One foot in the street

One foot in the street

Why don’t people walk on the sidewalks? At least around here, there are a lot of people who walk in the street, despite the fact that there’s a perfectly good sidewalk. Even when I lived in Steubenville, Ohio, I noticed the same thing.

Yes, I know that in many areas, especially modern suburban tracts, there are no sidewalks. The lawns go right to the street. The street I grew up on was like that. And yes, I know that in many places the sidewalks have fallen into disrepair or in the winter they are covered in ice and snow, making them dangerous and impassable. That’s not what I’m talking about.

In both Salem and Peabody—including the street right outside my house which, if not a main thoroughfare, is fairly well traveled by speeding cars—in places where the sidewalks are in good repair, I nevertheless constantly see people walking in the middle of street. I even see people pushing strollers with a child hanging off on the street-side of the buggy, in the midst of traffic. We’re not just talking young toughs proving their alpha male status, but people of every age and demographic.

Why is this? I’m tempted to ask the next people I see doing this, but I’m afraid it will come out as an accusation of ineptitude. Which it might be.

Do you see people walking in the street instead of on sidewalks where you live? Do you do it yourself?

N.B. About the title of this post: I have a friend in college, Carol, whose very colorful Italian grandmother had all sort of wonderful malapropisms and sayings. For example, if she wanted to convey that you were on the wrong path in life, she would say, “You’ve got one foot in the street.” I think the meaning’s clear enough.

Incidentally, all of her very Italian children married Irish spouses, much to her chagrin, and at one holiday everyone was laughing at all the Italian jokes bandied about. Everyone, that is, except Grandma, who simmered at the besmirching of her heritage until she could take it no longer and burst out: “I got the joke!” All present realized that perhaps they had crossed the line, but encouraged her to go on. Which she needed no prompting and thus intoned: “Irish people…. smell like a dog!” No one laughed. I don’t think she expected them to. However, no more Italian jokes were made in her presence.

If Carol ever reads this, I want her to know that I still think of her grandma from time to time and it brings a smile to my face and reminds me to pray for her.

  • Yes, they walk in the street here too.  It’s more of a teenager thing, but I’ve seen people older than that doing the same.  We have sidewalks in my neighborhood, but people are still in the road instead.  Puzzling.

  • Do you see people walking in the street instead of on sidewalks where you live? Do you do it yourself?

    I’d rather not, but sometimes I do. Mostly because here in Boston the sidewalks are often (A) cobblestoned or brick (B) narrow but even more important (C) filled with s l o w l y walking people.

    Walking slowly is a God-given right. I wish I knew how to take a leisurely stroll. But I’m a fast walker. The bricks and cobblestones are an invitation to trip (not that I need an invitation, being a klutz) and since the streets are so narrow, it’s impossible to pass a pair of strolling folks without going into the street to do so.

    (I always look out for oncoming traffic, though.)

  • What about people *crossing* the street?

    There is this one particularly busy street named Millwood here in Columbia—there used to be a Catholic bookstore on it, years ago.  378 is one of the main thoroughfares through the Midlands of South Carolina, and this road is one of its twists through Columbia, after which 378 and US-1 share the same street name until you get into W. Columbia.  Thus, it’s a very busy downtown street.

    At least once a week, we’re driving down Millwood, and some idiot goes running *across* the street, in the middle of traffic, in the middle of the street—any time of day.  My father in law nearly hit a guy last week when we were going down Millwood after a party.

  • Dom,
      I live in San Jose, CA and I see people walking in the street here all the time also.  I have never asked why but I think the reason is that the people feel safer in the road than on the sidewalk due to cars pulling out or pulling into their driveways,  people are notoriously bad in watching out for people when they do this, I have almost been hit twice this week by cars pulling out of their driveways while driving my daughter to school.  (what a bad runon sentence, sorry).  Another reason may be that the sidewalks around here tend to slope down at driveways so the walk is not a smooth one for people,  there would be a lot of up and down going past driveways on the sidewalk.

  • Yes, Dom, I am out here lurking. Believe it or not, me and my husband and 3 kids are living in London AND my parents are visiting this week. So Grandma’s son is here, with his one foot in the street. They got a big kick out of your post. My mom goes to your blog occasionally too.

    Actually my Mom says she walks in the street when she goes early in the morning because the asphalt street is “softer” than cement.

    Anyway…I do read your blog, even more since you have been doing more personal stuff. I love seeing your family grow! And I occasionally pop in for a mostly anonymous comment or two.

    Thanks for your prayers for Grandma!

  • They do it here in SF too. I think a lot of it is that the asphalt is easier on the feet. But what’s really irritating are those who walk across the street at night in dark clothing. They can be almost invisible, but if my car hits them I’m at fault.

    The other night I was driving on a narrow street, and turned my high beams on to see better. Just then I see a roller-blader coming right down the street towards me. Fast. And as he zooms by he screams “Turn your @#$%& high beams off!”

  • Asphalt is indeed softer than concrete. And the the kind of flooring in malls that is atop layers of hard substances is even harder on the feet than concrete laid on a thin layer of subsurface over earth. As I walker, I very much can tell the difference after a 2-mile walk.

    But the best thing to walk on is hard-packed, level fine sandy earth.

  • I’ll agree with Eric’s comment about the dipping down of driveways making the sidewalks uneven…not fun to walk on, even less fun to push a stroller on!