June 8, 2004

Walking as Transportation

"In Philadelphia, 9.1 percent of workers walk to their jobs; in Washington, 11.8 percent; and in Boston, 13 percent," notes this Baltimore Sun article. "Baltimore's walking commuters far outnumber those who bike to work, making up just over 7 percent of the city's nearly quarter-million workers age 16 and older, or about three times the statewide percentage."

"I get gas once every three months, but I don't tell people that. That's like salt in the wounds," one walking commuter told the Sun.

Most suburbanites don't have that option. But there ARE some people who, say, both live and work in Framingham. Or live close to a store, post office or library. However, even those here who do live close to work or shopping are unlikely to walk, because the pedestrian streetscape is so unappealing -- narrow sidewalks, no buffer between sidewalk and traffic whizzing by, unscreened massive parking lots or self-storage warehouses.... Most people take their cars from strip mall to strip mall along Rtes. 9 and 30, even for half a mile, or from the hotels on Speen Street to nearby stores and restaurants, because the walking environment is so hostile.

Planners know that it takes more than simply installing sidewalks to get people with the option of driving or walking out of their cars.

In Baltimore, "City transportation officials say they are working to improve the experience of walkers - and maybe increase their numbers - by completing new trails and walkways and making traffic patterns more pedestrian-friendly," according to the Sun.

"If you can walk to work, you're not using parking, you're not taking up roadway, you're not creating emissions," Frank J. Murphy, chief of planning for the city's Department of Transportation, told the Sun.

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