Hey! I'm walkin' here!
August 21, 2015 5:28 PM   Subscribe

In Orwellian fashion, Americans have been stripped of the right to walk, challenging their humanity, freedom and health. Car culture, NIMBY-ism, class struggles, and fear of outsiders are making it harder for people to get around on foot, whether that's to get to work or just go out for a stroll.
posted by Weeping_angel (97 comments total) 45 users marked this as a favorite
 
[One deleted; I know cyclists have it tough too, but let's keep the focus on walking in here for the moment since we've had other recent cyclists vs cars threads.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 5:46 PM on August 21, 2015 [27 favorites]


From the perspective of the cold calculus of climate change, is having three children but walking worse or better than driving a car?
posted by astrobiophysican at 6:11 PM on August 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


I live in a Midwestern college town that is perfectly walkable, but a lot of people treat walking for transportation as some sort of weird East Coast affectation. I got in a big argument with a co-worker about city planning, and she claimed that the public library was ruined when they built something on the parking lot next door and instead opened a new, multistory parking garage a block away. She said that nobody goes to the library anymore, because who is going to walk a block just to get books. (There are still spots directly outside for people with disabilities, so that's not what she was talking about.) This is demonstrably untrue: the library is busy all the time. But she literally, with a straight face, claimed that nobody was going to the library anymore because the free parking wasn't directly adjacent to the building. It kind of boggles my mind.

But I have noticed that more people are getting Fitbits, and that seems to be rebranding walking as something that virtuous, fit people do. I'm not sure that's all that much better, but now people think I'm a fitness buff because I walk, and not some sort of weirdo city person who hates the real America.

(I am joking about hating America, but only a little bit. My co-worker told me that I am not from here, and that's not the way we do things here, and if I want to live in a place where people walk, I should go back to the big city. She also told me that around here we don't have movie theaters downtown, and I only thought that would be a good idea because I'm from the big city. My other co-worker pointed out that 25 years ago there were three movie theaters downtown, but she was hearing none of it.)
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:14 PM on August 21, 2015 [72 favorites]


In Houston, other than in neighborhoods, walking can only be described as a dangerous obstacle course, an obstacle course where drivers actually try to kill you. For reasons discussed endlessly, people in cars just assume anyone not in a car is the enemy and act accordingly.

I literally take my life in my own hands simply by choosing to walk to a neighborhood meat shop less than 200 yards from my home. To get there, I have to cross a busy intersection, but even with red lights on my side, it's still too risky to do it. Drivers may not intend to hit you, but they love to scare you into thinking they might, so there's no pleasure in the walk, just a lot of stress. Now that would be an interesting study, to compare the stress levels of pedestrians to the stress levels of drivers.
posted by Beholder at 6:14 PM on August 21, 2015 [12 favorites]




I'm afraid the Village Green Preservation Society lost the fight some time ago. Now it's all about the motor traffic rumble.
posted by boubelium at 6:24 PM on August 21, 2015 [7 favorites]


I like walking too (and am fortunate to live in a Midwestern college town where pedestrianism is very common, just to make it clear AaC's experience isn't universal) --

-- but please leave poor Orwell out of this, because I don't think this is what he was going for.
posted by escabeche at 6:25 PM on August 21, 2015 [6 favorites]


I do a fair amount of walking when the weather permits, as it's the simplest way for me to get some exercise--between 4 to 6 miles per day--and it's considered shocking. The village I live in is fairly small, so total strangers come up to me out of nowhere and exclaim, "I see you walking all the time! That's amazing!" ...OK? This is what feet are for? And this has been happening for all sixteen years I've been here. (Colleagues who also live in the village and walk to work report similar experiences.) Walkability is not the issue in the "old" village, which dates to the early 19th c. and has plenty of sidewalks; moreover, because the area is so small, all but a few big box stores on the margins are accessible on foot. But a lot of people just...don't walk anywhere, even though it's often easier to walk than to deal with (what little there is of) downtown parking.

That being said, now that I'm middle-aged, I've found myself strongly disinclined to walk when the temperatures drop below 20F and the sidewalks get icy, because, well, injury. (As a young 'un, I'd just have thought, "what the heck, I'm going out there.")
posted by thomas j wise at 6:28 PM on August 21, 2015 [11 favorites]


ArbitraryAndCapricious: As a fellow East Coaster who was once transplanted into the Midwest for some time, I always found it odd that some people chose to address my mode of transportation as a conscious decision that was somehow a personal affront. It wasn't as bad in my college town about walking but some bro-types did hurl homophobic slurs at me for riding a bike, another time it was snowballs. There is a deep intransigence in parts of this country and it's domain extends to things I usually consider banal.
posted by johnnydummkopf at 6:28 PM on August 21, 2015 [17 favorites]


Okay, I give up, what stationary machine involves mimicking a farmer? There isn't a retro fad for the Soviet turnip-pulling machines, is there? Because that would be awesome. </doesn't have a gym membership>
posted by XMLicious at 6:31 PM on August 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


This previously about the invention of jaywalking (mentioned in the article as a turning point) is incredible.
posted by ignignokt at 6:44 PM on August 21, 2015 [9 favorites]


This is relevant to my interests!

I live in a corner apartment, directly across a 10-lane intersection from a large strip mall with a supermarket, restaurants, and service shops. Two facts conspire to make this less than ideal, though:

1) This is a "from the freeway exit into town" road, so people are still trying to drive 60-70, and I've seen more light-runners and near-misses in the past month than in the entire rest of my life, just sitting on my patio and looking outside. It's only a matter of time until I am witness to a homicide or a horrific crash!
2) I get around (slowly) with a cane, so if I start at the beginning of the timer, I can barely make it across before the timer runs out, and people start honking impatiently and inching into the crosswalk (because they're coming off the freeway in a hurry)

Sometimes I feel safer getting in my car (which is actually further away, in the garage across my complex) just to buy a single easily-carryable item at the store across the street.

The dog likes riding in the car more than walking, too, but he's not disabled, he's just a lazy asshole.
posted by jake at 6:44 PM on August 21, 2015 [35 favorites]


"See that?" whispered Granger. "It'll be you; right up at the end of that street is our victim. See how our camera is coming in? Building the scene. Suspense. Long shot. Right now, some poor fellow is out for a walk. A rarity. An odd one. Don't think the police don't know the habits of queer ducks like that, men who walk mornings for the hell of it, or for reasons of insomnia. Anyway, the police have had him charted for months, years. Never know when that sort of information might be handy. And today, it turns out, it's very usable indeed. It saves face..."
posted by infinitewindow at 6:50 PM on August 21, 2015 [7 favorites]


My place of work has a street that runs from it along the top of a bluff overlooking a broad and fairly deep (for the Midwest) river valley. Many nice old houses have been built on the bluff, and the road itself has a decline and then rise in it about halfway through, just steep enough to add a bit of extra exercise in it without being too onerous. I can just about make it to the end and back during a half-hour lunch, and it makes for just the right amount and length of the recommended half-hour of daily walking along a pleasant and pretty street...

...except for in winter, because no one clears their sidewalks of snow, because no one has to. It's usually possible to walk on the road, which is decently wide, but the streets can still be icy, and that sometimes has me walking on a slippery road, where I might fall into the path of oncoming traffic on a hill. And it's not as if just about everyone who can afford a house on the bluff could afford a snow blower, or even to hire someone to do it. They don't, because they apparently don't care to walk, even in their own picturesque neighborhood. The winter walk becomes an exercise in trading the risk of staying inside all day and being exposed to the risk of people exchanging cold germs for the risk of picking my way down and up icy slopes in the face of traffic.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:50 PM on August 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


Ha. I live in a (dying) midwestern city. I don't drive for various and sundry reasons, none of which have anything to do with my carbon footprint.

It's a pain in the ass to get anywhere. No good stores for miles. Bicyclists on the sidewalks, scaring the shit out of me as they blow by from behind. No decent bus service, no decent rail service. Bad sidewalks, too - not maintained, heaving, sloping, the hazard to navigation here is the pavement itself.

it is what it is, though, and I leverage my pedestrianism whenever I can. I WILL stop traffic anytime I'm crossing an intersection. I do carry an airhorn sometimes, and blow it at cars that seem to not know I'm there. That has to be annoying. Especially when they have their windows down, because I can walk right up to their window.
posted by disclaimer at 6:53 PM on August 21, 2015 [41 favorites]


I recently moved to a great small town, specifically because it was walkable. And it is very walkable, despite low "walk scores". Those scores are generated by an algorithm that doesn't know enough about what is in smaller towns. I think people imagine that if they want to live somewhere walkable, they have to go to New York or Chicago. Or Ann Arbor at the very least. But in this small town, everything is pretty close.

Then I got sick and couldn't walk very far, so I still end up driving too much. But I have an electric bicycle to get around on, on good days. And on bad days I LOVE sitting on the porch seeing people on the sidewalk. Even though I can't walk much myself, it's terrific here. I wish everyone knew how great it was to be in a "stealth" walkable community. Though I suppose if they did, it would have been even harder to afford this house.
posted by elizilla at 6:55 PM on August 21, 2015 [7 favorites]


My town just added a fountain in the middle of the main street downtown to slow down traffic and make the town more walkable. Its long term plan has been to be more pedestrian-friendly in order to encourage growth in the shops and restaurants. And it's working; I could walk out my door and to the farmer's market tomorrow morning if I wanted, or to a couple of different parks, or to restaurants and boutique type stores. I could also walk to the train station, get on the train, and walk around in Philly, although that's a bit far.

I don't think walking is going away, exactly, but it's taking on a certain weird aspect. I mean, I drive along Cooper River Park every day; it's a really lovely swath of green bordering a stretch of the river on both sides. People drive, sometimes for 10-20 minutes, to take a walk around the river. Walking is more recreation than transportation, I guess? I've also taken to doing some walking on the river myself as it's lovely.
posted by graymouser at 7:06 PM on August 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


One of the strangest things I experience while visiting the US was the lack of walking in many smaller places, or towns that seemed built around freeway exits. I remember asking motel clerks how I could walk to a restaurant that they had said was a 5 minute drive away, and they looked at me like I was insane. I don't know of any other country that has such 'non-walkable' places.
posted by modernnomad at 7:19 PM on August 21, 2015 [25 favorites]


I just had my car in to be cleaned in a fairly wealthy Seattle suburb. It was going to take a few hours, so I asked the dude for the nearest Starbuck's. He pointed me at the nearest shopping center just down the way. I had a fine old time, ate some tacos and got some cat toys and did some work in SBUX, and was just tromping back around 4:30 when my car was done.

A cop cruiser glided to a stop beside me and the cop rolled down his window and was clearly puzzled when he looked at me. My attire was what I'd call "Dad" and I was clearly carrying a laptop bag and had a cat toy under my arm. But to his credit he got out to talk to me and explained someone called in "a suspicious man carrying a weapon" lurking around the neighborhood. Obviously I was polite because I was a fat white guy in cargo shorts and sandals carrying a laptop bag and a cat toy pole tucked under one arm, and it was over pretty quick, but I always know when I'm in white people town when just walking around is seen as suspicious.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 7:26 PM on August 21, 2015 [57 favorites]


no one clears their sidewalks of snow, because no one has to.

Wow, I was about to post "yes they do have to" but I searched around a little and have now learned that, when I moved to the Midwest and learned about the legal requirement to shovel my sidewalk, which I then assumed was universal for cold snowy places, I was just wrong -- it's a city law in Madison, not state law in Wisconsin, and lots of cities don't have it. So yes, this is one more way the law makes it hard to be a pedestrian.

The one house on my block that never shoveled had a Ron Paul sign in the window, for what that's worth.
posted by escabeche at 7:37 PM on August 21, 2015 [15 favorites]


I cannot drive due to economic and focus and anxiety issues.I live near a bus-friendly city and a train station in a college town in NJ. This is a hub train station I need to take to the college I attend (where my first part time job is). All of the bus lines that used to go from where I live to this train station have shut down due to budget cuts. This means to get to my morning campus job and classes 3 days a week I will have to wake up at 6am, walk for an hour (3 miles) to the train station and take a 45-minute train. Reverse this forgetting home and to my 2nd part time job (which luckily is literally behind the parking lot for my apartment). If I want a ride from the train station back to the apartment, my roommate is charging me ten bucks. I will be going back and forth 3 times a week. So that's 30 a week for the ride from the roommate, and 18 total for the train trip (because Gov Christie eliminated off peak round trip) each day. So that's 86 a week, 172 for two weeks. My on campus job is 12 hours a week. After taxes, I will earn 183 every two weeks. The on campus job and getting to my classes will eat up almost everything I earn from that job.

that's not taking into account working my second job in the evening and classwork and all that. I'm considering looking for a 3rd part time job at a place I could walk to in mornings and afternoons on the weekends about a 40 minute walk away.

It's expensive going places on foot.
posted by ShawnStruck at 7:40 PM on August 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


I walk everywhere, and my worst quality is how much I care about Sidewalk Rules.

Lovebirds, twinned at the hands and taking up the whole sidewalk? Deeply in love? I will cut between you - amor vincit omnia, but not me. I hope your weird rude romance ends in flames.

Walking in a group? I am an oncoming storm shaped as a pedestrian oh whoops you got bumped maybe you shouldn't have have made all these bad sidewalk decisions.

In a wheelchair? I will gladly move out of your way.

Riding a bike on the sidewalk? I won't move out of your way and will do my best to obstruct you in any way possible.

I am an iron behemoth of sidewalk justice and I will run into you if you are abusing the rules of the sidewalk. It is your fault.
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 7:43 PM on August 21, 2015 [79 favorites]


Bradbury's The Pedestrian, my favorite of his stories, addresses this directly, and presciently.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 7:54 PM on August 21, 2015 [15 favorites]


It gets even worse- the Village I live in is very fine for walking in the immediate downtown (which is very quaint and picturesque, mind you), and you can ride all manner of bicycles and things, but as soon as you get a certain distance away from your own home, and past any residential or commercial areas, a giant white bubble comes out of the sea and chases you!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:02 PM on August 21, 2015 [46 favorites]


I remember being at the San Diego airport and had a long wait, so I checked the map. The beach was not very far away--I could walk to the beach rather than waiting around the airport.

Then I discovered, that as close as it was (maybe 1 mile), you couldn't walk there. Google maps shows a walking path, then gives the warning "Use caution - may involve errors or sections not suited for walking," which is another way of saying "You will die if you try to take this walk, but we'll show it to you anyway because we never say never."
posted by eye of newt at 8:07 PM on August 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


I guess I'm atypical, but I figured that out years ago. I live way out in the SE Arizona desert about seventeen miles from Bisbee. I drive 25 miles to work in an adjacent valley every day, but it is worth it because my nearest neighbors are a mile away, and I can walk miles without encountering people, livestock or fences. Off the grid, poor, but happy. My only bill is for internet access.
posted by Agave at 8:10 PM on August 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


I am an iron behemoth of sidewalk justice

Please stop.
posted by Beholder at 8:20 PM on August 21, 2015 [33 favorites]


I fantasize about moving to New York or Europe or Japan based solely on the fact that I'd love to live someplace where one doesn't absolutely have to have a car. I live in a leafy subdivision out in the 'burbs. There are no sidewalks in the neighborhood, nor along the main road to where there are places to shop or get food. It's actually only maybe a quarter-mile or so up to the shops, but because of the layout of the neighborhood it's more than a mile's walk. Not to mention that you're sure to be regarded as suspicious for walking in the neighborhood.
posted by ob1quixote at 8:33 PM on August 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


We live in a very walkable neighborhood and I'm amazed at how short a distance our neighbors will drive and how often they'll offer us rides when we're walking four blocks home.
posted by octothorpe at 8:42 PM on August 21, 2015 [6 favorites]


Walking is a gift. If your body is fortunate enough to be able to walk then celebrate it! I look at each excursion as an expression of independence---of self-reliance.
posted by Monochrome at 8:53 PM on August 21, 2015 [18 favorites]


LA can be a surprisingly walkable city, but there are weird swathes that are just like urban moats, undulating across neighborhoods and breaking them. I would rather face crocodiles than cross six (eight? it's a lot) lanes of Venice Boulevard at dusk, and I'm a very fast walker; I think it says a lot that the buses pick up on both sides of the street, which I assume is because there are a lot of passengers for whom just crossing the road is an understandable safety hazard. Crossing under the 405? It's an experience, depending on the excitement of the on ramp traffic. I used to walk to work in my old city, but that's just not possible here, where a lot of buildings are on streets that just don't have sidewalks, or where the topography couples with highways to be simply impossible. I'm heartened by the new traffic plans, though I wish I they focused more on pedestrian safety, and how that can factor into access to/use of public transit. When I was here ten years ago, I had classmates drive slowly behind me in case I really, truly wanted a ride-- which was kind and thoughtful, but also a little weird to deal with socially. Things seem like they're changing. At least snow shoveling is a non-existent issue...
posted by jetlagaddict at 9:08 PM on August 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


Oh hi, eye of newt! I used to live less than 3 miles away from San Diego airport, and I totally walked there with my suitcase when I was flying somewhere. There were some dodgy segments, though, and part of me was probably trying to prove a point. I don't remember a beach particularly close by. Well, Coronado, but only if you swam there.

Central San Diego is actually built in a reasonably walkable manner, subject to the constraints imposed by the landscape, namely giant chasms. Though even a few of those chasms can be crossed, particularly if you can put yourself in the mindset of an ibex.
posted by aws17576 at 9:21 PM on August 21, 2015


no one clears their sidewalks of snow, because no one has to

Oh my god, flames from the side of my face. When I lived in NJ we had this one set of neighbors with enormous hedges that already were eating the sidewalk, to a degree that you could barely walk on it even in summer, and they never once shoveled their bit of the path. So every winter, it would just turn into a solid mound of ice, particularly since it was shaded by those damn triffids. This was nominally against municipal regulations but based on the size of this house it seemed likely that they weren't exactly sweating the fine. It was also a street that had a nominal 25mph speed limit, but where cars would regularly do 40 because it was one of two streets connecting Rt. 206 to Rt. 1, so walking on the street was completely out of the question lest you get mowed down by a series of commuters.

(This town was considered to have excellent walkability... and the sad part is that for the area, it was excellent.)
posted by en forme de poire at 9:27 PM on August 21, 2015 [6 favorites]


I once was at a campground in Texas near a very touristy city -- Fredricksburg maybe. It was less than a mile to downtown through a couple of residential streets. We got very perplexed looks when we proposed our walking plan to campground staff. Maybe we were the first ever to attempt it.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:34 PM on August 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


I do carry an airhorn sometimes, and blow it at cars that seem to not know I'm there. That has to be annoying. Especially when they have their windows down, because I can walk right up to their window.

I love this idea. But where I live there's a law that allows drivers to carry in their vehicles without permits. So that'd be an excellent way to get assaulted or shot.

I've posted in other "walking is a glorious and endangered pursuit" threads about how nobody walks or takes public transit in my city unless they lack a car for some nefarious reason, like having had their car repoed, or having some sort of DUI restriction on their licenses, or being too poor to afford a car. I still walk and I still take public transit, not because I hate driving but because driving in this city is unbelievably stressful, and because walking is just what I do. And I still get stopped by cops because I seem "suspicious."

Walking may be a gift, but it's also putting a big fat target on your back in a lot of places.
posted by blucevalo at 9:36 PM on August 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


The neighborhood where I live has a lot of sidewalks, though they do very block-to-block depending on when the houses were built. My office is in a suburb where they evidently hate pedestrians, so I cannot walk anywhere without tromping through a ditch. Fine in summer, but useless the minute it starts to rain. When I work from home, I walk to lunch just because I can. It's kinda great.

There's a graphic I see on Twitter every now and again that shows just how much city space is devoted to the car. The cul-de-sac neighborhood pattern might be fantastic for vehicular traffic but it's completely useless for pedestrians.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 9:40 PM on August 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


I live near a similarly busy four-lane road. People are killed all the time crossing the street. Left turns ignoring crosswalks is a big one (sadly with children involved very similar to this article). Swerving into the turning lane or shoulder late at night. Badly designed intersections and unresponsive walk buttons. Obscured views of sidewalk.

I'm not sure if there's a magic bullet, save self-driving cars or something. People suck as drivers and sometimes even as pedestrians. Save the onset of WW3 we're not reorganizing our cities and towns anytime soon, so we're left to optimize for peds or cars or bikes, each with tradeoffs and costs.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:56 PM on August 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


That was a surprising article with a disheartening analysis; I'd had no idea that the United States was generally so walker-unfriendly.

I don't have a car, never been behind a steering wheel in my life. Nobody in my immediate family has one either; in the UK driving's not really considered something that you would automatically do. Not that I have any problem with drivers; I'm fortunate to have a comfortable and widespread public-transport infrastructure (tram/train/bus) and excellent bicycle lanes.

Hope the problems that the article describes can be addressed in future years.
posted by The Zeroth Law at 9:58 PM on August 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Recently I was lucky enough to find a studio in what you could describe as a '30s-style streetcar suburb in SF, and even though people talk kind of disparagingly about this neighborhood because it's kinda foggy and out of the way, it has turned out to be basically ideal for the lifestyle I want. I can walk to the grocery store, the hardware store, the park, the beach, transit, restaurants, etc.; I can even get to a surprisingly suburban-style mall with a Trader Joe's, around 15 minutes by bus, and the bus actually shows up! And yet my street is quiet at night with plenty of greenery, and despite being pretty close to a multi-lane arterial, I feel safer crossing it than I did crossing two-lane streets in the town center when I lived in NJ: there are crosswalks every block, it's very well-signalled with good visibility, and the signals give pedestrians at the crossing a head-start against turning cars.

There's also definitely a cultural aspect, because never once here have I had someone lean on their horn and yell and flip me off for... crossing the street at a crosswalk when the pedestrian light turned green. That one happened to me in that allegedly-walkable college town in NJ -- in the same town I also saw someone literally gun the engine and speed up in a blatant bid to intimidate a pedestrian who had started to cross a half-block away, on a low-traffic street adjacent to campus.

Really wish more places like this existed in the USA, because eventually I'm going to have to move and by then I probably won't be able to afford it here anymore. I mean I can't even really afford it now but you know what I mean.
posted by en forme de poire at 10:07 PM on August 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


Zeroth, one of my European friends was in Atlanta and decided to walk from his hotel to a store a few blocks away. It was in what I'd call an okay neighborhood. THREE police cruisers showed up to check on him, both in the "checking out a suspicious dude" and "my lord someone is walking their car must be broken down or something must be dire!" sense. They offered him rides politely several times and were genuinely befuddled that he was content to walk.

Of course, in my old neighborhood there, we didn't even have sidewalks.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 10:09 PM on August 21, 2015 [7 favorites]


Another grave threat to pedestrianism: those bloody 6 inch high heels that are so fashionable.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 10:55 PM on August 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


My one experience of being stopped by a police person, I was walking. I've described tv experience on another thread. No polite offer of a ride... I'm pretty sure I was being profiled.. But for WHAT? People do walk in this neighborhood. Besides horrible sidewalks, worthless lights, gaps in the bus service.
Either sex must figure out how to handle dogs. I once hopped a bus to evade someone's HUGE Rottweiler that got loose. It added an hour to my trip.
I worry if I see men in groups. Especially if they block the sidewalk.
People yell things from cars. I once was deliberately splashed by people in a van just because they could.
I also was once hit by a damn Super-Soaker. Right in the face.
I've had co-workers charge lots for gas money too, when I worked nights.
I didn't mind paying something, but it should not have been basically half their car payment in advance, with them calling in sick much more than I did. Leaving me on foot in a baddish part of town. I ended up quitting that job. I was so glad to get the next job. I was gladder when I got a job where I mostly worked from my home.
The US really is way worse for people on foot than most of Europe is.
Sarajevo was very good. Plenty of busses, the trams, and really, every neighborhood has shopping and medical services and primary schools, police stations and taxi stands easy to get to.
Getting some things was weirdly hard, thread and cloth aren't sold in the same shops for example, but mostly it wasn't a big fat slog to take care of my daily needs. I was mostly happier.
Cars are a privilege and they've been turned into a necessity and a 'right'. You can hardly even get a job if you don't drive these days.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 11:26 PM on August 21, 2015 [9 favorites]


Bradbury not withstanding, its a dark, dystopian future described in this thread already....

I rebelled in the United States - no car. In Pittsburgh, Chicago and San Francisco. The last two were pretty good, back then it was possible to stay reasonably affordably in central locations with easy access to all kinds of public transportation. But boy do I like the system design in Helsinki where the primary user is the human pedestrian and the secondary, a vehicle.
posted by infini at 12:56 AM on August 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


I didn't own a car for most of the first 50 years of my life; lived in major cities, where a car is a positive handicap, and even when I'd moved to a small prairie city, I tried to keep my car-free life.

But I was ground down: 'frequent bus service' meant 'once an hour', -40 weather combined with uncleared sidewalks mean a series of debilitating falls (I fell last winter and knocked myself out), and errands that take 20 minutes with a car could easily take up to 3 hours. I own a car: I am much fatter and less healthy, but I don't have a broken limb, I'm not being attacked or harrassed by drivers, and I've not been drenched from head to toe once this year. It's sad, because I can easily walk to work in about 45 minutes.
posted by jrochest at 1:35 AM on August 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


. I guess I'm atypical, but... I live way out in the SE Arizona desert ...Off the grid

This thread is what tipped you off to being atypical, huh.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 1:54 AM on August 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


I did some interning in a small Texas town after living two years in NYC. I would walk around and bros would roll down their pickup windows to yell at me. Not like, 'whoo hoo cutie' but more 'you fuuuckiiinng freaaaaak.' It was a little like when I went to Mexico City and made the mistake of wearing a short skirt and people were practically screaming the Invasion of the Body Snatchers scream at me.
posted by angrycat at 2:13 AM on August 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


they never once shoveled their bit of the path. So every winter, it would just turn into a solid mound of ice, particularly since it was shaded by those damn triffids. This was nominally against municipal regulations but based on the size of this house it seemed likely that they weren't exactly sweating the fine.

Colin Furze has invented a tool to deal with that very situation.
posted by flabdablet at 4:03 AM on August 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


I used to live in a college town in the southeastern US. The main university campus was separated from the local strip of shops, bars, and restaurants by a busy four-lane street. Every September, driving down that street became especially crazy due to the new freshmen students. They'd do things like stand on a corner and randomly dart into traffic to cross, sometimes put a foot off the curb then step back, sometimes stand around expectantly unsure of what to do, even a few would walk down the street in the center left-turn lane.

The theory my friends and I came up with is that, for most of these kids, this was the first time in their lives that they had ever been pedestrians. They probably spent their entire childhood being driven or bussed to school, soccer practice, friends houses, and whatever else it was they were doing.
posted by penguinicity at 4:29 AM on August 22, 2015 [16 favorites]


Ray Bradbury's "The Pedestrian" captures this mindset exactly. Highly recommended.

We walk a hour every day here in rural New Hampshire and I can feel the hostility of drivers intensely. I've been yelled at, nearly run over several times, stopped by the cops, harassed by dogs. It would be worse if there weren't other people occasionally walking their dogs, which helps slightly to normalize the idea of being out on foot.
posted by Zpt2718 at 5:12 AM on August 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


You can walk to San Diego airport from downtown, I've done it. I remember it being quite nice except for the very last bit getting across the main road into the airport. San Diego was pretty nice to walk around in general, I spent hours wandering around there.

We did once get stopped and turned back by the police trying to walk somewhere from our hotel in LA though. Literally turned back and told we couldn't walk there and my mum was endangering us. Quite threatening. We were walking along a grass verge in front of some hotels to somewhere about two blocks away, and the children being "endangered" (me and my brother) were 17 and 14. LA was a very weird pedestrian-unfriendly place though.
posted by tinkletown at 5:23 AM on August 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


I live in Atlanta. I get my car fixed at a place half a mile away. They seem genuinely confused when I drop off the car and say that I'll walk home, and please call me when the car's ready. What, am I supposed to get someone to drive me just so I don't have to suffer that indignity?
posted by madcaptenor at 5:43 AM on August 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


I did "Meet the Teacher" with my kids yesterday. On the student information form we were asked to fill out, there was a question about how the children would get home after school. Only two options were presented--will they ride the bus or will someone pick them up? Walking wasn't even an option. I have no idea what kind of fight it would involve to get the school to let the kids walk.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 5:45 AM on August 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


When I was growing up, my school district only provided bus service to junior high kids if they lived more than two miles away. But of course, there weren't safe walking routes for everyone who lived within that two mile radius--the school was in an area with wide, busy streets, and in some places there were no sidewalks. There was one time that I couldn't catch my normal ride--band practice, or something--and I remember tramping through the muddy ditch on the side of the road while cars whizzed past, hating the world.

Now I wonder if they'd have the opposite rule, that you HAVE to have a ride...
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 6:02 AM on August 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


towns that seemed built around freeway exits. I remember asking motel clerks how I could walk to a restaurant that they had said was a 5 minute drive away, and they looked at me like I was insane.

This one's never made sense to me -- if I've stopped for the night during a long road trip, the absolute last thing I want to do is get back in the car, even for a few minutes. And yet that's how most highway exits with motels and such are set up. Bleah.
posted by asperity at 6:11 AM on August 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


blucevalo: I've posted in other "walking is a glorious and endangered pursuit" threads about how nobody walks or takes public transit in my city unless they lack a car for some nefarious reason, like having had their car repoed, or having some sort of DUI restriction on their licenses, or being too poor to afford a car.

This hits the nail on the head. Outside of a handful of metro areas, nothing signals poor/sick/weird/criminal/screw you America quite like not owning a car.
posted by dr_dank at 6:55 AM on August 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


I live less than a mile from work and used to walk religiously and people would just be stunned by that. Just shocked and amazed.

I drive now ever since the guy pulled a gun on me during my walk to work and it's really the thing that makes me saddest about the whole affair. It has made my trip to work a lot less serene.
posted by absalom at 7:00 AM on August 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


people talk kind of disparagingly about this neighborhood because it's kinda foggy and out of the way

I just wanted to point out how wonderful it is that a neighborhood can be foggy
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 7:29 AM on August 22, 2015 [9 favorites]


Another grave threat to pedestrianism: those bloody 6 inch high heels that are so fashionable.

One of the many reasons that I don't give six shits about "fashion."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:49 AM on August 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


One of the best things about having a dog as a companion is having another excuse to go for a walk.
posted by notyou at 8:49 AM on August 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


" One neighbourhood in suburban Chicago fought sidewalks so bitterly, with long-time residents speaking against sidewalk calls from younger families, that it ended up with a walkway stopping pointlessly halfway down a block. "

I live two blocks from that street. It had nothing to do with people not wanting sidewalks; it had to do with people not wanting to pay for sidewalks. What's funny about it, though is ththat the sidewalk doesn't just stop--it ends in a little cul-de-sac bulb in the middle of the block.
posted by lester at 8:55 AM on August 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


> The cul-de-sac neighborhood pattern might be fantastic for vehicular traffic but it's completely useless for pedestrians.

I mean, yeah, if you're not going to cut through people's yards and climb some fences, sure.
posted by cardioid at 9:09 AM on August 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


The cul-de-sac neighborhood pattern might be fantastic for vehicular traffic but it's completely useless for pedestrians.

I think it tends to be terrible for vehicular traffic too. There's usually one main arterial that's bumper-to-bumper (during busy times) or where people drive too fast (the rest of the time) because it's such an aggravatingly circuitous path from their house to the neighborhood boundary and they're driving it six times a day.

Grids are way better for walking and for driving both. All the cars can go on the big arterial, and the pedestrians can walk one block over on the nice, pleasant street that's quiet and has trees!
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 9:28 AM on August 22, 2015 [6 favorites]


So, here's what the Colorado Department of Transportation thinks is a useful message to provide to pedestrians: Hank's How to Get Hit by a Car Video Series.

I keep hoping for public service campaigns about pedestrian safety aimed at drivers, but no, CDOT apparently thinks drivers know what they're meant to do around pedestrians. I have a slogan and campaign they can use for free if they change their mind! We could feature cars creeping up on pedestrians in crosswalks and warn drivers, "Don't be a creep!" Or maybe some nice graphs featuring likelihood of pedestrian death at impacts at different speeds. Maybe they need some incentive not to go as fast as possible, limits be damned?

Realistically, speed limits don't really do much on their own to keep drivers behaving decently around pedestrians. The likeliest thing to work is road redesign, specifically making roads narrower. More road diets, please.
posted by asperity at 9:46 AM on August 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


cardioid: “> The cul-de-sac neighborhood pattern might be fantastic for vehicular traffic but it's completely useless for pedestrians.

I mean, yeah, if you're not going to cut through people's yards and climb some fences, sure.”
In fairness, it's hard to walk back from the corner with chips and beer and also climb fences, etc.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:08 AM on August 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also harder to get away with cutting through people's yards and climbing fences past the age of twelve or so.

Which sucks.
posted by asperity at 10:19 AM on August 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


asperity: “Maybe they need some incentive not to go as fast as possible, limits be damned?”
That's the other thing about my no-sidewalk subdivision. I'm sure the architect read an article about how the S-curves in the streets would slow down traffic and make it more interesting. In practice what happens is people think they're race car drivers and go 40 mph in a 25 zone while taking a racing line.

There are people who live deeper in who flash their lights, honk, and give me the finger because I have the temerity to drive the speed limit in my own neighborhood. A neighborhood where there are people walking in the street because there are no sidewalks, kids playing, dogs wandering, other wildlife including deer who run up and down the draw, etc. Clearly I'm the jerk for thinking 40 might be a little fast under those conditions on a 24 ft. road.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:23 AM on August 22, 2015 [7 favorites]


The likeliest thing to work is road redesign, specifically making roads narrower.

I recently visited Portland (OR), and one of the (many) things I loved about it were the narrower streets. In Phoenix, even where there are sidewalks, the 5-7 lane busy streets are really stressful to walk on. And if you can't walk fast, you might not make it across in the time allowed by the traffic lights. Just two days ago, I saw an older woman basically get stranded in the middle of a major street when the light changed and she hadn't made it across yet. (Luckily, a 20-something looking guy stopped the cars, went out to the middle of the street, took her hand, and escorted her the rest of the way, waving off the angry drivers, so she was okay and my faith in humanity was a little bit restored, at least for that day.)
posted by Weeping_angel at 10:25 AM on August 22, 2015 [9 favorites]


> In fairness, it's hard to walk back from the corner with chips and beer and also climb fences, etc.

> Also harder to get away with cutting through people's yards and climbing fences past the age of twelve or so.

I'm not saying you don't have completely valid reasons to not cut through people's yards and climb fences. We don't all get to be Ferris Bueller every day.

I think Blue Jello Elf made a good point about cul-de-sac neighborhoods not being good for vehicular traffic, either. There have been times in my life I've been interested in neighborhood design, but it's been a while and I only vaguely remember various pros/cons now. A quick Google search (on "neighborhood design roads") led me to this Neighborhood Road Design Guidebook (PDF). Skimming over it, I quickly came across two diagrams showing a mass of cul-de-sacs (labelled "discouraged") and a set of streets that actually intersect in several places (labelled "preferred"). Underneath that figure, it reads
In many areas, cul‐de‐sac and dead end street development are necessary because of existing development such as houses, railroads, or natural barriers such as slopes or water bodies.  When possible, however, a more connected road system has many benefits:
  • Additional emergency service provider access;
  • Dispersal of traffic, and reduction of traffic volumes on collector roads;
  • Additional means for non‐auto travel without creating easements or inviting trespass on private property;
  • Additional road frontage for building.
I'd like to say it may have something to do with this coming from Massachusetts rather than, say, the Great West of Post-Vehicular America, but later in the document there's a nice image (Figure 15, page 44) of "Pedestrian Connections From Cul‐de‐sac Roads", coming from "Source:  City of Fort Worth, Street Development standards".
posted by cardioid at 10:47 AM on August 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


when I moved to the Midwest and learned about the legal requirement to shovel my sidewalk, which I then assumed was universal for cold snowy places, I was just wrong -- it's a city law in Madison, not state law in Wisconsin, and lots of cities don't have it. So yes, this is one more way the law makes it hard to be a pedestrian.

When I moved to my midwest city and found myself walking from the parking lot to the office on ice-covered sidewalks, I did some research and found that it was in fact a city law to shovel / clean sidewalks, it's just not enforced.

I tried to explain to my NYC friends that even though I live a very walkable distance from my office it would be perceived as odd if I were to walk to work instead of driving. It's also a bit scary because no one else is walking, and in the event of an assault or just an alarming encounter there may or may not be witnesses.

Recently when a local murdered several members of his family, his coworkers brought up the fact that he walked to work as one of the things that made him odd.
posted by bunderful at 10:58 AM on August 22, 2015 [9 favorites]


An alternative to cul-de-sacs is to have a grid but make some of the connecting streets into pedestrian-only or mixed-use paths. You can do that such that driving is still predictable (every nth street connects through the whole neighborhood, e.g.) while limiting thru traffic, and yet walking actually offers advantages in that case because you can safely take the most direct route.
posted by en forme de poire at 12:08 PM on August 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


Realistically, speed limits don't really do much on their own to keep drivers behaving decently around pedestrians. The likeliest thing to work is road redesign, specifically making roads narrower. More road diets, please.

I wish that were the case. My whole region, though, seems to be going in the opposite direction, dumping billions of dollars into adding traffic lanes. Despite the huge disruption caused by the construction, none of it seems to include sidewalks or bike lanes, either.
posted by indubitable at 12:10 PM on August 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Ahh, found what I was describing above: the fused grid.
posted by en forme de poire at 12:13 PM on August 22, 2015 [6 favorites]


When I moved to my midwest city and found myself walking from the parking lot to the office on ice-covered sidewalks, I did some research and found that it was in fact a city law to shovel / clean sidewalks, it's just not enforced.

This is the case in other cities I've lived and worked in, and the reason given is often that it would be an unfair burden to the elderly or disabled. I'm certainly sympathetic to that, but what really ticks me off in winter is the total lack of sidewalk clearance enforcement for commercial properties. That's a bunch of bullshit given they're all already paying people to remove snow and ice from their parking lots and entrances.
posted by asperity at 12:43 PM on August 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


An alternative to cul-de-sacs is to have a grid but make some of the connecting streets into pedestrian-only or mixed-use paths.

There are a lot of neighborhoods in Davis, CA, where this is done pretty effectively. Roads are built on the suburban cul-de-sac model, but all the cul-de-sacs are linked together by an extensive system of bike paths. It's very pleasant. It would work better if these areas weren't zoned so as to fully separate residential areas from business areas, though.
posted by aws17576 at 1:09 PM on August 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


"Car culture, NIMBY-ism, class struggles, and fear of outsiders are making it harder for people to get around on foot"

This is why I live in San Francisco, in an area with a walkability score of 99/100, in a city where the emergent debate isn't car vs. cyclist, but cyclist vs. pedestrian, and whether our gungho cyclists who think they own both the streets, the mixed-use paths, and the sidewalks should have to obey the law and stop at stop signs and lights or not, in a city where it's a planning goal to slow down traffic, in order to keep pedestrians -- and bicyclists -- safe.

The Idaho stop is all fine and well in Idaho, but crowded, hilly, mixed-use S.F. is not Des Moines.
posted by markkraft at 2:44 PM on August 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


But I have noticed that more people are getting Fitbits, and that seems to be rebranding walking as something that virtuous, fit people do. I'm not sure that's all that much better, but now people think I'm a fitness buff because I walk, and not some sort of weirdo city person who hates the real America.

In capitalist America, the difference between treason and patriotism is monetisation.
posted by acb at 2:45 PM on August 22, 2015 [6 favorites]


I always know when I'm in white people town when just walking around is seen as suspicious.

Yea really. Walking in seattle can be dangerous because of aggressive asshole drivers(much more so than inattentive or clueless drivers, honestly) who want to rev or creep up on you at crosswalks, or stop to lean on their horn and scream abuse at you after you've already crossed a block and a half in front of them...

But nah, it's weird suburbs that are the worst with this. First of all, fuck suburban police. And that means something coming from someone who lives in a city with an objectively shit police force that's perpetually being investigated by the DOJ.

All the "suspicious person because walking" I've ever gotten, complete with circular gotcha questions and other BS, has been in places like that.

I've been threatened with arrest and jail for walking. Or just openly threatened with "if you don't play along with my whole circular game of 20 questions and accusations and are at all flippant I'm going to waste your entire day for disrespecting me".

I got it way more as a teen than I do now, but I've literally been asked "where's your car?" As if I left the house without pants. All my friends who grew up in the suburbs or outside the city were always weird like that too. "oh wait... You guys don't have cars!?!?"

And then we'd get hassled for walking outside their houses. On the sidewalk, not in the road or anything.

Being outside on foot without a dog or jogging gear is apparently by default a suspicious activity anywhere that isn't a teaming metropolis. I've experienced this all over the country... Ugh.
posted by emptythought at 2:45 PM on August 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


I recently visited Portland (OR), and one of the (many) things I loved about it were the narrower streets. In Phoenix, even where there are sidewalks, the 5-7 lane busy streets are really stressful to walk on.

Portland's walkability was a large part of why I moved here. (From Mesa AZ, which, yeah, awful.)

The narrow streets (with cars parked both sides) make me a little nervous when I do have to drive, but what the hell I hate driving anyway.
posted by rifflesby at 2:58 PM on August 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


in a city where the emergent debate isn't car vs. cyclist, but cyclist vs. pedestrian, and whether our gungho cyclists who think they own both the streets, the mixed-use paths, and the sidewalks

This is getting off the topic a little, but just this morning on the Lake Front Trail in Chicago (a mixed-use path) I saw a bicyclist zipping by a group of runners yell, without irony, to "Share the path," and later saw another bicyclist almost take out an old lady going much slower on a bike. It would be a really nice place to walk if so many people didn't use it as their personal bike racing course. That 10mph speed limit would be amazing.
posted by stopgap at 5:17 PM on August 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


> Being outside on foot without a dog or jogging gear is apparently by default a suspicious activity anywhere that isn't a teaming metropolis. I've experienced this all over the country... Ugh.

It's worth noting that even jogging used to be regarded with the same suspicion.
posted by indubitable at 5:37 PM on August 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


...a giant white bubble comes out of the sea and chases you!

It was wearing those dam' blazers that I didn't like, though... really didn't suit me.

As a diehard walker from London, I am very pleased that most of my work in the US takes place in Manhattan, where I can walk as much as I like. I too have been stopped by police cars asking what I was doing (San Diego), been trapped without a car in hotels with no way to walk anywhere (numerous places, to which in the interests of fairness I must add Glasgow (UK) and Hong Kong) and being unable to get a few hundred yards from points A to B without crossing a giant multilane road (lots of places, but most recently Boston)

So today's walk early this morning from 49th, down the HiLine, across to Bleecker and back up Broadway, made me feel very grateful to be here. Especially as, if the weather turns bad, there is plenty of public transport as well as sidewalks...
posted by 43rdAnd9th at 7:27 PM on August 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


This thread makes me so grateful for the lovely sidewalk outside my house that extends in every direction and for the county government that continues to add dedicated bike lanes and for my good luck in being able to live here. Excuse me, I'm going to go donate to our local advocacy group.
posted by oryelle at 7:43 PM on August 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is the case in other cities I've lived and worked in, and the reason given is often that it would be an unfair burden to the elderly or disabled. I'm certainly sympathetic to that, but what really ticks me off in winter is the total lack of sidewalk clearance enforcement for commercial properties. That's a bunch of bullshit given they're all already paying people to remove snow and ice from their parking lots and entrances.

I just can't get my head around this. I live next door to a very nice 75-year-old widow. When I shovel my sidewalk I shovel her sidewalk to because at least in some small way that's what humans do to respect their elders. Two doors down from me is a bank and the guy who shovels and salts their parking lot also shovels and salts the sidewalk in front of the bank, for one thing because it's city law, and for another just because why would you not when you're already doing the work?

And again, I don't live in a big coastal urban enclave with subways. Most people in Madison who aren't college students own cars. I do. I drive my car a lot. But I also walk places that are walkable. Nobody thinks this is strange. I just filled out the same form Pater Aletheias did at my kids' school, and there, "will walk himself home" is one of the listed options.
posted by escabeche at 7:55 PM on August 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


because it's city law, and for another just because why would you not when you're already doing the work?

In Denver (and probably most other Colorado cities), it's because there's no tax money to pay workers to do enforcement, so there's no enforcement, so there might as well be no city law. Sidewalk clearance enforcement (reasonably enough!) is a lower priority than keeping the more essential services running, but it really does suck to have a public and civic responsibility devolve to individuals buying YakTrax.
posted by asperity at 8:51 PM on August 22, 2015 [2 favorites]



An alternative to cul-de-sacs is to have a grid but make some of the connecting streets into pedestrian-only or mixed-use paths

I live on a dead end street in an extremely walkable college town, but the dead end is only a dead end if you're in car. Otherwise, you come upon a lit, low-grade starwell that leads into another neighborhood and connects to the greenway. I kind of love the path because it has a whiff of secret passage about it.
posted by thivaia at 9:23 PM on August 22, 2015 [6 favorites]


> It's worth noting that even jogging used to be regarded with the same suspicion.

That makes a lot of sense, though. After all, who runs for fun?
posted by cardioid at 9:40 PM on August 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


I just can't get my head around this.

Especially since having unshoveled, icy/snowy bits of sidewalk breaking up the walkable network is also a burden for elderly people and people who use mobility aids!
posted by en forme de poire at 10:56 PM on August 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


My son starts junior high this year. We live less than a mile from the school. When I and the other mom of similar aged kids told the school that the boys would be walking, they looked at us like we were mad. It's sidewalks for all but one small church yard that didn't put one in, they don't have to cross any streets, and they're practically teenagers, and yet, we got looks like we were asking for our kids to be milk carton models.
posted by dejah420 at 11:17 PM on August 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


To just go out for a stroll?

In Maycomb, if one went for a walk with no definite purpose in mind, it was correct to believe one’s mind incapable of definite purpose.--To Kill a Mockingbird
posted by eye of newt at 1:25 AM on August 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


When my son was in school, you could have lived across the street from the school and still need to be bused to class because there were no sidewalks or crosswalks and the road that the school was on had super-fast traffic on it.
posted by octothorpe at 6:38 AM on August 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


-Why the time is right to re-examine the L.A. freeway
-So Elon Musk's Hyperloop Is Actually Getting Kinda Serious

maybe 'her' will become the next 'minority report' in terms of urban design?
posted by kliuless at 11:23 AM on August 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


So Elon Musk's Hyperloop Is Actually Getting Kinda Serious

Monorail!
posted by flabdablet at 12:37 PM on August 23, 2015


The narrow streets (with cars parked both sides) make me a little nervous when I do have to drive

That's why it works. Everyone is safer when drivers are a little nervous. Nervous drivers slow down and pay attention.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 6:00 PM on August 23, 2015 [6 favorites]


they never once shoveled their bit of the path. So every winter, it would just turn into a solid mound of ice, particularly since it was shaded by those damn triffids. This was nominally against municipal regulations but based on the size of this house it seemed likely that they weren't exactly sweating the fine.

Colin Furze has invented a tool to deal with that very situation.
posted by flabdablet at 4:03 AM on August 22
[2 favorites +] You already made this a favorite. [!]


Thanks!! That's awesome I just shared that video with Mr. Roquette! He will love it!
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 12:10 AM on August 24, 2015


Graymouser: I could walk out my door and to the farmer's market tomorrow morning if I wanted, or to a couple of different parks, or to restaurants and boutique type stores. I could also walk to the train station, get on the train, and walk around in Philly, although that's a bit far.

Collingswood's funny though, being a wealthier town that bumps up against Camden. (For non-locals: very poor, majority black small city that regularly gets trotted out as the most dangerous city in the US.) When I take the train from Philly to visit my friends in Collingswood, the quickest way to their house is to get off at a station on the edge of Camden (for locals: Ferry Avenue), cut through a parking lot, and walk over a long pedestrian highway overpass that looks like it was just plopped in there from nowhere. Let me tell you, things get a lot greener once you hit the Collingswood side of the overpass. The lighting on the streets from the Collingswood side to the overpass is much worse at night too, presumably because there's less expectation that people are walking there.

I'm glad that overpass exists, but I've never seen another white person walking on the sidewalks leading up to it, and never seen another person on the overpass period. It feels like it was just grudgingly stuck in there, that its function is as much to be an imposing barrier as it is to actually let people pass.
posted by ActionPopulated at 7:30 AM on August 24, 2015


Icy sidewalks remind me of the day in early March when I reported a very icy patch of sidewalk behind a bus stop in downtown Minneapolis. I used the city website and they told me my issue would be resolved in three weeks. Yeah it would... by the sun. March seems to be the worst for ice here because the freeze-thaw cycle in areas with poor drainage results in skating rinks.
posted by soelo at 9:56 AM on August 24, 2015


I grew up in Phoenix, AZ which, in my head, is the epitome of car culture and everything wrong with this country whether it's political or social. Being a pedestrian there, especially in the suburbs, is literally dangerous. I've been physically attacked and harassed there throughout my life more than any other place I've been to. Thankfully, as others also from AZ mentioned up thread, I've had the privilege to move to Portland, OR and I haven't owned a car in over 5 years. Even owning two bicycles I primarily walk everywhere. It's great.

My issue with this is that major cities are expensive. It's going to take me quite a while to save money to buy a car in the future, all while Portland gets more expensive to live in and I don't have a middle class income. I'm afraid at my prospects of living in the future because it seems like the places where you can get away without having a car are too out of my price range. My parents live in Reno and I've been here remodeling their house for a while. I was lucky to get a job in downtown only a mile from their house, which is easy to walk to. However, when my job basically cut everyone's hours to the most minuscule amounts, I went looking for a second job. They were all too far away for me because they required use of a car and I'm no longer on my parents' insurance so a car wreck would ruin them financially in a time when they're trying to retire. There weren't any jobs downtown that I qualified for so I just saved what meager earnings I could. It made me really depressed knowing that I couldn't walk to these places.

I'll be back in Portland this week and living with a friend temporarily in the Pearl district which is highly walkable. As much as I hate that area, I'm excited to walk everywhere again. I remember two winters ago we got a huge snow storm and the city was basically shutdown. My girlfriend and I at the time suited up and walked over a mile from my house to Nicholas Restaurant on SE Grand to eat warm pita and hummus and baklava. It was really nice.
posted by gucci mane at 1:12 PM on August 24, 2015


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