Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Library Frogger

The local branch of the library is about a mile and a half from our house. Whenever possible, we like to walk/jog/bike to do our errands to save on gas and get some exercise. One and a half miles is completely within our jogging range for errands. And yet, I can hardly bring myself to walk to the library because the way is so hazardous.

I don't know what Tucson has against sidewalks, or at least contiguous ones. Maybe it's the same damage they have with streetlights - there just aren't any. If you're lucky, you have a gravel shoulder to walk on. If not, it's just a foot of pothole-y asphalt just beyond the white line.

Perhaps the greater mystery to me is that when there are sidewalks, they are just fragments. They start and stop without rhyme or reason and even jump to different sides of the road. If I want to jog to the library with Miriam in the jogging stroller, the first 3/4 mile would be on a gravel shoulder of a two-lane road. That's OK, because it's a jogging stroller and it can handle rugged terrain. The road isn't that busy with traffic, anyway.

The remaining 3/4 mile, however, is on a five-lane, major North/South thoroughfare. If I were to attempt to take advantage of all the sidewalk available, it would go something like this:

1. Sidewalk.
2. Uneven dirt shoulder.
3. Cross busy road without a crosswalk or signal to sidewalk fragment.
4. Sidewalk ends, but it picks up again shortly on this side of the road so I walk on the narrow asphalt shoulder.
5. Cross busy road, again without crosswalk or signal to sidewalk fragment.
6. Sidewalk ends, but again picks up shortly on this side of the road, so I walk on the narrow asphalt shoulder.
7. Cross busy road AGAIN. The stretch of sidewalk on the other side is not very long, but there is no shoulder to speak of anymore on this side of the road. No crosswalk or signal.
8. There is now sidewalk available on the other side of the road, but I'll stick it out on this side because there's a wide dirt shoulder.
9. Finally, sidewalk reappears and continues until my destination.
10. Repeat on the way home.

If I want to push Miriam's stroller in safety, I have to cross the busy road three times without the benefit of a signal or even a crosswalk. I'll admit that usually I end up just jogging extra fast during those times without a sidewalk so I can avoid having to play frogger on the busy road multiple times.

I would love to walk to the library every time I go. We go there fairly often, and so it would be a great source of exercise. But I just can't bring myself to put my daughter (and me) in mortal danger every time we make the trip. So I end up driving there and back. And it makes me sad.

And so whenever I hear people clucking their tongues at us Americans, saying we never walk anywhere, I want to say this: Give me a contiguous sidewalk, and I will walk.

Now, about those streetlights...


Matthew said...

Yes, I was amazed that the sidewalks in St Louis were so inadequate. The Lebanese ones are completely horrible, but at least the EXIST. In the US is seems that even nearby errands are completely impractical because sidewalks aren't really intended for transportation. They are more like an optional landscaping concept for those who choose to have them.

Anonymous said...

Coming from a state/city oriented to the outdoors, complete w/ bike lanes & sidewalks in most municipalities, it is a shock to realize the rest of the country doesn't subscribe to this philosophy. Become the squeaky wheel--it will never change if you don't. Enlist support from others & encourage them to call/write the city too. You'll get the 'no funds available' response, but keep at it in the form of letters & phone calls. If our city can do it, so can Tucson. Granny.


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