Ending a week in which someone was killed trying to cross an Albuquerque intersection while properly using the crosswalk, someone asked me yesterday if I had any ideas on how to educate those who usually don’t try to walk our roadways on just how dangerous it is.
Here’s my idea.
Let’s say we have a pool of $7,500 for this purpose. We take that money and make the following offer to all City Councilors, County Commissioners, and NM State Legislators:
We’ll contribute $250 to your favorite charity if you complete a walking tour specifically designed to illustrate what it’s like to walk in your district/precinct.
The $250 is just a suggested amount; enough to gather interest, but small enough to, with $7,500 to spend, offer this to 30 representatives around the state.
How could this work in practice? Let’s take new ABQ City Councilor Brook Bassan. She represents District 4:
Trying to best balance money offered with sufficient exposure to the dangers, we put together a representative, not outlandish, route…like maybe this:
We, Councilor Bassan included, begin and end our 2.6 mile loop at the intersection of Montgomery and Wyoming. Interestingly, the useful Montgomery/Wyoming intersection trisects three Council Districts, offering it up as an eye-opening experience for Councilors Diane Gibson (District 7) and Trudy Jones (District 8) as well.
Other reasons for this route:
- 2.6 miles is not overly long, (about 6,000 steps, depending on stride length, if you’re into that sort of thing) yet offers the chance for Councilor Bassan to walk past a sizable array of retail shops and restaurants, several bus stops, at least one large apartment complex, a charter school, a church, and a city park.
- Councilor Bassan, who technically only represents the north side of Montgomery Boulevard, will get a great opportunity to experience what it is like to walk 2,500 feet between “signalized crosswalks” (i.e., between Wyoming and Pennsylvania NE; between Pennsylvania and Louisiana Blvd.).
- As she will be walking on the north side of Montgomery, she will also get to experience what it must be like for someone trying to get to, say, T.J. Maxx on the south side of Montgomery. Perhaps the Councilor could be induced to add on a “Walk 1000 or so feet to the light at Montgomery/Louisiana, cross, and walk back another 1000 or so feet to T.J. Maxx” addendum for another $100 bucks or something.
- The route combines very urban walking with respite on residential streets. If you squint closely enough, you’ll notice none of those residential streets completely parallel Montgomery from Louisiana to Wyoming, so one has to either take a circuitous route or head back to Montgomery.
- It also includes a proscribed “mid-block crossing” at Pennsylvania and Northridge NE, at which point Councilor Bassan will have to decide between:
- Walking ~1100 feet further down Pennsylvania to Osuna and back to Northridge,
- Going ~1600 feet back down to Montgomery and back up to Northridge, or
- Just saying “screw it” and immediately cross mid-block at Pennsylvania and Northridge.
- Of course, if she were to be struck by a driver while trying to do this, even if that driver was speeding, she would be found to have committed “pedestrian error,” as she would not be crossing at an “adjacent” signalized intersection.
In today’s parlance, Better Burque is not “married” to this particular route, and very much encourages readers to chime in with relatively equal length routes in District 4 or any other representative district/precinct. It could be fun to put such routes together, argue about which ones most represents the dangers, and eventually put out a best-selling “50 Most Representative Walking Tours of New Mexico,” which would actually not sell very well because that’s not a very good title and because so few people walk urban areas these days.
Far more important, maybe, just maybe, successfully encouraging our political representative to take the “Walking Tour Challenge” (WTC) will result in better understanding of urban walking challenges and dangers, and at least a slightly better chance for proposing and passage of public policies that start to truly address those challenges and dangers.
And no, I’m not talking about the Pedestrian Safety Ordinance, which has now cost us $300,000 in legal fees, enough to offer 1,200 political representatives $250 to participate in our Walking Tour Challenge.
Whaddya say, folks? Would you contribute to funding such a challenge? Is there a place in your neighborhood that you would pay someone $250 to walk there, particularly if they happened to be your political representative?