Seniors want to walk, but the streets won’t let them

Will our cities step up and improve our streets for non-car traffic for our seniors?

A new poll by AARP finds that while many Americans ages 50+ are trying to move away from car transportation as a result of high gas prices, their attempt to go “green” is challenged by inadequate sidewalks and bike lanes, as well as insufficient public transportation options. …

Almost one of every three people (29%) polled say they are now walking as a way to avoid high gas prices. But as those people set out to walk, almost 40% of the 50+ population say they do not have adequate sidewalks in their neighborhoods. Additionally, 44% say they do not have nearby public transportation that is accessible. Almost half (47%) of poll responders say they cannot cross the main roads safely — 4 in 10 pedestrian fatalities are over the age of 50.

No wonder many older people are tempted to drive even as their reflexes slow and sight dims. There aren’t always sidewalks, but there are always streets.

Read the whole article here.

Dangerous crossing

This is North Clinton Street at Grove Street here in Fort Wayne. It’s a bit north of downtown, so the lack of pedestrian safety is unfortunately a given.

This intersection is close to a large number of apartments, down Grove to the left, and the last I heard, many new immigrants are placed there. I would guess a new immigrant living in an apartment would be more likely to want to use Citilink buses, especially since so many other cultures are more acclimated to using public transportation than the U.S.

But think about being a pedestrian trying to cross this five-lane road. I estimate it’s about 75 feet across. I have sometimes seen people standing in the center turn-left-both-ways lane, waiting to cross the next two lanes. It’s a natural place to want to stand, but it’s quite dangerous, since it’s a real lane used by vehicles.

Medians are used to good effect on Main Street downtown. Can’t we extend the hospitality to other areas of the city? These can’t be that expensive:

It’s a midblock median island, and something similar would be helpful to the real and perceived safety of pedestrians in the area trying to catch the bus. It seems placing one in the center lane just to the north of Grove Street would help pedestrians immensely without affecting traffic much at all.

But two other problems make this stretch hazardous for pedestrians. First, the sidewalks are rather narrow. Second, have you noticed how easy it is to go above the 35 mph speed limit in this stretch? That’s because the expressway width of the road makes even 50 mph feels safe.

Taking away a foot of roadway on both sides and giving that space to pedestrians or bike lanes would give motorists visual clues that would help keep speeds closer to the posted limit.

Are there other areas in town that could use a little love for pedestrians?

— bottom photo by Richard Drdul on Flickr

Poverty experts bewildered by the poor

A story in the Sunday Journal Gazette titled “Section 8 leaves poor unmoved: Efforts to scatter poverty meet unplanned hurdle” takes a look at where poorer people live, even when given the chance to move:

If people living in the projects were bedeviled by crime, deteriorating conditions, bad schools, few resources and urban blight, a voucher that would let them escape to neighborhoods with less crime and fewer problems might also help them escape poverty altogether. Those with vouchers would pay 30 percent of their income toward rent, the government would pay the rest.

“There was a general feeling that there was a contagion effect,” said Ron Haskins, a poverty expert at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. “The idea was to disperse low-income families.”

Thirty years later – despite the chance to live anywhere in the city — a map of where Section 8 vouchers are being used in Fort Wayne shows they are largely concentrated on the southeast side.

Poverty experts aside, people for the most part still like to live in the neighborhood in which they live. Read the story here, but you’ll have to get the print edition to see the map.