Several North Mississippi Herald issues ago in a column written by Doctor Dominika Jegen, she recounted a story of using a Main Street crosswalk with her husband, James, and their fairly large dog. They were almost run over. I had to laugh, though that’s not really funny, but that has happened to me many times, the almost run over thing.
If you’re crossing Water Valley’s Main Street most people driving will stop, but there’s a few, more than enough, who don’t stop for pedestrians. Of those non-stopping drivers, many are holding a phone. May I suggest if you’re going to play with your phone, please do it on a county road, plenty of trees to help you cure that habit.
So, while Dr. Jegen’s experience was pain free, pedestrian deaths across the USA are on the rise.
Part of this increase is the type of vehicles on the road. Deaths by SUVs and pickups have increased by 81 percent versus increases by automobiles (sedans) by 41 percent. If you get smacked by a Suburban versus a Camry, well, that Sub is going to be twice as likely to kill you.
SUVs and trucks are not getting fewer, we love our trucks and SUVs as they carry more of our junk, but all drivers should be more diligent especially in pedestrian areas.
Now Mississippi is not behind the curve in this. Mississippi had 58 pedestrian deaths last year and we are numerically lower compared to California’s 800 and Texas at 650. However, the increase percentage wise by population is roughly the same. So, we’re not any safer.
Also, part of the increase in pedestrian and vehicle impacts is more people are walking. More people are walking because they want to. That’s a good thing. Walking in general is good for all sorts things. People are looking for walkable neighborhoods. They don’t want to drive as much and are more than happy to walk. It is a growing trend and places like Water Valley, which were once walker friendly can easily be again very walker friendly.
So, a few comments on crosswalks and sidewalks and why they are important to the town’s economic bottom line and why they must be safe. First a little background. Towns like Water Valley, where the center commercial district and historic neighborhoods were laid out in a time where people and goods moved via muscle of human or animals or external combustion (steam) meant that businesses and homes were closer together, just to make trips shorter.
Enter the wide spread use of internal combustion as in diesel and gasoline engines. With the boom of automobiles being affordable for most adults from 1960s, things started spreading out like city patterns, residential areas, and waist lines. People drove more and walked less. But what goes around comes around and walkability is back in.
That means Water Valley’s core is more desirable if people feel they can walk. So, if the crosswalks are visible, considered safe, and placed in good locations that is great for downtown. If the neighborhood sidewalks are in good condition (note: some are and many are not) that increases value and the desire for infill home construction.
More infill home construction means a stronger tax base, more shopping, solid property values, less crime, and all kinds of good stuff. I’m not saying good sidewalks are the cure all for everything, but it’s visible start to say we care. So, while we all might not have been born to run, for sure most of us were born to walk.