This is mostly a rant aimed at the town I live in but I am sure many of you have the same issues, due to a lack of proper planning by the local government.
Being that I needed to justify the buying of Walker’s BOB Jogger 5 months ago I spent much of the spring, the cooler parts of summer and now the chilly September days out walking with him, or as I prefer to call it ‘stroller walking’. It is one of our semi-daily routines and keeps my legs in hiking shape – especially considering pushing it isn’t light. Fully loaded I push 50 to 60 lbs around. A good all body workout!
But one thing I have been focused on late is having the ability to shed the use of our truck in the cooler months (call me a wuss but I don’t like anything above 70°). I wanted to be able to run errands, or well…walk the errands. What I found in spring when Walker was tiny was that our town blows. It blows to be a pedestrian. It is designed for vehicles. So pedestrian un-friendly that half the town is out of reach unless one wants to walk on the side of 3 major roads. No sidewalks. So much for finding out that our housing community we live in is on the ‘wrong side’ of town. Well…actually over half of the town’s houses have no clear way to get where they want or need to go. The town only incorporated in 1997, yet in the past 10 years has grown by 63%. We are what once was a backwoods bump in the 2 lane highway to Rainier, a place Seattle folks came to in summer for its affordable deep lakes. I love where I live but when I think about I hate it at the same time. We cannot walk safely to the post office or the library or to any of the public schools.
I think what has gotten me the most over the past 5 months is the blocks against people walking (or biking) safely. While we have an incredible rail to trail that runs through town, connecting the two shopping areas and of which connect to another rail to trail that will take you to many other rail to trails…well to get on that trail you must live near it. By GPS we live 1 3/4 miles and must cross one of the major roads without a cross walk. Hmmmm. Ain’t so easy.
But armed with observant eyes, a GPS and Google Maps, Walker and I are often plotting new adventures. Mission accomplished this morning when I found a route to the local Safeway and Starbucks that only had one semi-scary crossing each way and was on 25 mph roads (though as I have always noticed on these walks how many cars plow through residential streets doing 40 or more….). We had lights to cross the major highway (5 lanes) and a baby in a stroller usually means you don’t get flipped off and or yelled at when you are in the crosswalk. Usually that is. It never ceases to amaze me how some people have such a bloated freaking view of their self importance. Gasp, how dare I walk across a public street in a marked path? (Insert rolling of eyes) My favorite is when they honk, flip you off and scream at you all at the same time, bonus points for them doing this while on the phone.
But while our walk went well overall what I noticed was the lack of caring, no deep planning. Sidewalks to nowhere, that end with no slope. Sidewalks with slopes that would knock a wheelchair to its side. Homeowners who cannot be bothered to come out and trim their trees (hey, how about cutting the trees up to say 5’5″, OK?). The city allowing blackberry vines and shrubs to grown over the sidewalks. Just a general ‘we-don’t-care’ feeling. But I think what bugs me most is this:
To do a 1 1/2 mile walk to the grocery store to be safe I must walk over 2 1/2 miles each way. Over a mile extra simply for safety. The Long Way indeed. But what choice is there? The main highway has no shoulder, no bike lane and no sidewalks for most of the way.
So we take the lesser traveled route and hey, maybe that mile + each way isn’t a bad thing afterall. It is quiet as I walk through suburbia in the morning. I look down into the retention ponds full of run-off and I saw ducks and geese. The neighbor cats peek out and the curious ones follow us. Off the main road the air is clear, it is quiet. Retired people out working say hello. We pass a tiny pocket park the city built, Walker will love that when he is older. It has a tiny picnic table even. We cross the rail to trail and take it into town.
Maybe someday my town will take it seriously and change it. And build the missing areas. Currently the city puts in sidewalks to nowhere whenever the two highways are rebuilt and new housing developments are required to build them. At the same time I dream of how great it must to be live in a town built on the safety and health of its residents. Ah well.
Walk your town!