Thursday, September 30, 2010

Big roads act as barriers for those not driving

Whenever I hear transportation planners say that they are going to make "improvements" to a road, my first thought is, "improvement for whom?" Something that might make it easier or less congested for drivers on that road might make it much more difficult, or actually impossible for someone to cross that road, especially if that someone is walking or bicycling.

Today's Cap Times on-line had an item titled, "Girl killed trying to cross I-90 near La Crosse." I have pasted the entire article below, because it's not very long.
A 12-year-old girl trying to cross Interstate 90 on foot a week ago was struck and killed by a Minnesota driver.
Cayla Oliver, Holmen, was killed while trying to cross the highway with two other juveniles on Sept. 24, according to a report from the Wisconsin State Patrol.
The crash happened in the westbound lanes of I-90 near Onalaska in La Crosse County.
The driver of the car was Anna Lee Ideker, 18, of Hokah, Minn.
Although I don't know to details of this story beyond what was in the paper, an image immediately formed in my mind. A young girl wants to go visit a friend, a store, or maybe a park, but the destination is on the other side of this big road. The safe way to get there involve a very long walk to a road that crosses under or over the road. Not wanting to walk a mile or so east, and then back west again on the other side to get to somewhere directly across the big road, she and her friends decide to just climb over the fence and run across the big road.

You can see what happened.

You know what? I've done that. Not across an interstate, but across the Beltline right here in Madison. Before I owned a car, I went to a big box store on the west side to look for something for my apartment. I took the bus out there and walked from the main road to the store. The original store didn't have what I wanted, so I thought I'd go to another big box store across the Beltline, which I could see just across the road. Instead of walking 1/2 mile out to the arterial, which crossed under the Beltline, then 1/2 mile back in from the arterial to the next big box, I climbed over the fence, ran across the Beltline, and climbed the fence on the other side.

I learned two things from this experience:

1. It's not worth going out to the big box store to shop, because they may not have what you want anyway, and then you have to waste time going to a second or third store.

2. Much of Madison is not built for people walking.

To my colleagues in the transportation and livable communities field, this is not news, but I was just a green, young graduate student who thought taking a bus to a big box store would save me some money.

Fortunately, unlike Cayla Oliver, it didn't cost me my life.

1 comment:

  1. Unfortunately, most of modern infrastructure is built around the automobile. Hopefully, a time will come where we look back, slap our foreheads, and ask ourselves, "What were we thinking?".

    I'd like to say we're at that point now because gasoline prices are quickly becoming unaffordable. Though I'm not seeing a noticeable decrease in the number of cars on the streets.