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Walkability

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I live in suburbia, in a subdivision. While my house is only a few blocks from a well-maintained rails-to-trails trail, that's about it. When links to websites that grade neighborhoods on "walkability" (and hence the potential of minimizing car usage) move through my friends list, my Facebook friends, and various mailing lists I'm on, I don't even bother. I know my neighborhood isn't very walkable.

Today that was brought home to me very vividly. You see, I was carless for most of the day. Yesterday, I brought my car in for its 120,000 mile major service. It's a 2000 Subaru Outback that I bought used in 2003. It wasn't quite due for the service, but it was having issues that I thought should be addressed before winter sets in. So, I dropped it off at the mechanic on my way to work and took the bus in to work. At the end of the day, I took the bus back to the mechanic, but the car wasn't ready; he'd found out why I'd been having some of the issues I'd been having, but hadn't yet worked out how to fix the problem (essentially, the car was sometimes running only on three cylinders). He really didn't want me driving the car until it was fixed, so he dropped me off at home and told me to call him in the morning.

So there I was at home with no car and almost no cash, certainly not enough to pay a cab to take me back to the mechanic. Today was a beautiful day for a walk, and my legs certainly work well enough for me to walk places. So I headed out for the closest Walgreens, which has a fee-free ATM (at least there are no fees for members of my credit union). This Walgreens is about a mile-and-a-half from my house, on a main road. But it wasn't an easy walk, for a variety of reasons. First, there were the hills between my house and the main road. But they're not that bad. The real problem is the lack of sidewalks. Sure, there are sidewalks in my immediate neighborhood. But some of them were mightily chewed up. And then I had to walk along a series of roads with no sidewalks at all. Furthermore, in many instances, there wasn't even a grassy verge to walk along, due to topography or active landscaping choices of the homeowners. (And, of course, there were big piles of leaves blocking some of the grassy borders, even though town requirements are to bag leaves we want to town to take away for composting.)

Even on the main road, the sidewalks were kind of hit-or-miss, and to make things worse, there was no warning that the sidewalk was ending at the nearest cross-walk. Beyond that, despite the fact that local ordinance requires that cars stop for pedestrians at zebra-crossings, there were no signs reminding drivers of this, and the reflective paint on the zebra-crossings was worn away at many of the crossings.

On the plus side, the Walgreens ATM wasn't out of cash. And it's about a block from one of my favorite Mexican restaurants. So I rewarded myself for walking by ordering enchiladas suizas. While I was waiting for my food, the mechanic called and told me that the car was ready. I finished my meal, and walked on down the main street to get my car, on sidewalks and lawns, and staring down drivers at some light-less zebra crossings. It turned out that the problem with the car was its ignition computer, so, along with all the new filters and topped off fluids, I have a spanking new ignition computer. And, according to the old but still functioning odometer, I had walked approximately five miles.

But this is absolutely not something I could do on a regular basis. Today I was carless, and didn't have anything urgent to do besides be ready to get the car. It was a beautiful day for a walk (and broad daylight), and there were no weather-related obstructions on my route. This isn't always the case.

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( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
susandennis
Nov. 12th, 2010 12:44 am (UTC)
A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine and I were walking in a neighborhood we were not familiar with and having a tough go of it when he said 'you know, this is maybe *the* only place in all of Seattle that isn't walker friendly.' And I think he was right. We are so lucky. Particularly me, living downtown where I can walk and walk and easily catch a bus home.

Now if I can just get more motivated to more often get off my giant ass and do it!
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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