Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Problems With Walkability In An Auto-Centric Society

A blanket of new fallen snow can be a very beautiful thing, especially when it falls on a weekend and even better if a holiday weekend. It used to be that folks would sit inside and watch it fall, the kids would get outside and romp in it and then we would have to turn shoveling ourselves out of the drifts and clean up the sidewalks. That is how it used to be.

Now we ignore the beauty aspect of a snowfall and flip open the garage door, shovel off the driveway and hop in the car to be off on our merry way. In the auto-centric world of today, pedestrians are left out in the cold, slogging through snow and ice, then resorting to the street in order to get somewhere. This also applies in the most walkable part of cities.

Yesterday, as I crept along a snow/slush covered stretch of road, I had to avoid more than one pedestrian walking along the only clear path available - the street, and the snow was still falling. Today, with the wind whipping up the lighter icy flakes but no new snow really falling, the scene was the same and particularly near Chevy Chase and the Campus area. People were resorting to the bike lane on Euclid in our premier example of a walkable neighborhood.

The property owners in Lexington are responsible for the clearing of the sidewalks abutting their property of all obstacles, and that usually means snow and ice. It is the neighborly thing to do. For people in an auto-centric society, neighborliness goes only so far as the bumpers and fenders of our autos.

In the center of downtown, sidewalks have been cleared for the most part although the road crews continue to mound snow directly in the crosswalk, so as to make people climb over a pile to cross the street.

The problems really mount as you move out from downtown. The area in front of Goodwin Square had a path cleared from the steps from the plaza all the way to the street. the rest of the sidewalk on either side has not been touched. If one were to try to use this, there is nowhere to go once you reach the street and nowhere for an auto to stop to let passengers in or out. The church and the Woodlands beyond it were clear as was the funeral home opposite, but the drive in restaurant and office buildings next door were not. Oddly enough the office building was cleared from the front door to the sidewalk but no further.

The part of town that surprises me most is the Ashland Park area. This is the quintessential home of the "Old Money" in the 40502 zip code. Hardly any sidewalks in this area have been cleared as of this afternoon and these folks can afford to have it contracted out if they can't do it themselves. I believe that most of the driveways have had some work done on them. Coach Cal's house is one of the few with the sidewalks done and not the driveway (they stopped just shy of the edge of the property).

Public properties outside of downtown are also not immune to auto-centric thinking. The sidewalks around Woodland Park and others have not been cleared, the schools have had the parking lots plowed yet the sidewalks are not touched and the students have not been in class all week. If the City and other public entities won't comply with the rules it would be hard for them to cite the typical homeowner for their failure to do so.

Our solution could be as simple as returning to a more neighborly mindset where we think more about fellow pedestrians and less about other drivers.


The Serial Rider Chronicles said...

I see walkers in the streets all the time. Sometimes due to snow, other times because there are no sidewalks like on Tates Creek after Alumni or on Wilson Downing. We're less than neighborly regarding snow removal and regarding the installation of sidewalks. Remember when the TC residents fought (and lost) against sidewalks?

Hilary Baumann said...

With the show shoveled I find myself sliding on the occasional patch of ice but then again if the snow gets packed down from people walking on it then it's an icy problem as well. I try to shovel based on which is more likely - local foot traffic and weather. Or slush - no one likes walking through ankle-deep slush water. Shoveled that. I have a really awful snow shovel and it makes me wonder how many people trashed, moved or lost their snow shovels because we haven't had much snow these last few years?

Regarding missing sidewalks - even over in the Southland area there are places where you suddenly come upon an area without sidewalk at all. There's a stretch of Clays Mill without sidewalk on either side just before it connects with Harrodsburg Road for example. Our area did however get grant money for getting sidewalk installed along Southland Drive (yay!)

Streetsweeper said...

What I find most disturbing about the whole thing is the frantic news reports preceding the expected snowfall. Details of the depleted supplies in grocery stores and the "runs" on snow shovels, ice melt and scrapers. Are these item only used on driveways and not the sidewalks?

PJWB said...

Downtown wasn't great, I assure you. I called LexCall to determine responsibility of keeping sidewalks cleared and was informed it was "up to individual business owner." Basically, they weren't interested in following up on this.