Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Our Neighborhood Is NOT Walking Friendly

I've been looking at this lovely Victorian website called Victoria Walks.  It encourages people to walk more, and drive less; and it encourages people to try to help make their neighborhoods more walking friendly.

This page of the site talks about WHY we should replace driving with walking more.   

It's good for the environment. The website says it's absolutely non-polluting.  I'm not sure if that's absolutely true, because if you fart and burp a lot, you might be doing a little bit of pollutingStill, comparison to cars, it's definitely a winner.   

It's good for your health. If more people walked more, maybe we'd have less of an obesity problem.

It reduces traffic, which increases safety. If there's less cars on the road, maybe there'd be less car accidents, and pedestrians being run over. 

The website says walking helps to build a community atmosphere. I'm not sure if I agree with this.   I'm not sure I've struck up many conversations while walking, even in places that are walker friendly.  I think the most I usually give and receive is a Hello, G'day, How are you.   Oh!  Well, having a dog sometimes helps. I HAVE said more words to dog owners. Dog walking is a good way to meet people, probably. You don't have to be brave enough to initiate contact. The dog usually does it for you.  

Another thing walking helps with is businesses. People will stop to get a snack or drink. They might stop to browse a bit, and browsing sometimes leads to purchases. The Victoria Walks website says that some studies have shown that people who walk spend more than people who drive.

So, anyway....

Victoria Walks suggests doing an audit of your neighborhood so you can judge whether you got a walking friendly one or not. Today, Jack and I walked to the library, which is about a half a mile a way from us. I decided to do a informal audit by taking some photos.

Victoria Walks says signs of a good walking neighborhood include:footpaths (which we call sidewalks here in America), facilities (such as benches and drinking fountains), road crossing stuff (crosswalks, traffic lights, etc), other safety stuff, and aesthetics. 

Unfortunately we have very little of any of that in our Fort Worth neighborhood.

As you can see, we have no footpaths.  We have to walk on the curb.   The streets are pretty narrow, and cars have to swerve a bit to avoid us.

We do have speed bumps, so that's one plus.   It slows down traffic.   It keeps us a little bit safer.

Often trucks and cars park on the curbs, and we have to walk around them.   This isn't very safe, because it puts us in the center of the road.   Our road is curvy, and if a car is going too fast to see you, you might be in big trouble.

Here's the intersection we have to cross to get to the library.   It's fairly busy, and cars often speed by.   There's no crosswalk or traffic lights.    Lovely.

We walked on one footpath.   It lasted for about one block.

As for safety, I'd give our walk to the library a low score. It's really NOT meant for walking, and that's sad.

As for aesthetics and other types of enjoyment?  I give that a low score too.  My pleasure during the walk came from talking to Jack and the anticipation of the destination. Libraries are awesome.    There's some pretty grass, rocks, houses, and trees.  It's not all ugly. But it's not too interesting or exciting.  The library is located in an area I assume is zoned for nonprofit and government organizations.  Besides the library, you have two churches, two synagogues, and some scouting buildings.  There's no retail. It would be great if there was SOMETHING on the way. Maybe a little cafe? An ice-cream shop. Donut Stand?  Maybe a little convenience store......

If someone out there REALLY wants to make me happy, they'll build a used book store with a cafe inside. Then I might be talking walks everyday.   

What if it was an Australian cafe that sold Aussie candy?!!!

Okay. I should stop my fantasizing.  

During our walk, Jack and I saw absolutely no other walkers. This is despite beautiful weather. We saw some professional landscapers at one house. And at another house, a man was doing a project in his front yard.

If there was a cafe in the neighborhood, sidewalks, benches, etc....maybe more people would walk.

And people DO walk on our street. I've seen it happening. But they walk to walk their dogs, and they walk for exercise. That's all great, of course. But it's NOT the type of walking that reduces traffic.

If we walk in the other direction from our house, we do have a little shopping strip about a half a mile away.  It has a grocery store, a Starbucks, an ice cream shop, etc.  It's pretty nice.  But the walk to get there is probably about the same as the walk to the library. As far as I remember there's no crosswalks, very little in terms of sidewalks (if any).  It's made for drivers, not walkers.