Sunday, March 28, 2010

Pedestrian meters stop walking

I was walking on South Orange Avenue, in South Orange, NJ, yesterday, and at the major intersection there is a pedestrian meter, one of those buttons that people are supposed to press if they want to cross the street. These are annoying buttons. One has only to observe pedestrian behavior around such buttons to see that they present an obstacle to walkers. There are two such buttons near where I live in Jersey City, by Van Vorst Park, a lively, well-used park that attracts people from all around. The buttons work poorly, if at all, and for the most part, people just cross without pushing the button. In South Orange, the installation of such buttons on their Main Street raises some particular concerns. The buildings on the eastern part of South Orange Avenue, which has stores on one side of the street and a church on the other, are about half vacant. I don't know the reason for this, but the flow of walkers has to be considered. Putting another obstacle in the path of walkers is not a good idea for any shopping street. If there are problems with traffic in a downtown area, the cars should be slowed, and the pedestrians celebrated. We are in a crisis of inactivity and obesity in our nation in part because of a car-oriented mentality. Pedestrian meters are a sure sign of over-valuing cars.

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