Monday, August 15, 2011

Of strollers and sidewalks

It's a truth almost too obvious to mention that walking with a baby changes your perspective on the pedestrian environment, but I'm going to mention it anyway because it allows me to rant afresh about a problem that affects more than just new baby owners.

Exhibit A: the sidewalk in our neighborhood (see above). Note, I use the term side-"walk" here loosely, as nothing about this crumpled thread of concrete is actually conducive to walking. In fact, until three weeks ago I ignored this mess entirely, sticking instead to the smooth path of asphalt beside it.

And then...enter baby. Suddenly, I'm not so pleased about being forced to share a roadbed with several tons of lethal vehicle. Granted, the on-street parking, narrow roadways, and low traffic volumes make sharing the road a mostly-reasonable proposition in my community. But honestly, if we're going to have sidewalks that are so narrow and poorly maintained that they aren't even usable, why even have them at all? Wouldn't it be a better idea to just tear them out, and instead have a slightly wider shared roadway that a pedestrian with a stroller (or in a wheelchair, or with a cane) might actually be able to use?

It's this unceasing bias against infrastructure for pedestrians, and in favor of that for vehicles, that makes me angry as a pedestrian advocate. This situation would never be tolerated if we were talking about vehicle lanes. Can you imagine the outcry if Los Angeles let its roads deteriorate to the point that they weren't usable in much of the city? In fact, the City's Operation Pothole was instituted to avoid just such a scenario. Yet the City continues to find reasons not to fix its sidewalks (or more precisely, not to force responsible property owners to do so).

What I'd like to know is, where is our Operation Sidewalk?


  1. Hey, great post. It is so frustrating trying to walk on broken sidewalk. Being a good deal north of LA, it gets even more difficult to walk on sidewalks in the winter when people refuse to shovel! And when the snowy sidewalk is broken and thrusted it is near impossible to walk on. I often end up walking on the nicely-ploughed road where I am less likely to slip and fall, but am more likely to be hit by a car. Keep up defending the pedestrian!

  2. While we don't have the snow problem down here, I see regular complaints about that exact issue from more wintery climates. Again and again we see the subtle (or maybe not-so-subtle) bias against pedestrians and in favor of vehicles...