Are Walkers in the Way?
The pandemic changed many traffic patterns. Did walkers benefit?
Good day to my walkers out there! I want to share a little of what’s been on my mind about walking the city amidst a pandemic.
As I’ve swerved around a graveyard of menu boards, beautification flowerpots, and no parking signs before crossing the street, a question has arisen in the mind of this habitual pedestrian. Have the city’s walking citizens benefited from the myriad of changes the pandemic has wrought?
Last week, I marked the second anniversary of a harrowing incident. While on an early morning walk, a car crashed into me. Leaving out the details, I lost hours to rehab and gained a new fear about putting one foot in front of the other.
Most early mornings, you’ll find me walking briskly along the various throughways and alleys in the city of Cincinnati, or along the river. In my way too bright dependable Nikes, and in darker days, a vest of lit plastic tubing worn begrudgingly, I’m a frequent, reliable sight. Friends honk from cars, people call out from doorways. If there’s a newly broken window, I see it. If bedlam flags me down in the middle of the street, I know that too. And when there’s issues with what I perceive to be the right of way for pedestrians, I become frustrated by this lack of consideration for the walker.
Near the corner of our alley, emptied garbage cans belonging to the resident restaurant are left to block the sidewalk for four days. Development work needlessly gums up the sidewalk and creates an unsafe path for walkers to proceed.
Just the other day, on the anniversary of my hit by the early morning commuter crowd, a scootersqueezedbetweenagroupofcontractorsandmywalkingself, causing me to jump off the curb and into the street.
The pandemic brought all sorts of changes to our activities of daily living, but still I’ve walked. These hours are where I work most, in my head. That doesn’t mean I’m not paying attention. It means I am every bit being observant of what happens around me. For instance:
Due to lack of employees working downtown, construction projects took off at an alarming pace, considering the increasing price of lumber and shortage of supplies. There was a stretch of time when Race Street, south of Eighth, became a game of Frogger. One was forced to cross from east to west and back on two different occasions due to redevelopment of two hotels (one with a fine Italian restaurant), a stabilization project and a garage / apartment project. I don’t walk for time, but I do walk for safety, and this certainly created tortuous conditions.
Utility repairs happened at an unusually quick pace due to less traffic in the city, not mention our ongoing bridge repairs. On more than one occasion, sidewalks were simply shut down due to a truck pulling up on the sidewalk, digging out their work, and leaving the cement to set, with no consideration to the sidewalk crossing they blocked. The engineering crew working on the Roebling Bridge has heard from me—more than once.
What car traffic passed through did so with all the awareness of Denny Hamlin at the Indy500. Who needs Halloween for frights when one can simply risk their lives traversing a street after given the walk signal? Drivers suddenly turned color blind to two of three primary colors.
At the intersection closest to the Washington Park, car drivers cruise through with little regard to pedestrians. I once lobbied to not shut down all of 14th, a short one-way street along the park. I’ve changed my mind. However, Race Street would still live up to its name. With the appearance of streetearies gobbling up territory for outdoor eateries on territory once reserved for the province of the lowly walker, drivers tend toward madness when they realize traffic patterns have been altered and they take it out on whoever is nearby—the pedestrian.
Then, there are scooters. Despite warning sign placed on scooters, Do Not Ride on Sidewalks, I’ve had to box out scooters whose riders whiz beside, and jam on the brakes after realizing a Metro bus is turning toward them and they can’t stop their Bird. Neither can I (wink).
I miss the days of a sidewalk meant for walking. When you could greet someone on the street, and not dance the Electric Slide around a lineup of orange cones, an A-frame sandwich board for a generic bar located a mile away, or the errant ways of two-wheelers.
Let me know what your thoughts are as to whether the pandemic kicked walkers to the curb or not. I suppose I’ll know the answer to my own question if the sidewalks are next appropriated for pickleball courts.