one step in front of every other

very soon now, i will be able to leave for the store and step my way along actual sidewalks. no more rocks in my shoes, no more watching the speeding traffic for any indications that they will swerve and plow me down like just another object that got in their way.

when i ventured out this last week, the forms were all set and i imagine they are drawing straws on who gets to guard the wet cement from all those who would like to leave a handprint for posterity. and i think about how there is certainly a place in life for city planning.

in california, having sidewalks was never an issue. in california, the sidewalks go up even before there is even a thought that a neighborhood might exist some day. roads come with sidewalks. if you took the long road out to ventura, would see absolutely nothing but some industrial buildings and a gravel-pit mine. but the streets have sidewalks, because that’s how you plan for development down the road.

in salt lake city, it’s as if they went into a flurry of planning and then said that’s it. the city started with a grid-street number system, very efficient –but apparently after that they decided planning was for sissies. and i can appreciate the free-flow of natural growth. it’s actually kind of interesting how nothing is zoned and restaurants or shops are right next door to single family homes, or tire stores are snuggled up to apartment buildings. i can even appreciate one of the answers i got when i decided to question a long-time resident about the lack of sidewalks. “it makes them feel like country roads even though you’re in the city. gives that ‘country’ feel to things.”

and i’m just a little bit puzzled, of course. you have a four-lane highway where cars are going 50 mph, with no sidewalks because … you need it to feel like a country road? even the two-lane streets, when i lived in another neighborhood, were thoroughfares used specifically as through-streets. and had no sidewalks. and the homes are not country shacks we are talking about, but million dollar dwellings with no sidewalk for pedestrians. it was the oddest thing i had ever seen. (except for my one trip to Tijuana where stopping at a stop sign was optional.)

but in some ways no sidewalks makes sense for salt lake county, where pedestrians are considered the lowest of the low. everyone drives everywhere, and there is little that is done right in their own neighborhoods. even walking to church on sunday, when i was attending an LDS ward. and it was a very pleasant and short walk – but with no sidewalks.

i continually had to turn down offers of a “ride” from fellow ward members. it was as if they could not stand the thought of anyone walking to church, even though the LDS wards in the salt lake valley are so numerous–you can’t throw a stone without hitting one. they were actually designed so that families could walk to church on sunday. and then no one walks to church, they pile into cars and fill the parking lots as if having a bright, shiny car is part of wearing your sunday best.

so bottom line, is that if nothing else since my stay here, i have hopefully made some realize that sidewalks are a little necessary for going from point A to point B by foot. and maybe next time city planners meet, they need to see about giving a little less power to those owning the car dealerships all along state street. which btw, has sidewalks.

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