It’s the asphalt


I ran across the story behind this picture in my newsfeed and I think it really speaks volumes about how we have been treating our outdoor and public spaces in the present age of motor vehicles. Illustrating this mindset, the CDC has 3 suggestions listed on their website under “prevention” for pedestrian deaths:

  • Pedestrians can increase their visibility at night by carrying a flashlight when walking and by wearing retro-reflective clothing.
  • Whenever possible, cross the street at a designated crosswalk or intersection.
  • It is much safer to walk on a sidewalk or path, but if a sidewalk or path is not available, walk on the shoulder and facing traffic.

Well that’s all well and good, CDC, and I do agree, on the road is not where you should bust out any ninja camouflaging techniques. But if we want to get serious about pursuing a Vision Zero world, we need to think bigger picture.

Talking about how we design public spaces for more than just cars sounds about as sexy as those fluorescent safety vests look. “Imagine all the people sharing all the world” sounds a lot more poetic than “your petroleum based method of transportation is simultaneously killing and paving the whole damn planet”. But unless you are an Indiana mole woman, this Culture of Car directly affects your health and well being every single day. How we interact with the world around us is directly tied to how we physically get around. If we want to start creating solutions instead of more problems*, we need to start planning our communities with healthy, active transportation options. And we need to start today.

So on National Walking Day, take a walk. Ride your bike. But don’t stop there. Tell your local officials, planning committees, representatives, even your local school PTA that walking is important and the time to take action is now. If your child’s school principal is threatening to have you arrested for walking your child to school, get her fired. Donate to a local trail or volunteer to pick up litter and encourage others to do the same. Because to quote Jane Goodall, “what you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”

And now I will step off of my soapbox, and go take a walk.

*we have enough problems as is: rising obesity, soaring asthma rates, air pollution deaths, chronic stress from our commutes, and that’s just a start. 

It’s the asphalt