalks may sound like idle griping, but, by my perception, it’s yet another symptom of a grand-scale epidemic: we live in a world designed for cars (not for people).
A reporter from the Courier-Journal (Austin, TX) shares my concern:
I was already dripping sweat and silently whining about a leg cramp when a car came head-on, forcing me off the road near a field with llamas.
And that’s just the first 20 minutes of my outdoor run… I ran along South Camden Lane in the Centerfield area, where homes with large, manicured lawns overlook a horizon of trees and lakes. It was beautiful. But dodging the cars on the narrow road wasn’t so lovely. It’s a scenario many runners…face: no sidewalks, speeding cars…
"It’s pretty dangerous to run in Oldham County," said Patrick Welborn, who leads an Oldham YMCA group of runners training for the Louisville Triple Crown races. "You’re mostly running on roads because there’s no place else to go."
For runners and walkers alike, there’s this superb documentary of one man’s pedestrian journey from his office complex/car park to a strip mall just five minutes down the street. On it, Austin resident Mike Dahmus is faced with bizarre, irksome, and altogether annoying sidewalk situations.
Dahmus, a self-proclaimed “pedestrian zealot,” says that most people won’t walk this short route not for reasons related to weather, but because the condition of the sidewalks is abysmal. At times, there’s no sidewalk at all. It ends abruptly, is interrupted by office complexes, parking lots, or gas stations, or consists only of a skinny, dusty strip of trampled grass where previous pedestrians have forged a makeshift trail.
I’ve found these circumstances to be the case just about everywhere I’ve walked outside of major, pedestrian-oriented cities. Sidewalks, particularly in newer neighborhoods (i.e. suburban McMansion enclaves), are constructed for cars and driveways, not for the purpose of making walking, running, or other pedestrian activities safe and comfortable. What gives? That so many sidewalks cater to cars—over pedestrians—is not only incongruous, but absurd. If sidewalks aren’t built for peds, it defeats their very purpose. City planners, please take note.
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