About two years ago, I was car-addicted. I owned a vehicle – an old piece of junk GMC Tracker – and I drove everywhere, even just a few blocks. I wouldn’t go places if I couldn’t drive there. My husband took transit to school, or carpooled with me and when he graduated and secured employment in the construction industry, one of the requirements was a vehicle to visit job sites. My old clunker of a Tracker, although fairly fuel efficient and highly manouverable, simply didn’t have enough room to carry all of the testing equipment Ross would need onsite. So we sold my Tracker and purchased a used but still built in this decade “sporty” station wagon.
It was the first time in my life I didn’t have a vehicle at my personal disposal 24 / 7. And it was a HUGE adjustment. At first, I argued with Ross about how much time we both “deserved” driving. Then, I tried bargaining with him about who got the car for what. There was no legitimate reason for me wanting to have the car sit in my workplace’s parking lot all day, but it just made me feel more… secure. Even though my workplace was on a transit line, I still wanted the car there.
When I left my employer to go on maternity leave last June, I was home, by myself, hugely pregnant, with no car. And I started walking, primarly because the baby was overdue and walking gave me something to do besides watch the Ellen Degeneres Show and consume buckets of Slurpees. And, after Kale was born in July, I continued walking every day to get out of the house and prevent the “squirrelies” from staying inside too much.
Nowadays, I walk at least an hour every day – whether it’s uptown New Westminster to pick up books from the library or groceries from the store, or over to Tipperary Park to look at the ducks with Kale, or just to get out and see how things are in my corner of the world, I make a point of walking as much as possible. And I am not ashamed to admit I love it. I never in a million years thought I’d be a “walker” but necessity is the mother of invention, right? Not only have I lost weight from the constant exercise I never got while riding my deskjob and commuting in a car like a zombie, but I really have an amazing sense of what’s going on in my neighbourhood. I wave hello to my neighbours – both residents and shopkeepers – and this spring was amazing to see all the gardens changing along my usual routes, down at street level.
Oh, don’t get me wrong,it’s not all Suzy Sunshine. It sucks walking in the rain when you have somewhere to be. I’ve also had to do some testing of my anti-perspirant’s limits with this hot weather we are having. Uptown New Westminster can be a Stroller Brigade during the day (whoever said this city was full of old people has obviously never been at 6th and 6th on a Tuesday at 1:30 in the afternoon) and it seems there is a decided lack of sidewalk ethics when it comes to who is supposed to move over and quit hogging the sidewalk (yes, I am talking to you, herd of teenagers walking at a snail’s pace, 5 across, like a line of Red Rover), or who is supposed to take the right of way. My biggest concern, however, is not the nuances of interpersonal sidewalk relations, but rather, people in motor vehicles. I think most need a reminder about what to do when they see a pedestrian wanting to cross legally.
Motorists, go ahead and be mad at jaywalkers who stumble blindly into traffic. I do too, when driving. But if a person is trying to cross at a crosswalk not controlled with a traffic streetlight, it’s your job to yield the right of way to the pedestrian. The City of New Westminster has a number of “pedestrian-actuated crossing signals”, which are flashing amber lights at crosswalks that are turned on when a pedestrian pushes a button and go off after a short interval. These are cautionary and when motorists see these blinking amber lights, they should think to themselves “oh, a pedestrian is crossing”. And then SLOW DOWN and let the pedestrian cross!
I’m walking – not driving. And I might take upwards of 45 whole seconds to make it across the street. 45 whole seconds. Do people realize how ridiculous it is when they show outward signs of impatience as I walk across the intersection in front of their car for a whole 45 seconds? Some television commercials are longer than the time it takes me to cross. Do these people realize that tapping their steering wheel, letting off on their brakes and creeping up,or throwing their esasperated hands up in the air is only going to make me walk slower? If everyone could get out of their cars and walk around for even a week, I predict there would be a heck of a lot less accidents involving pedestrians.
Motorists – please. You’re in, at minimum, an 800 pound metal/plastic engine-driven collection of complicated parts on wheels. I’ve got a pair of shoes and a baby and probably a shopping bag. You have airbags, seatbelts, turning indicators, OnStar, and any number of other safety devices. I have common sense and luck. Cut me some slack and pay attention to the laws! When you see a person waiting to cross, don’t gun your engine because you don’t have the 45 seconds it will take for that pedestrian to cross! Please don’t act impatient when you are stopped! And, for the love of all that is good in this world, actually STOP. I pledge to smile at you, or wave my thanks, and to not dally in the middle of the street.
I want to say a special thanks to the driver who prompted this post. To the young man in the 90s era convertible Cavalier who honked at me and asked me to “move it” while I was carrying 20 pounds of groceries and 20 pounds of baby: you, my friend, are a peach.