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I've recently been taking increasing notice of how few people I ever see walking in my city, no matter how short their trip may be. I believe that the reason behind this trend is that my suburban city, although able to boast of possessing very good roads relative to the rest of the metropolitan area, lacks basic pedestrian facilities in most areas, which makes it, at best, inconvenient and, at worst, extremely dangerous to travel anywhere on foot or even on a bicycle.

As an example of this situation, consider my health club membership: although I live only a few minutes walk from this facility, I opt to drive to it instead of walking because the latter course of action would entail traveling alongside a five lane U.S. Highway with only a narrow, trash littered, grassy strip to walk on. After that, I'd be forced to cross all five lanes, two of which become fairly busy right-turn lanes where traffic is never required to stop or yield. Upon arriving at the health club, I proceed to get on a treadmill, as a warm-up for my workout, when I could have used the walk from my apartment as a much more pleasant and less hamsterish means of warming up.

Consider also the fact that, even though McAllister's Deli is located only a few feet away from my apartment complex, in order to reach it on foot I am forced to take a circuitous route, traversing a couple parking lots and ascending or descending two steep and often slippery inclines which lack any type of pavement at all, let alone steps. For this reason I, like most people who live in my neighborhood, usually opt to drive to this dining establishment instead of walking and, in doing so, disrupt the flow of traffic on the aforementioned U.S. Highway by briefly pulling into traffic and then turning into the McAllister's parking lot after driving only a few feet.

In a society where an increasingly sedentary lifestyle is putting our population at risk for health problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and even depression, encouraging the general population to live a healthy lifestyle, including daily physical activity, should become a priority for our communities and government. Allowing residents to incorporate this activity in their every day lives, by walking to destinations close to their homes, would be an important step in this direction and would add to the overall livability of our cities.

Just the other day, I was driving back from work (on a narrower, less heavily traveled road) and was forced to drive in the turn lane in order to avoid hitting an elderly woman walking along in the street with a little boy (presumably her grandson). I could hardly be angry at them, however, since there was no other place to walk that I could see and there are many reasons that could explain why they weren't driving.

Take a look at your neighborhood or, better yet, your whole city or metropolitan area. What would you do if your car broke down? Would you be able to get around on your own, or would you have to mooch rides off of friends and family?

I, personally, find this situation very ironic since one of the main reasons why the United States has let automobiles rule the streets at the expense of all other modes of transportation is the "freedom" that driving is supposed to give everyone. Now I'm forced to get into my own mobile, freedom affording, flexible prison cell, for which I shell out a fortune every month in fuel, loan payments, insurance, repairs and maintenance every time I want to go anywhere farther than a couple blocks from my front door -- and only south or west of it. Once I'm in my prison cell, I proceed to place a great deal more trust than I'm comfortable with in scores of strangers to not do anything stupid enough to damage my personal property or, possibly, splatter me all over the pavement.

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