Monday, October 20, 2014

Walk to Get Your Groceries Challenge

Last week I took the Strong Towns Walk to Get Your Groceries Challenge, which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: take a walk to get your groceries, then tell others about your experience. For me this isn't so much a challenge as something I do pretty much every week, but the folks over at Strong Towns recognize that for a lot of people walking to get groceries is a novel idea, and can really raise awareness about the issues that pedestrians face navigating a typical neighborhood to do a mundane task.

Since I was already out on my bike, I "cheated" and biked a route that I often walk for groceries. It's about a mile each way to this particular store, and although there's another market closer to me I often walk the longer distance to get some extra exercise in and to pick up some of the specialty products only available at the more distant store.

Here's a summary of the trip in photos:
Whether on bike or on foot, we often choose to cruise through our neighborhood via alleys because they have less traffic than the adjacent roads and are often easier to navigate with a stroller than the poorly-repaired and often narrow sidewalks (plus my daughter thinks they're interesting spaces).
You can see one of the main reasons we take to the alleys here: no curb cuts. Try getting stroller or bike with a kid on it down that curb, especially while balancing a sack of heavy groceries.
This is not to say the sidewalk network in our neighborhood is all bad. The good news is that there are sidewalks in place on every block along the route to the grocery store, and most of them have a nice parkway separation between the street and the sidewalk.
Not the world's most exciting bike parking at the grocery store, but at least it's there. I saw at least three others come and go by bike in the 15 minutes I was in the store, so this is clearly an important amenity for our neighborhood.
 It's always a thrill to ride over our newly-painted decorative crosswalk.
And just one intersection away, here's the not-so-great crosswalk. This is the busiest intersection that we have to navigate along our grocery route, and it's adjacent to the local middle school. You can see that it leaves much to be desired in terms of pedestrian and bike design. Yes, that stop bar set back from the crosswalk and the striping is yellow, but that's really all that can be said for this location. It really needs some significant improvement: zebra striping, some bulb-outs, updated pedestrian push buttons, perhaps even a raised median?
 And then of course there's always this to contend with when you're walking.

Almost home. One of the big challenges in our neighborhood is that the streets were all designed with too much width for vehicles, leading to perpetual speeding problems that constantly worry and annoy residents. These speed humps offer a less-than-ideal solution, but they're better than nothing. It will take some serious time and money to retrofit every street, but we're working on it.

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