Monday, March 9, 2009
A Tragedy of Auto-Centric Planning
My sister and her husband bought a house in this Boston bedroom community in late 1989 or early 1990. While there remain a few Revolutionary War-era farm houses, in the decades since World War II, it has been transformed into a thoroughly suburban community with with strip malls, and wide, tree-shaded streets with few sidewalks. Everyone drives everywhere, and during the dog days of August, some people even get in their cars and turn the air conditioners on to stay cool. When I visit, I try to walk places, but the absence of adequate sidewalks makes walking -- and riding bicycles -- really dangerous.
The first time I visited them, in March 1990, we sat down one night to watch the local evening news. There was one report that I will never forget. A woman had been walking along one of the town streets, probably a street like the streets in these photographs without adequate sidewalks -- if there were any at all.
She had been hit by a car and rushed to an emergency room. Whether she was dead on arrival or whether she died later, I can't remember. But I do remember this: her own sister was one of the emergency room nurses on duty that night at the hospital when she was wheeled in.
Unfortunately, this town has become only marginally safer for pedestrians -- I took these photographs in 2008. In the top one you can see the dirt path created by people determined to walk despite the absence of a sidewalk. In the next one you can see a sidewalk along the side of the road next to a mall parking lot but not one on the side of the road where there are homes. The last photograph shows a pedestrian signal that seems to have been attached to the wrong side of the lamp post for some reason. That seems like it would be a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.