I read a very disturbing articale in the newspaper this morning
Sidewalks? Too pedestrian for some
describes the concerns many suburban homeowners have about sidewalks. Mostly, they object because of the "Ugly factor".
My first thought when I read this article was "Give me a break!" Since when did having a big, concrete-free lawn become more important than saving lives? How did a preference for grass and not having to shovel snow become more important than making a safe neighborhood? It makes me incredibly angry that the safety of those who choose to walk is less important.
There's also an argument in the article that sidewalks are "bad for the environment". I'm sorry, I don't buy that. Can you prove to me that "run off" is worse for the environment in the long-run than an SUV and the gas it consumes and the fumes it emits? Yes, it's more inconvenient, but a well-designed sidewalk makes walking safer for children, people with disabilities, the elderly and pets with their owners.
What this article shows is exactly why I don't want to live in a suburb. From what I have seen, it's hard enough to get things like accessible pedestrian signals in the city, where there are more pedestrians. I think a certain inferno would have to freeze over before we'd get them in the suburbs.
People love to complain about global warming. But really, what are most of us doing? Driving, or riding. Why do we do it? Because it's generally unsafe to walk. If I've been hit in the relatively-pedestrian friendly area around my college (which has a sidewalk), I'd say it's more likely when there isn't one. Further, people don't think things have heavy traffic, until they walk it. And what's safe for a sighted person isn't always safe for a blind person.
Quite frankly, many times, sighted people do things which are very unsafe. Sighted people can get hit by cars. But until it happens to someone you know or you, most people have no reason to ccare about it. And that's where the danger lies. If sidewalks are available, pedestrians will use them. If they're not, pedestrians won't always make safe choices. They don't always have a choice. Either they don't walk the unsafe street, or they walk it. If they don't walk, they don't get where they need to go at all.
It's easy to forget about the needs of those who don't have the same resources. But the beauty of sidewalks is that they are a resource that everyone can use. When planning any street, safe, effective and, when possible, aesthetically pleasing pedestrian options must be available. Without them, people are certain to get hurt or die.