Walking has become the most popular winter sport in the last week, with a recent snowfall total of about 9″ at Reagan National Airport. After the long-lasting snow, then rain, then snow of February 12-13, 2014, residents ventured forth on Valentine’s Day to see how their communities fared. Those dressed for the Olympic sports they were expecting were not disappointed.
Skiing of all styles, bobsleighing, figure skating, speed skating, ice dancing, luge and skeleton were all possible on a simple walk to the closest Metro station. Piles of snow in every intersection greeted the athletes as they strode forth. Those naive enough to think they had mastered the few blocks of shoveled sidewalks were challenged when faced with an unclear path. Obstacles greeted every freestyle skiing master, and every baby-parent bobsleigh stroller team was faced with struggles, bravely overcome. Extra points were added to scores if the participant was carrying groceries or other awkward bags, but points were deducted if snow boots were suspected. Spectators cheered ice dancers as they slipped their way across snow-filled intersections, while bus riders hurtled over snow banks to reach their goals.
The skill with which Arlingtonians deftly maneuvered these Olympic courses has been impressive, but then again, there isn’t much other choice. Main arteries were cleared for cars, but everyone else is on their own. Thankfully Metro was running, except that in this Gold-Level Walk Friendly community, pedestrians were faced with inconsistently cleared sidewalks and streets, making it a struggle to utilize the transit-friendly development properly. Homeowners left to their own devices cleared as much or as little as they want, without thinking about their neighbors, and community as a whole. I know this area doesn’t normally get this much snow, but is that any reason to selfishly shovel just to the very edge of your property, no more, no less?
Yes, I prefer to travel by bicycle, and would love to see more bicycle infrastructure. Protected bike lanes everywhere would make me very happy. But let’s face it – not everyone is going to feel the same way. Not everyone is going to want to or be able to bike to work, to the stores, to friends’ houses. But everyone needs sidewalks that are safe, clear, protected, and useable, no matter your age, ability or income. Can we please get serious about providing that?