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Rich Folk Ain't Got No Sidewalks

 
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jabailo



Joined: 20 Mar 2006
Posts: 1273
Location: Kent (East Hill), WA

PostPosted: Sat Dec 11, 2010 11:43 pm    Post subject: Rich Folk Ain't Got No Sidewalks Reply with quote

This morning I went to a meeting on Mercer Island. For those of you not from Puget Sound, this island is in the middle of Lake Washington, between what is known as "The Eastside" -- newer suburbs and residential areas and Seattle downtown.

It is home to many millionaires and a few billionaires, Paul Allen being the most famous.

The highway that crosses the island, I-90, let me off at the north end, and my destination was all the way at the south, so I rode down the "crest" of the island. I took a more scenic route, very sinuous, past what looked like some very, very wealthy homes...mansions really, that hid inside the rainforest (nw style rain forest). The road was two lanes, and had a narrow shoulder...very narrow in some places.

The funny thing is, there were a lot of people walking along this road. Not just joggers, but dog walkers, and people going to the store and so on. But there was no sidewalk and the shoulder as I said, was maybe half a car width, with all those blind ess curves. I definitely could see these walkers being easy targets, in bad weather or at night.

And now it just struck me. You would think that somehow, these people, with all their money, would have at some point, like many people in poorer communities do -- petition the "government" for a sidewalk. I mean, rich people can be pretty intense and activist. You can imagine angry letters to the city council. But this area of mansions has been around for at least the last 20 years.

It makes me wonder if there is just something "built into" the system that makes it so that roads -- the way we design, build -- do not allow for pedestrians. There is some fixed "pattern" where it's just not conceived that person...especially one with three or four cars, probably two of those SUVs, one sports, one a big luxury sedan...would ever just get bored or stir crazy and want to walk to the shopping area for a cup of coffee.
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brian-hansen
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Joined: 17 Mar 2006
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 14, 2010 1:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree that this is puzzling.

The easiest guess I would make is that in the past walking was
not valued, and perhaps even actively opposed as an enhancement
of privacy and exclusivity.

The implication would be that walking has become more popular,
and the intension to make walking safe and convenient has not yet caught
up with the new preferences.

Is that what you were getting at?
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jabailo



Joined: 20 Mar 2006
Posts: 1273
Location: Kent (East Hill), WA

PostPosted: Tue Dec 14, 2010 2:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think I'm going for something more.

My experience with governments and trying to get bike paths and pedestrian respect seems to end up with many brick walls -- where the answer is typically no budget or some other constraint. One then wishes to live in this magical world of endless budgets. But now I identify a situation where money and budget as well as recalcitrance on the part of Government should not be a problem.

Yet, here it is...seemly just as real.
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brian-hansen
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 14, 2010 2:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

So what is it then?
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jabailo



Joined: 20 Mar 2006
Posts: 1273
Location: Kent (East Hill), WA

PostPosted: Tue Dec 14, 2010 4:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's something so obvious -- that people don't see it because they are "inattentionally unaware".

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJG698U2Mvo

There are several "blind spots" at work here.

1. The idea that rich people walk
2. The idea that rich people need sidewalks
3. The idea that rich people can automatically get whatever they want from "The system".

I just saw these same blind spots as I drove back from the supermarket where I live.

We constantly talk about "walkability" in the "city"...but here I am in the suburbs...and there are people walking -- or trying to walk -- EVERYWHERE! There are tens...nay, hundreds of people walking...to shops, to supermarkets, to apartments.

Yet, after years of describing this, I have yet to make one "urbist" in Seattle or Government official (who know doubt drives to work every day) truly understand how much walking in the 'burbs is happening right under their noses!
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