Sunday, December 28, 2008

I Think I'll Go For A Walk

Redd-Shifting Isn't Always About Cycling

"I feel happy. I feel happy."
Sunday saw unseasonably warm temperatures in Omaha. It was so nice that I decided to walk down to the local Ace Hardware store to get some chain lube.

The snow over the past couple of weeks has given way to damp streets, and damp streets led to a dried out, rusting chain. I misplaced the Tri-Flow that I've been using, and wanted to go get some more.

I considered cycling, but thought a nice walk was in order. Santa brought me nice set of Shure earbuds for my Zune, and figured a walk was a great way to try out the earbuds, get some exercise, and walk the green talk. I've never considered cycling on the streets while wearing earphones, but don't mind doing so on foot.

The Ace Hardware store is only about one mile from my house. I've biked there many times, but haven't made the walk for a while. While leaving the sidewalk and heading toward the shopping center, I noticed that there are absolutely no sidewalks giving access to the shopping center. In order to get from the walk on the main street to the shopping center, I have to either walk on the soggy grass, or creep along the edges of the access street dodging chunks of ice, snow melt runoff, and mud.

On the way back I snapped this photo of the Union Pacific Railroad tunnel on 50th Street. Navigating this tunnel, both on foot and on bicycle is awkward and sometimes difficult. The tunnel was constructed one hundred years ago in 1908 and leaves no room for widening the street. The sidewalk is only about three feet wide, and the path is completely covered with rail bed ballast, broken glass, and mud. When cycling through this tunnel on the sidewalk, I always dismount and walk, for fear of getting a flat tire, or worse, bumping the wall and falling over the low guard wall and landing right in the street. I've ridden through the tunnel on the street, but find traffic here to be a little fast and unforgiving, especially when going northbound, uphill.

I can't help but think that someday the city will decide to replace this tunnel with a wider one, enabling 50th Street to become a three or four lane road, as it is south of the tunnel. This will be a huge, expensive undertaking and a logistical nightmare, as the UP tracks on top are a double track main line carrying many trains each day. Maybe that's why this tunnel remains here to this day.

In the Summer of 2009, the city will begin the construction of the Keystone Trail/Field Club Trail connector that will cross 50th Street between G and I Streets. It would be nice if the city eventually widened the tunnel to provide easy and safe access to the connector trail to the neighborhoods north of the tunnel.

On the other hand, as a resident of this area, it's nice to have traffic restricted and discouraged due to the low speed limits imposed by this narrow tunnel.

Well, I digressed a little by writing about the 50th Street tunnel, but in summary, I just wanted to say that ditching the car and walking to stores within a mile of my house is just as easy as doing it by bike. It may be a little slower, and I can't carry as much as I can with my rack and panniers, but walking has its own rewards.

So, with the new year looming ahead, consider making walking, in addition to cycling, a part of your own local, active transportation plans.

Photo credits:
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail
  • Microsoft Live.Com

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