SIDEWALK WARS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I never really gave sidewalks much thought. If I had thought about them at all, I would have imagined they had always existed, which is only partially true.

The first sidewalks came into being around 2000 B.C. – a millennium or two after the invention of the wheel. Here’s the interesting part: they were rare luxuries in most of the world until as late as the 19th Century.

Ancient Roman road with no sidewalk

That’s when big cities like London and Paris built hundreds of miles of sidewalks to deal with the chaos in the roadways. Until then, “For most of human history, vehicles, pedestrians, vendors, musicians, drinkers and strolling lovers all mingled in the same amorphous muck of the avenue.” Washington Post, June 30, 2019, “The Death of the Sidewalk,” by Avi Selk.

The 1800s saw the first attempt to make the roadways more efficient by dividing them up into sections with regulated use designated for each section. The word “jaywalking” didn’t even exist until the early 20th century. That’s the first time pedestrians were fined for using the part of the street where they weren’t supposed to be.

Non-walkers were also penalized for using the sidewalks without proper authorization. Cities started prohibiting and/or regulating all kinds of sidewalk activities, like vendors, food stands, musicians, panhandlers, and prostitutes.

Cobbled street with narrow sidewalk

The division of space into walkers and vehicles eroded over time with bicyclists and stationary homeless people, among others, invading the precious territory of the walkers. Cities kept coming up with new limitations, like bike lanes, to try to deal with the problems that came up. But as vehicles became more prevalent, from horse-drawn carts to trolleys to cars, streets got widened and sidewalks narrowed.

Urban bike lanes

In 1896, The Times started a “Crusade against the sidewalk grabbers.” It wrote, “The pedestrians now … must spend their time in a hurdle race over skids, climb platforms, dodge moving boxes or else run the risk of being crushed under horses’ hooves in the street.” Washington Post article cited above. Apparently, pedestrians felt they had to fight for a safe walking space among the vendors and construction crews that were encroaching on their walking space.

Today there’s a new threat to the safety and sanity of pedestrians all across America.

Electric scooters are usurping sidewalk space at a dangerous, 10, 15 or even 20 miles per hour. They clog the sidewalks, endangering walkers and creating obstacles when they are left strewn carelessly in the streets. There have been many reported injuries from collisions as well as from people tripping over randomly abandoned scooters.

Scooters on a modern city street

As in the past, there’s a backlash of pedestrians trying to “… restore the sanctity of the sidewalk, with anti-scooter vigilantes appearing wherever the machines do.” Washington Post article. Disgusted pedestrians are throwing scooters into dumpsters and rivers, setting them on fire and hanging them from bridges. So cities now have to try to make peace in the scooter/pedestrian wars. Washington, D.C is experimenting with solar-powered charging docks in the hopes of getting people to stop dumping scooters wherever they happen to stop.

Another possible solution is limiting scooters to the bike lanes, where those already exist. Nashville gave up trying to negotiate a cease-fire and is trying to ban scooters from the sidewalks entirely.

Scooters left randomly on the street

Understanding the history of urban roadways gives perspective to the current sidewalk wars. This situation keeps cropping up periodically as new uses for sidewalks come into vogue. Cities have been dealing with these issues for centuries so this will be resolved over time – until the next sidewalk crisis emerges.

WHICH WAY DOWN BY THE RIVER – Garry and Marilyn Armstrong

Which Way Challenge: October 4, 2018

And finally, it stopped raining. The sun came out, the sky was a rich, bright blue and I can see the tree changing. If the weather holds, by the middle of next week, we should be a marvel of autumnal splendor.

Walk to the Blackstone Canal
The path along the canal and the little bridge to River Bend
Little bridge and dock

Right now, it’s the maples that are brilliant. They are always the first. More will come. The majority of the color is along waterways which is also where you most typically find batches of maple trees.

Country road, autumn trees
Maple on the lawn in October

We went out today and took a lot of pictures. There are so many, I’m not even sure where to start working on them, so I guess it will be a few at a time for various photo challenges.

Resting by the river

Now I’ll go see what I can find for Which Way!

WHAT I DIDN’T DO – Marilyn Armstrong

I don’t regret the things I didn’t do, but I do wonder how the world would have turned had I done them.

There was the offer to join a group I think maybe I should have joined. I failed to fight an unfair judgment.

There were battles I didn’t fight and the roads I chose not to walk. The art I wanted and didn’t buy because of money when that money would mean nothing now. The friend who I couldn’t help at that moment. Could she wait a week or two until I got the baby settled? She couldn’t, didn’t, and I’ll never know if I might have made the difference.

Another friend pointed out that I had once said Anna was the kind of person who never seemed fully engaged in life. He was not surprised she jumped. I was surprised. To this day, more than 50-years later, I remain surprised.

The time when a later-to-be-famous spiritual leader invited me to join him and I (7-months pregnant) didn’t see that as a direction in which I could go. Not right then and there. I said no.

I also didn’t change schools and go to Boston but stayed in New York. What about the men to whom I said no, didn’t date, didn’t marry. Or for that matter, the men to whom I said yes to whom I probably should have said no.

That I didn’t go to Israel when I was 18 and instead, waited until I was 30.

Choices. So many. Often jumbled together into a short period of time, usually when I felt unable to make major changes. Was that a sign? Or was I merely over-cautious?

Life is choices, isn’t it?

When you say yes to one thing, you are inherently saying no to another. There’s no single “other” path to follow. We have an infinite number of paths on which we could walk. Each path will take you somewhere different and maybe that would have been a good place to be. Or possibly not.

Who knows whether the choices I made were the correct or only choice? Maybe any choice would have been right? Maybe I’d have ended in the same place regardless of which path I picked.

Do we end up where we need to be? Is this where I am supposed to be?

I know where I am is good and am content to be here. Overall, I think I’ve been remarkably lucky.

THE PATH #writephoto – Marilyn Armstrong

As long as I can remember, I’ve been enchanted by paths and in particular, by paths in the woods. There’s something about them, a kind of magic. You can’t see where the path ends and any time you choose to walk on one, you could wind up anywhere from the parking lot of the local mall to an ancient churchyard.

It’s the not-knowingness that makes it special.

So every time we are taking pictures in or near the woods, I look for paths. Even tiny, obscure, overgrown paths nonetheless hold the possibility of adventure.

Mystery. A hidden future. The unknown calls out and we are obliged to follow.

The long path home – Photo: Garry Armstrong
Perfect wooded path
In Vermont

THURSDAY PHOTO PROMPT – Sue Vincent

ODDBALL PHOTOGRAPHY – AND IT’S FEBRUARY!

Cee’s Odd Ball Photo Challenge: February 4, 2018


Marilyn with Cows – Photo: Garry Armstrong 
Long path home – Photo: Garry Armstrong 

WHICH WAY? MARILYN BY THE WIDE BLACKSTONE – GARRY ARMSTRONG

Cee’s Which Way Photo Challenge – August 11, 2017


I take pictures of Marilyn while she is taking pictures. She is almost impossible to pose, so it’s the only way to get any interesting pictures. All of these taken at River Bend near the museum where the river is wide and lazy. Summer 2017.


PATHS AND STAIRWAYS BY THE ROARING DAM

Cee’s Which Way Photo Challenge – July 28, 2017


Roaring Dam is part of the Blackstone Valley Historic Corridor park system and there are many walking paths within it. If you take the trails along the river and walk long enough, you’ll discover that all the parks are linked by the river itself.

First, a little history …

Not the best steps if you aren’t light on your feet!
Kaity on the path by the rapids