Where the Sidewalk Begins

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Andy Sauer

Here’s the setting for a major dilemma: A vehicle closes in on a pedestrian. There are a number of factors to consider and assess quickly as the distance between the two shrinks rapidly. Does the pedestrian see the vehicle? Does the driver see the pedestrian? Can the pedestrian hear the vehicle? Is there space for the vehicle to pass? Is there space for the pedestrian to escape? Is there oncoming traffic? What are the road conditions? Is the driver aggressive? Is the pedestrian obstinate? Time is running out.

Hopefully, a good decision will be made, and life will literally go on.

In 2017, there were 5,977 pedestrian fatalities, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 48 of which occurred in Connecticut. The federal government estimates that close to 90 percent of all pedestrian fatalities would be eliminated with a sidewalk.

The Town recently announced a $400,000 grant awarded by the state’s Connecticut Community Connectivity Grant Program to build sidewalk running on the south side of Mapleton Avenue and Thompsonville Road and connecting to North Main Street. Combined with the Capitol Region Council of Governments project on Mountain Road, the announcement added, it’ll be possible to walk, run or bike the four and a half miles from Route 159 to Spaulding Elementary School. As a regular runner on the surfaces of this fine, yet expansive town, I look forward to that run.

I cannot fully describe the moments of stress and trepidation passing through the treacherous straits of narrow roadways and heavy traffic, some of which are located on the very stretches of road for which sidewalks have been planned. The rush of adrenaline breaks up the run, but there is something to be said for the relief of hitting the sidewalk in front of Suffield Middle School and riding it all the way along Main Street.

On the other side of the pedestrian/vehicle scenario, there have been numerous times as a driver where I have had to stop the car because there was too little room to safely pass a pedestrian without hitting oncoming traffic. The looks of disgust I sometimes get from the passing pedestrians are so bewildering, I demonstratively mouth “YOU’RE WELCOME” to let them know they don’t ever have to worry about me running into them.

Safety reasons aside, sidewalks do add to the quality of life of a town. Whether you’re going for an easy stroll after dinner or you’re just taking the dog out, it’s relaxing.

It’s funny how peaceful a walk can be when you don’t have to fear for your life. 

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