Thursday, May 5, 2011

TAKE ACTION for Safer Streets

I am home! A bit of sunburn and some tired legs -- I have completed 75 miles to our State Capitol on foot. I feel accomplished.

But my steps to the Capitol weren't just for my own sense of pride -- I walked to the State Capitol so that others can walk in their own neighborhoods -- safe from the real threat of serious injury or death simply because they have to walk across or along a street to get from one place to another. Our Streets are Dangerous By Design -- and I know that we can do more to save more lives.

By putting one foot in front of the other and walking forward toward safer streets -- I learned a few things from my journey:

  • Trails are transportation. There were many who I met along the way who were using the trails to commute to work or school. Rails-to-Trails are great pedestrian infrastructure -- scenic and safe; however, a seamless, connecting system would have made my 75 miles much easier.

  • Trails cross streets and people in cars need to be provided signs or street markings to let them know that vulnerable pedestrians might be on the road. (See trail crossing in the picture to the left.) Too often -- when the trails I walked crossed streets -- there was absolutely nothing provided to let the motorists know that I might be crossing the street.

  • Wide shoulders along rural roadways will save lives! Many bicyclists and walkers (including me) elect to travel roads that are less heavily traveled by cars and trucks because we feel safer "out of the way" of fast moving traffic. The problem I faced was, while walking along winding roads with rolling hills -- too often a car driver could not see me at all -- and I had absolutely nowhere to go to be out of the way of danger. The narrow roads drop off suddenly, with no space for a bicycle tire or person's foot to 'get off the road' -- and too often guide rails come right to the road's edge -- pinning me in front of a fast moving truck! It was scary out there!

  • There seems to be confusion in the design of infrastructure between urban, suburban, and rural systems. When I crossed from rural to suburban landscapes -- the infrastructure was patchy at best. Too often, sidewalks (something I was always relieved to see on my walk) were not connected to wide shoulders, a trail link, or each other. So -- what I found instead were sidewalks to nowhere. I felt safe and comfortable walking on sidewalks -- and it seemed to me by the expressions on drivers' faces -- they too were happier to see me on "real" pedestrian infrastructure and out of their travel lane. However, too often, the sidewalks ended ubruptly, and I had no choice but to return to the dangerous side of a street designed for fast moving traffic.

Now: What can we do about all of this? Really simple - and only a minute of your time today!


Pennsylvania is the most beautiful place to walk in the world. We will do well to build eco-tourism in our state. I am already eager to do this again next year: let me know if you would like to join me!

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