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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Snow Emergency: Don't Walk

Having experienced many of my Christmases as a youth in Buffalo, I'm generally nonplussed by big snow storms. This one has confined me to my house, however, and I've been watching the madness unfold on News Channel 8, where they are warning us not to venture outside our houses if we don't have to do so.

Route 1 in Laurel, taken from the front of the Greene Turtle. Plenty of cars were out despite warnings, making pedestrian conditions hazardous. Photo by the author.

Generally, that's very good advice. However, they were showing footage of pedestrians crossing streets and dismissing it as wildly dangerous behavior because, hey, cars gotta use those streets! Certainly driving conditions merit warnings, but why are we chiding the pedestrians instead of the people driving non-emergency vehicles? How are pedestrians expected to stay out of the streets when public services are focusing efforts on clearing roadways while ignoring sidewalks?

Prince George's County Executive Jack Johnson declared a state of emergency because so many county residents failed to heed warnings not to drive. I saw a few of those obstinate drivers on my walk to the Safeway in my neighborhood... which of course was closed. In fact, the only things open in Laurel Lakes Shopping Center were a nail salon (?) and a liquor store. Eventually I found an open 7-11, but suffice to say there was a lack of healthy diet staples. The proprietor, Pankaj, had walked to his store this morning to make sure Laurel Lakes could at least purchase Hot Pockets and yogurt smoothies if nothing else. This really made me wish my neighborhood had live-work units. Not to mention sidewalks.

Despite my lack of healthy food, open shops, and decent pedestrian facilities, at least I wasn't threatened with a gun during a snowball fight. A public gathering in the public realm at 14th and U NW was broken up because... wait for it... a car was hit by a couple of snowballs. The man brandishing the weapon was an off-duty policeman. The message: People don't matter in a snow emergency. Cars do.


Teresa said...

People are so stupid. No one should be driving in this. So you don't get that one last minute gift. It'll be ok. At least your car won't be stuck in a snowbank. Or worse, you get injured.

Walking is, in general, the best way to travel when it is snowing. Why do people just not get that?!

Daniel Kessler said...

Snow just doesn't mix well with the culture of this area. The archaic thought is that people will be walking unless the weather is bad. False: People and sidewalks do not spontaneously disappear when the weather turns rough. And Dave has explained that well with this post.

What also really gets on my nerves is people who tailgate and honk their horn behind other drivers in the snow. That happened to me twice yesterday -- and I was going the speed limit both times.

My guess is they just don't know any better, and perhaps they somehow think they're superior drivers to everyone else on the road. Some part of me hopes those people experience spinning out or getting stuck in ice/snow (without any harm coming to them or others, of course) to understand that physics can apply to them and their cars, too.

Froggie said...

Coming in late here, but I can guarantee at least two of the drivers in Laurel that day *HAD* to be out in it, because they were required to come into work on their duty weekend. It stands to reason that some (obviously not all) of the other drivers were out in the storm because they had places they were required to go to.