November 29, 2009

Black Friday ... on foot

I find sitting in holiday shopping traffic about as appealing as fingernails on a blackboard, which is why I decided to try a bit of local Black Friday shopping as a pedestrian. Instead of driving over to Kohl's, across from Shoppers World and all its traffic, I left my car at Stop & Shop and walked.

How did it go? Thanks to the pedestrian path alongside of Lowe's (back to back with Stop & Shop), the walk from my car to Rte. 30 was actually pleasant. Thumbs up to the new sidewalk that's actually designed to make walking attractive as well as safe -- as opposed to the ludicrous yellow stripes painted on the busy street that was supposed to pass for pedestrian access between BJs and Target across the way.

Crossing Rte. 30 is always a dicey proposition, and trying to cross an intersection on foot with 5+ lanes of traffic and no pedestrian-friendly separator is even more so. However, at least there are clearly painted crosswalks (although I'd prefer something like the brick crossing at Elm Street & Potter Road), as well as traffic signals that stop traffic all ways.

It's still a bit scary crossing Rte. 30 on foot, even with the light, since most drivers don't expect pedestrians at that intersection; if they're looking to make a right on red, they may be checking for oncoming vehicles to their left and not walkers to their right. Plus, you've got to use a pretty brisk pace to make it across the multiple lanes of traffic in the short amount of time you're given to cross a rather wide multi-lane road.

However, it all worked out fine. It only took me 7 or so minutes each way -- really not much longer than driving through traffic-choked roadways. And much to my surprise, I saw other people out walking between Target, Shoppers World and/or Kohl's, despite the light rain. I'm not the only one who's discovered that even in an area not well designed for pedestrians, it can be less hassle to walk from place to place than take your auto.

Bonus: When I got back to my car, I was well positioned to pop into the grocery store and pick up some post-Thanksgiving, non-turkey-related weekend dinner ingredients, without having to make multiple stops.

As I've said in earlier posts, it's unlikely many of us who need to travel to work each day can realistically live car-free in a suburb like Framingham. Existing development patterns tend not to support meaningful public transit, especially in areas of town with lower population densities. Instead, planners need to strive toward commercial and retail development that encourage parking once and walking to multiple destinations. How much traffic would be reduced if there were a safe and visually appealing way to walk between destinations like the Natick Mall, Shoppers World, Target, Kohl's, the Logan Express Bus and nearby offices on Speen Street, Route 9 and Old Connecticut Path?

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