I don’t know that I had ever heard the phrase “active transportation” until I read Todd Litman’s online blog “Mythbusting: Exposing Half-Truths That Support Automobile Dependency.” He exposes the idea that bicyclists have inferior rights when using roadways. Elly Blue covers much of the same ground in her recently published book “Bikenomics.” It’s a book that I am about halfway through and recommend it to anyone who thinks that a car is the be-all, end-all.
I thought about active transportation Wednesday afternoon as I walked downtown to go to a meeting. We had snow here in northeast Indiana Wednesday morning and many sidewalks in downtown Fort Wayne were snow covered as I walked to the meeting between 2:30 and 3. Drivers here expect our streets to be plowed. Shouldn’t pedestrians expect the same for the sidewalks? After all, we pay taxes, too. In fact, the local income tax recently went up a few cents so, and the city is using that money to hire more police officers and firefighters as well as repairing several miles of city streets. Though I pay property tax and income tax locally, I am not seeing a benefit when sidewalks go uncleared on days I have to walk.
I clear the sidewalk in front of my house, as well as that of my elderly neighbor. But too many people in this city do not clear the sidewalks in front of their houses, and the city does not enforce its own ordinance requiring that sidewalks be cleared. I get that in midafternoon residential sidewalks are uncleared; people had to go to work. But why are downtown walks not cleared? I guess I’ll have to ask the Downtown Improvement District.
I am entering my second car-free winter. Even before we became car-free, I frequently walked to work because my wife and I had just one car, and my workplace is much closer to our house than is her workplace. So, I am fully aware that many downtown businesses fail to clear their walks, even days after the snow falls. I think that when a proprietor leaves his walks uncleared, he is sending a message: We don’t want or value your business. The other message is that pedestrians are inferior.
Unfortunately, I have a short memory. When the time comes to stop in a restaurant or store, I don’t remember who cleared their walks and who didn’t.
Part of the problem, I think, is that pedestrians are invisible to most drivers. People who drive everywhere don’t realize that many people walk from Point A to Point B, even people who drive. Before going car-free, I would often drive to a parking lot, and then walk around to different places. Park once. Others, I’m sure, do the same.
What about where you live? Do the sidewalks where people walk get cleared of snow? Does your city enforce ordinances that require sidewalks be cleared when it snows?