I grew up in a small town where there were no sidewalks, unless you counted four sides from three blocks downtown.
As children, we didn’t pay much attention to the rule that required us to walk on the left facing oncoming traffic but we did make sure that we were on the edge or even off of the pavement when a vehicle drove by. Most neighbourhood streets were our playgrounds and we shared with other road users as the need arose. That system worked well for us and I can’t recall anyone being hurt aside from one girl who had been clipped by the mirror of a passing pickup truck.
This system probably worked well for us because people parked in their driveways rather than on the streets. There was always room on the sides to be seen and walk safely. The village council did not see a need to build sidewalks so when roads were paved or rebuilt none were constructed. Some municipalities followed suit, at least in the quieter areas.
Fast forward 40 years.
Needs and expectations are quite different today. Drivers call the police to report children playing street hockey. Neighbourhood streets look like parking lots. Health conscious people walk and run on and beside the roads. Pedestrians are being hurt in collisions. The sidewalks that are needed may not be there or are expensive to add so await road reconstruction budgets.
What do we do in the meantime? Being accountable for our actions and sharing with others comes to mind. Safe road use is not a contest to make sure you get what you feel you are entitled to. Occasionally you might be required to give up an entitlement to remain safe or provide safety for other road users. Doing so is the sign of a truly safe and smart road user.
Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement experience. To comment or learn more, please visit DriveSmartBC.ca