Off The Press
April 23, 2013
By Joe Grove
Turn off the television, become pedestrians
“The Pedestrian,” a sci-fi, short story by Ray Bradbury, depicts a world in which nobody walks.
The main character, Mead, is the only pedestrian in a city of 3 million people. The rest of the people are pedestrians in the second sense of the word: dull, uninteresting, lacking imagination. The main character is considered a dangerous rebel because he walks.
He walks at night so as not to draw attention to himself, and as he walks, he passes the houses that are illuminated only by the glow of TV screens. He comments about the mundane programs they are watching, which only dulls their senses further. “‘Hello, in there,’ he whispered to every house on every side as he moved. ‘What’s up tonight on Channel 4, Channel 7, Channel 9? Where are the cowboys rushing, and do I see the United States’ Cavalry over the next hill to the rescue?’ The street was silent and long and empty.”
He has walked on broken and deteriorating sidewalks for 10 years and has never met another person.
After reading that story many years ago (it is available on the Internet), I began to pay attention to sidewalks where I lived and was surprised to note the number of new developments built without them, and the blocks of unrepaired and uncared for sidewalks in old sections of town. A sidewalk, like a fence, deteriorates if it is not cared for.
When I moved to Issaquah, it was striking to see so many sidewalks providing safe places for people to walk and to see the number of pedestrians, even in this rainy climate. I always enjoyed walking and hiking. One of my biggest fears about aging has been the loss of mobility, because walking has so many positive benefits.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood made news when he announced a policy change that is supposed to bring “the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of nonmotorized.”
The new policy states, “Walking and biking should not be an afterthought in roadway design.” I’m sure his immediate goal is to reduce pollution-producing miles of automobile travel. I would hope there is also a health component to his thinking.
I once had a pastor friend who did a lot of counseling. He didn’t charge for it; instead, he told his counselees the cost to them was to participate in some kind of exercise program. His reasoning was that research shows people responded better to counseling when they exercise regularly. Before you get upset that some people in need of counseling can’t afford a gym membership, the cost can be as little as a pair of walking shoes. It doesn’t take a fitness facility to exercise, and in fact, much research shows that walking is often the best exercise you can do.
The sedentary lifestyle, which leads to ever-increasing waistlines, worries health care experts. As more people are being employed at sit-down jobs, it gets worse, and this becomes a governmental concern with the advent of Obamacare. If the government is going to pay for your health care, it has a vested interest in your health.
Experts keep looking for new ways to encourage workers to do more than sit all day. With all this concern, a city that builds and maintains good sidewalks, such as Issaquah, is to be commended. The positive, long-range benefits should be worth the cost, and it is impressive to see so many people walking, jogging and bicycling. LaHood would be impressed. So, join Nancy Sinatra and her walking boots. Check out these wonderful sidewalks built for your health.