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Volume 13, Issue 18 ~ May 5-11, 2005
Letters to the Editor
Bay Reflections
Earth Talk
Dr. Gouin's Bay Gardener

Way Downstream

Bill Burton
Earth Journal
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You Can’t Get There from Here …

… Unless you’re driving or don’t mind risking your life.

We’ve been collecting a fat list of places like that. It could go on forever, for they’re all over Chesapeake Country. But as gas prices approach the cost per gallon of milk, we can’t help wondering if it should go on forever.

Why, we can’t help wondering, have we allowed our cars to supplant our feet?

That thought preyed on our minds as cars raced by the other evening while we walked from Annapolis Harbour Center to Chevy’s Fresh Mex.

With a strong arm, you can throw a ball that far. But to walk there, you’ve got to totter along the fast-lane of southbound Route 2.

Others had been here before us, wearing a dirt path amid weeds. Like us, they’d stumbled over the curb cuts made to direct runoff from the concrete into the ravine that divides this shopping hinterland from Parole and its surburbs: a strip mall, Chevy’s, the old Hechinger’s Plaza and Festival at Riva. Like us, the pathmakers are invisible to Anne Arundel County planners. For that short trip, we’d joined America’s ignored underclass: the carless.

If people were supposed to walk, shouldn’t planners have designed sidewalks in their plans? They’ve built plenty of parking lots, so it follows that people must be supposed to drive.

The story’s just the same around Westfield Shopping Town. You enter the big mall or one of its satellites by car, or even by bus. Nowhere through those shopping sprawls is there provision for shopping-center hopping pedestrians.

Violators will be penalized. The first penalty pedestrians face is bodily harm. We’ve felt the adrenalin rush of danger from attempting to cross from one shopping mall to the other.

If your physical person makes it from here to there without injury, your car is still subject to towing as a freeloader.

It’s almost as dangerous to lawful shoppers, who are, after all, the citizens of shopping towns. Park your car to go shopping and you’ve got to walk, sidewalkless, through the raceways that are today’s parking lots.

Should it be this way? That’s what we’re wondering. Especially now, when short car trips gulp gas faster than a growing family consumes milk.

We know it doesn’t have to be. We’ve been to cities. In downtown Annapolis and other urban capitals, we’ve left our cars behind and walked from place to place on sidewalks. We’ve even been to communities where farsighted planners built suburban pathways and bridges to connect pedestrians to shopping towns. Landscaped and lovely, they turn into attractions that make citizens proud and provoke admiration in tourists.

We’ve heard upcoming shopping town, Annapolis Towne Centre at Parole, touted as a “walkable community.” County planners seem to love that idea.

So why, we’re wondering, do they ignore walking in their own backyard?

© COPYRIGHT 2004 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.