Friday, August 12, 2016

These Old Walkin' Shoes: Walk This Way

My “Walkin’ Shoes” was supposed to be out and ready for Thursday morning. However, since the Big Lockport Fire of 2016 took precedence, the column was delayed until today. I normally try to put the column together on Wednesday evenings. However, the excitement had me out visiting with neighbors while we watched the ominous, black cloud grow and float over Lockport. I promise this will be the last mention of the fire in this column.

Summer vacation in our house means that it has been much more difficult to go on my walks. I’m actually walking less than I normally do. However, Tuesday, I had a day to myself with Wendy and the girls at Fantasy Island. I had some errands to run, so I decided that I would walk for the day.

It was a hot one, hotter than I expected when I decided to take a walk around town. Still, I hoofed it across town to the library and the hockey arena. I live near the east end of Walnut, so it’s about a mile to the library. I packed my backpack with the books that needed to be returned and stuffed a bottle of ice water in the side pocket.

I made it to the library, turned in my books, browsed for new ones, and checked a couple out. Then I went over to the arena and the YMCA. I left the house at 4:30 and was home just before 6pm. It didn’t really take a ton of time. Later, when it was time for dinner, I decided to walk over to Village Eatery to pick up dinner and bring it home. Again, I walked there and back.

The biggest takeaway from all this? I was astounded at how shocked people were when I told them I was walking. No one could believe that anyone would want to walk. Part of it was the heat, but I’ve gotten the same reaction when I’ve strolled around the city in milder temperatures. Even people driving by were giving me odd looks.

Lockport is not a very big city. There is no reason why we shouldn’t be a walking city. Boston is much bigger city and everyone walks there. In fact, in that city, pedestrians are given preferred status at crosswalks. In this area, the crosswalk means you can fit another car behind the red light.

Sometimes it’s downright dangerous to be a pedestrian in Lockport. Some of that falls squarely on the walkers who don’t understand the law about walking in the street. Simply put, if you are walking in the street, you must walk on the left side of the road, facing traffic. Walking with traffic can be very dangerous, so please follow the rules and walk AGAINST traffic when you’re in the street.

A lot of the danger of walking in Lockport, even if you’re on the sidewalk, are the drivers. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been out for a walk only to have a car stopped in the crosswalk. There is a stop line for vehicles at stoplights. That’s where cars should stop, not in the crosswalk. When you’re stopped in the crossing, pedestrians have to either walk between your car and the car behind you, or walk into the intersection to get by your car. Both are extremely dangerous for everyone.

At the same time, if I am walking across an intersection with the light as I should, I have the right of way over a vehicle turning onto that street. You’re not going to turn into traffic, and the same applies for pedestrians crossing legally. There is no need for honking, yelling, are showing me I’m number one.

Okay. Enough of that part of it. Why isn’t Lockport a walking city? Nothing is really that far away. Most of the population is a mile or less from downtown. We have a library, a theater, an ice arena, pharmacies, a grocery store, the YMCA, and several restaurants. They’re all within walking distance. Yet, we always drive everywhere.

Walking is therapeutic, and it’s good for your health. I take the time on my walks to unwind and get a fresh state of mind. I don’t usually walk with headphones. Instead, I experience the world around me, and try to interact. Sometimes, I justify indulging myself with a Dr. Pepper by walking to get it rather than just grabbing one from the basement. Other days, if we want a Slurpee, we walk over to 7-11. Honestly it feels good to get outside and experience life.

I love walking. I used to avoid it at all costs. Once I started this past spring, I realized how much I loved it. Wendy used to try to get me to go for a walk with her, but I always refused. Now, I’m usually ready to go before she is. I walked every morning after the girls went to school for 40 minutes. I felt invigorated afterwards. Now, if I can walk there, I try. Someday, I hope to see more people out walking to the store or library while I’m out. It’s a good way to meet your neighbors.

Craig Bacon wants everyone to be safe. Please follow traffic rules while driving, biking, and walking.