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Sunday, September 13, 2009

The importance of sidewalks.

I'm putting off finishing my legal writing assignment which is due tomorrow in favor of writing this post. Normally writing doesn't give me much trouble, but I've always been a free form type of writer, just writing freely what comes to me, and revising afterward if necessary, but this class requires that I put a little more thought into the structure and organization of my work (not to say that free form writing can't have structure and organization, it's just usually more incidental than anything else. The content is the focus of free form, I find.) Thus, I'm having a mental block trying to conform to the formats imposed upon me.

But that's not the point of this post. What I really wanted to talk about here today is the one noticeable thing Portland is lacking: sidewalks. Sidewalks here (at least in the suburban SW, where I live) are sporadic. It is not unusual to find a section of sidewalk that stretches a few feet and then suddenly disappears for no apparent reason. In some places, there are literally two squares of sidewalk, and then nothing on either side, leaving pedestrians to fend for themselves. You wouldn't think Portland would be such a pedestrian un-friendly place, would you? But it is. There are bike lanes aplenty, which is great. I can think of exactly two streets in SLC that have bike lanes, but they are all over the place here. But what are pedestrians to do?

In the residential areas, often the only thing to do is walk in the street, and then try to get out of the way when a car comes. In busier areas, you often find yourself walking in the bike lane because there is nowhere else to walk. This is really not ideal, because I believe that pedestrians and cyclists do not belong in the same place. (Likewise with cars and cyclists, hence the benefits of the bike lane.) Too much potential for injury when you mix these classes of commuters. Sometimes, if you are lucky, there will be a margin of dirt to walk on next to the bike lane. Of course, it rains a lot here, so you can see how this is not ideal. (Actually, it really hasn't rained so much since we've been here, but I imagine in the winter it will be wetter.)

There is usually plenty of room to add a sidewalk in areas that don't have them, so I don't see why this has been so overlooked here. Ian posited that perhaps it is up to individual landowners and not the city to install sidewalks. This could be the case. If so, this is one instance in which a little Socialism could allow one to go a long way... on foot.


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6 comments:

sov said...

Maybe it's because you're from here and you just get used to things, but there are bike lanes on just about every street in SLC. Some of them are even marked that way, but I've always taken all those really wide, paved shoulders that most Utah drivers mistake for a lane to be bike lanes, even if they aren't marked as such. Other cities don't have that.

As far as sidewalks are concerned, I'm surprised as well. The worst offender for me is the state of Texas though. There are NO bloody sidewalks in Texas, and I found this out one day by setting off for a walk alongside the road. People driving by were giving me funny looks, and I finally figured out that it was because NOBODY walks anywhere in Texas. Not a lot of bikers either. Everyone there has a car (or a pickup truck) and drives to and fro. Consequently, there aren't many sidewalks.

Oklahoma is the same way.

Be safe.

heidikins said...

I feel a campaign coming on, I am prepared to make T-shirts if necessary.

xox

B.R. said...

One of my culture shocks when I first moved here was the pedestrian/driver seeming lack of relationship. But there are plenty of cities in the US where there are ample sidewalks. Hmm. I would have thought Portland would have been one such place. I walk much on the avenues when there but I haven't explored much else of it on foot.
I'll pay more attention next time. I also see the presence of sidewalks as another sigh of overall public health as they are conducive to more foot traffic and therefore exercise.

Tauni said...

Funny the Sov mentioned Oklahoma cause I was just going to say that there are absolutely NO sidewalks in OK that I ever saw. You had the choice of the road or the lawn of a complete stranger. Since I have little ones, most of the time it was the lawns that we were walking on! :)

Tauni said...

Funny the Sov mentioned Oklahoma cause I was just going to say that there are absolutely NO sidewalks in OK that I ever saw. You had the choice of the road or the lawn of a complete stranger. Since I have little ones, most of the time it was the lawns that we were walking on! :)

sov said...

Maybe it's because you're from here and you just get used to things, but there are bike lanes on just about every street in SLC. Some of them are even marked that way, but I've always taken all those really wide, paved shoulders that most Utah drivers mistake for a lane to be bike lanes, even if they aren't marked as such. Other cities don't have that.

As far as sidewalks are concerned, I'm surprised as well. The worst offender for me is the state of Texas though. There are NO bloody sidewalks in Texas, and I found this out one day by setting off for a walk alongside the road. People driving by were giving me funny looks, and I finally figured out that it was because NOBODY walks anywhere in Texas. Not a lot of bikers either. Everyone there has a car (or a pickup truck) and drives to and fro. Consequently, there aren't many sidewalks.

Oklahoma is the same way.

Be safe.

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