Check out “This Walk to the Doctor is Unhealty” by the Morning Call’s Dan Hartzell for an example of auto-focussed street design that excludes pedestrians.
The article concludes: “Think of the irony — being injured on your way to the doctor.”
I can think of another ironic scenario here. Think of the irony — a patient driving to the doctor only to have him/her say that some regular, moderate physical activity really would do you a world of good. Then, maybe, the patient drives over to the gym/health club to walk on the treadmill. Now, that’s ironic.
Hartzel points out that installing sidewalks costs money. This should come as no surprise. More importantly, he notes that it would cost more to retrofit the area with sidewalks.
What we choose to include in transportation design (and then spend money constructing) says something about public policy priorities.
Hartzel suggests maybe higher gas prices will change our priorities, but that the change in behavior will not occur quickly.
Rather than argue that American’s will change their driving patterns more or less quickly, I’d rather focus on the fact that as gas prices rise (or incomes fall as the result of, say, a recession) people will reduce the amount they drive and/or look for alternative means of transportation. Some people will be fortunate enough to have access to alternatives or to be able to reduce the amount they drive fairly easily. Others who must commute to work and do not have access to reliable, frequent public transportation will be in a more difficult position. To accommodate new preferences for pedestrian and bicycle accessibility, we will be facing the more expensive proposition of retrofitting designs that ignored pedestrians and cyclists. It would appear more cost-effective in the long run to include pedestrian and bicycle accommodations from the get-go through more comprehensive design considerations.