Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Pedestrians Be Damned!

Living in California, Southern California especially, we and everyone else hears about "our" healthy lifestyle. We promoted the seat belt, smog abatement leading first the nation and then the world into finding ways to make the air we breathe better and ultimately healthy. (This lesson apparently slipped by the Chinese who now have the most unhealthy and possibly the deadliest air on the planet). Then there was the push for walking though many sidewalks in Los Angeles are the worst in the county, bike paths, coastal protection that we are now seeing is still up for sale and the recent sacking of the Chairman of the AQMD (air quality metro district) in Southern California that sets the guidelines of permissible pollution. They just passed a bill in the Assembly that says you have to be 21 to legally smoke a cigarette yet waffles on medical marijuana. It is a conundrum.

Walkers are encouraged to walk until they work!
Do these things work? Well, yes and no. The day my son was born in October 1981 the smog was so bad you couldn't see across the street. Since that day and that event we have never had anything like that happen again. The smog hasn't disappeared but what there is we barely see. To be fair to the Los Angeles basin, the Native Americans called it the "valley of the smokes" because it was so prone to being foggy, dusty and smoggy before "civilization" came to make the situation worse.

The transition from the anything goes mentality has not been easy and every interest group has put up roadblocks to delay or in some cases stop laws aimed at preventing additional pollution. Many cities and counties across the nation have added walking, bike paths and mass transit to encourage this type of exercise. However, when they want or need to work on the sidewalk or shut down the subway as in Washington, D.C., you are left to your own devices.

Having just come from an hours walk with my dog, something I do just about every day because of health reasons and she wants and demands it, I was struck by the fact that no matter where I have gone in Southern California how little thought and care is given to pedestrians. If there is a sidewalk people riding bikes use them and think you are intruding for being there even though there are signs that warn you NOT to ride on the sidewalk and stating a fine if caught. In fact today, in Palm Springs, there are bike paths with that name and arrow painted on them where us walkers are not allowed to be. However, there is one small catch ... there is no where else for a walker to walk!

When you walk a dog you must pick up your dogs droppings. There are signs everywhere with a minimum fine stating this but not a trash can for miles! I see many dogs on my walks ... do the owners just leave their gifts behind? Am I the only fool carrying a little blue or grocery plastic bag around looking for a place to deposit it? You hope to find a bus stop where there is always a trash receptacle but evidently the streets I walked on today do not have that. I never saw one.

Woe be to the poor pedestrian if there's an accident. We waited and waited
to cross. Evidently cars are more important and well, we just crossed!
When I lived in Alhambra and had no vehicle I walked everywhere within a 2 mile radius. Luckily everything that I might need was there but it was not a pleasant walk. You had to plan which side of the street you needed the most things on because signals were so looooong that you could die and be buried before they turned to let you cross. I'm discovering the same thing in Palm Springs. The big gripe is that it signals walk and about three seconds later, often before you are even off the curb, the hand comes up telling you not to cross. The other wrinkle out here is the talking signal. Its says "wait, wait" "wait" until it finally says walk then counts down the seconds you have to cross. Talk about getting a hitch in your get-along ... no dawdling is allowed! The frustration level is so high people J-walk with several fatalities here recently, like last week!

Not only was one corner closed, ALL four corners were. 
This lack of respect? for pedestrians is also shown with street construction people. We passed block after block of torn out corners that had yellow tape around them with signs that said, "Sidewalk Closed." What are you supposed to do? The poor walkers become billy goats as they struggle up and down hills fighting their way through cactus and desert landscaping as they cross the street to continue their walk. To make matters worse both sides of the street are torn up. My dog could have cared less and probably welcomed the adventure of fighting through the landscaping. At 70 I was not so easily won over and have a few scratches to prove it.

The design is this, at least to me, if you want a healthy, happy citizenry, do what it takes to promote healthy citizens. Instead, we get that make do with what you get. City, state, county state and the Federal Government need to speak to us with a unified voice. Either they encourage us and create the ways we can lead a healthier lifestyle or not.

On a visit to Amsterdam we were stunned at the number of bikes ... they even have their own lane! It turned out that the Dutch had gotten lazy like Americans and would drive their cars, despite gasoline prices that would cause riots in the states, down the block to the store. Noting the increased weight of its citizens the mayor of Amsterdam began riding his bike to work. Within months the streets were once again filled with bikes! This was a design that worked. Hopefully many more American urban centers can learn from this and treat pedestrians and bike riders with the respect and good health they deserve.

Thank you for reading my blog! Please check out earlier blogs that talk about life ... lives that are always designed, whether we realize it or not!

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