|Narrow sidewalks at the curb are standard on most of the county's six lane roads. They're also known to be the most dangerous pedestrian facility imaginable. Photo by the author.|
A hypothetical student walking from the Clifton Park Village neighborhood saves .75 miles of distance by using University Boulevard instead of taking the calmer neighborhood streets. Saving that amount of time and distance motivates many Eastern students to walk on University Blvd, even if it is unsafe. Take a look at the map below for a visual.
Now, the news piece focuses mostly on the distance the students must walk rather than the type of road on which they have to walk. However, not all roads are the same, and therefore, not all walks are the same.
Take a look at the two videos below. One depicts a walk along a residential street in my neighborhood, where it's quiet and there are few cars. I don't think many people would take issue with students walking up to 1.5 miles in these relatively pleasant conditions.
The next video depicts a walk along University Boulevard East south of Eastern. It's loud, windy, and the vehicles travelling 40+ miles per hour are just a fall away. There is a clear difference between a pleasant stroll along a residential street, and a walk along a six lane arterial road with a 40 MPH speed limit.
The location of this sidewalk is not a place that anyone would willingly occupy, since it's such an inhospitable environment. Let's start with the noise, Anyone who has walked along a road like this with a friend knows that the conversation has to pause whenever a wave a traffic passes. It's like trying to talk at an NFL game after the hometeam just scored a touchdown: one can barely hear the person next to them. Then there's the wind. On a hot day, the nearly constant breeze is almost refreshing, On a cold day, the wind is bone-chilling, even with a coat on. Also, if it's raining, prepared to get splashed repeatedly by passing vehicles.
|No one would willingly stand this close to fast-moving vehicles, yet the people who built this road put the sidewalk here. Photo by the author.|
|The SHA installed this guardrail on University Blvd at Patton Drive to protect these homes from crashing cars, and to protect those errant drivers from a more serious impact with a brick wall. Photo by the author.|
It's clear that the SHA recognized that this location is dangerous, since they don't install guardrails on arterial roads like this without good reason. Such accommodations are normally reserved for limited-access highways, but I guess they figured that traffic on University travels close enough to freeway speeds to warrant a guardrail. If there was any doubt that cars sometimes jump the curb here and crash, here's a closer look at the guardrail:
|Someone definitely crashed into this thing. Photo by the author.|
There is evidence that someone crashed into this guardrail sometime recently, and the guardrail did its job by diverting the motorist away from the wall and saving the home. However, there's someone this guardrail didn't protect: anyone standing on that sidewalk between it and the road. If someone was standing on the sidewalk when a car/truck hit that guardrail, they're probably in a wheelchair now... or dead. Thankfully, I don't think a pedestrian happened to be there when that crash happened, but someone easily could have been, since the sidewalk is where it is.
|Another curve, this one at University Blvd and East Melbourne Avenue, where a car has probably crashed onto the sidewalk before. Photo by the author.|