Friday, November 13, 2009

Under my Umbrella

For most people, an umbrella must do one thing well - get you from the doorway to the vehicle, and the reverse. It usually doesn't take much to accomplish this, so most people sacrifice durability for compactness. I think a lot of people look for cheap umbrellas that they don't mind forgetting on the sink in the bathroom, or on the trash can at Star buck's.

But what if you have the kind of life where few vehicles are involved? What if you walk everywhere? You need something better than a pocket umbrella. You need something durable and large enough to keep you dry. For a pedestrian, an umbrella is an investment. I keep one for years. They are usually stolen. Unfortunately, sometimes I have to choose between making time, being safe, or getting wet. There are so many places in Silver Spring that are not "Umbrella Friendly," that I usually just stay in when it rains. Yes, I do have sense enough to come in out of the rain.

Still, there are times when it rains long enough that going outside can't be avoided. There are many utility poles, parking signs, and overhanging branches that make using an umbrella impossible in places. Pedestrian friendly means umbrella-friendly, in my book. You can't simply measure the ground, you must measure the entire space through which pedestrians must cross - all the way up to the head or the tallest person. And you must also take into account the space through which a pedestrian's umbrella must pass when the weather is inclement. For people without cars, being able to walk with an umbrella is essential.

unfortunately for me and many others, Downtown Silver Spring isn't particularly umbrella-friendly. The 1950's-style utility poles everywhere make walking difficult when the weather is good, and downright frustrating when it isn't. Surely, Smart Growth would include some plan to re-configure the power and communications infrastructure in Silver Spring. If we are building a new world here, shouldn't we consider re=building thees systems, and design them so that they don't create these insidious cracks in our pedestrian infrastructure?

Sidewalks aren't just stretches of concrete, they are The Pedestrian Transportation System. Like all systems, Pedestrian infrastructure needs planning, maintenance, and an occasional infusion of new ideas.-Two of these three examples have been resolved. You will still get wet feet and/or a face-full of water crossing Bonifanrt,if you're not careful.

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