A Longer Walk to School

Disclaimer: This is not a complaint about the hard-working people who plowed the streets for the City of Springfield during  Snowpocalypse ’11. This is, instead, a complaint about all of us, i.e. our culture.

In case one needed proof that the car is king of the road — indeed, king of all transportation modes — one merely had to try to walk to work today. It wasn’t easy — even for the able-bodied. The blind? The infirm? The people on crutches, walkers, and wheelchairs? There was just no way this morning. Take a look at these photos I took on my longer route this morning.

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And here is the route mapped. Normally, I go straight north on Fremont and hang a left on Grand, cross National and arrive at Craig Hall. Sidewalk all the way. Today I had take the other route — my snow route because I can walk on residential streets most of the way and avoid trudging through the snow and climbing over the snow piles — invariably located at the intersection of the road and the sidewalk — caused by the snow plows.

My walking snow route along residential streets.

OK, yeah, gotta plow the streets. There’s no choice in the matter. But, really, do the plows have to leave piles in front of the sidewalk ramps? Is that really necessary?

My guess is that it is “necessary” in the sense that the urgency is to clear the streets for cars first. Plus, Springfield has an ordinance that urges homeowners to clear sidewalks traversing their property. I don’t think such rules work very well. I’ve only shoveled once in seven years — just the other day. No one has ever said anything to me about it. Snow usually doesn’t stick around long enough to need much shoveling.

While Snowpocalypse ’11 created a legitimate emergency (because it was  a big event for us), it is typical for sidewalks, sidewalk intersections, and bus stops in my neighborhood and the surrounding MSU area to go uncleared even in fairly light snows. MSU does a good job of keeping sidewalks cleared — even along its borders on public streets. The school has no choice but to do so.

Question: How long will the sidewalks go uncleared?

Answer: As long as it takes for this snow to melt.

More snow showers are forecast through tonight and on Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Temperatures are not expected to rise above the 30s until next weekend.

This neglect of our sidewalks and the people who walk on them has nothing to do with incompetence or uncaring. It has everything to do with our culture (which means it has the weight of common sense). In our culture the car/truck comes first. Ease of travel for car/truck drivers comes first. Nothing will change until that changes.

For more on this cultural phenomenon, re-visit my discussions of barrier streets.

UPDATE: On the walk home, I crossed National and Grand by my usual route. Here are the scenes from about 5:30 this afternoon.

I suppose he thinks I shouldn't be walking in the first place.

As I'm about to climb a wall of snow and leap into the road.

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Comments 8

  1. Robert wrote:


    I wrote a column about this once and used the term “windshield perspective” which caused some hard pushback from internet comment types.


    Posted 04 Feb 2011 at 3:30 pm
  2. Robert wrote:

    Oh and Andy….

    I don’t say this enough, or possibly ever at all, but I really appreciate your blog. I look forward to reading it every day and I think it’s really making a difference.

    Posted 04 Feb 2011 at 3:36 pm
  3. Steve A wrote:

    I saw school employees at a closed local elementary school clearing a sidewalk during my morning commute. The road was uncleared so priorities vary. Cannot people walk down the middle of Springfield streets if the sidewalks are unusable? Doing so might change priorities.

    Posted 04 Feb 2011 at 5:01 pm
  4. Andy Cline wrote:

    Robert… Thanks! That means a lot.

    Steve… We can walk down the streets. But I don’t see people doing it. Although I did most of the way today.

    Posted 04 Feb 2011 at 5:28 pm
  5. Steve A wrote:

    Golly, reading this makes me glad we don’t have sidewalks on my street. It means EVERYONE walks down the streets and motorists expect it. Perhaps there’s a lesson there…

    Posted 04 Feb 2011 at 8:06 pm
  6. Andy Cline wrote:

    Steve… Yes, perhaps. The roads are for everyone.

    Posted 04 Feb 2011 at 10:37 pm
  7. Mat Thompson wrote:

    Mabey we should build a few of these, http://zedomax.com/blog/2008/08/29/diy-pedal-powered-snow-plow-is-fun-even-for-your-kids/ and get a team together to plow the sidewalks. It would be worth it to get the idea out to the city that more needs to be done.

    Posted 06 Feb 2011 at 6:49 am
  8. Andy Cline wrote:

    Mat… That would be cool 🙂

    Posted 06 Feb 2011 at 10:06 am

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  1. From A Tough Walk To School | Ozarks News Journal on 04 Feb 2011 at 2:48 pm

    […] Tough Walk To SchoolBy Andrew R. Cline, Ph.D. – February 4, 2011Posted in: Blogs Cross-posted to Carbon Trace <strong>Disclaimer:</strong> This is not a complaint about the hard-working people […]