Saturday, April 16, 2022

Making Better Choices


The sight of the man troubled me, somehow. As I turned into the Walgreen’s parking lot I took a second look. No, there wasn’t anything alarming about his appearance. What was bothering me?

He was walking. He was coming from further down Twin Knolls, where there’s a funeral home, a hotel, and a variety of small offices. He was clearly headed to Walgreen’s. Why did the sight of him stand out so much to me?

Because he was walking along the grassy side of the road. There’s no sidewalk there.

I’ve had this experience more than once over the years, where merely the act of someone walking along the road made them look out of place. Sketchy, even. Did their car break down? Are they a panhandler, homeless? 

But it’s not the person who’s wrong. It’s the sidewalks that are missing.

When my older daughter used to live in Columbia/HoCo, she attempted on numerous occasions to explore her neighborhood on foot. It went something like this:

Just had a great walk! Went from our apartment to the Snowden shopping center in search for goodies for Easter baskets. I ended up walking for about an hour just poking around. Good times. Sidewalks would have been nice, though.


I really want to get out of the house today. Do I brave the crosswalk-less and sidewalk-less route to the shopping center, or do I dodge across the street without a traffic light to get to the corner store? Hmm.

As much as we love to brag about Columbia’s pathways and various local hiking trails around HoCo, if you just want to walk from your hotel room to the Walgreen’s to pick up some ibuprofen or a magazine they’re not much help. 

That’s why I was so happy to see an investment in pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure in the FY 2023 capital budget. 

Howard County Executive Calvin Ball today announced that his proposed capital spending plan for fiscal year 2023 contains historic funding for pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, aimed at providing health and environmental benefits while improving community connections.

I’ve seen folks online poking fun at the use of the word “historic” in this context. It’s quite simple, though. Historically these investments have not been made. Columbia/HoCo is historically car-centric. County Executive Ball has been working at changing that.

Why? Well, I’ll give it to you in the Executive’s own words:

We are able to make historic investments today to build a better tomorrow for all of Howard County. We do this to improve our health, because we know it’s better to walk and ride than to sit. We do this to improve our community, because we know that seeing your neighbors face to face makes us stronger. And we do this for our environment, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and cut back on the use of internal combustion engines. 

- - Calvin Ball, Howard County Executive

  1. To improve health
  2. To improve community
  3. To care for the environment. 
I love a good quote that has all the relevant information laid out in plain sight. Although I notice that it doesn’t include “not looking sketchy just because you want to walk to Walgreen’s.” Well, maybe that would fall under community. 

A community where you can get where you want to go on foot - -  and not have people think you’re a crisis waiting to happen - - is a stronger community. 

I’m going to write a letter to the Council in support of this funding because it’s an investment we really need to make in the future of Columbia/HoCo. It’s not guaranteed to go through. In fiscal year 2021 Ball proposed 7.25 million for pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure but that was reduced by the Council in the budget progress. It could happen again this year if community members don’t take the time to communicate their support.

At the risk of sounding like a number cruncher - - and I am most certainly not - - there’s a lot to like in the FY 2023 budget. I am particularly excited about more opportunities to make walking and bicycling safer and easier. As much as I joke about preferring park benches to nature hikes, I’m very aware at how much walkability makes a community look better and feel better. 

It’s important to remember that it will also make our community function better. When you look at how car-dependent we are right now, investments that will help to transform how we get around look legitimately historic to me. 

Let’s do it.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.