They were almost always there--at least in Manhattan--and one could always find a relatively safe place to walk, with the minor exception of pigeon waste droppings, occasional suicide landings, and the infrequent though often devastating car-curb-hopping, pedestrian-pinning and killing.
All of those events happen at such low rates, one begins to feel that sidewalks are a God Given Right to the Safety of Pedestrians.
And so they are: except for everywhere else.
Once you leave the city, you learn that many communities only expect people to walk--well, if not on the street, then maybe on peoples' lawns in order to get where they are going. Mostly they only expect people without cars--read--"poor people"--to walk. This is true even in Fort Lee, right over the George Washington Bridge, not even a mile from New York City.
It's a prejudice successfully engrained in every little car owner's brain by the years of automobile industry marketing that a person is not whole without 3 tons of steel, to the point where a walker is not only lower class, but a loser. And indeed, because of the danger of car drivers and the lack of sidewalks, they actually are.
Last week I was visiting Bethesda, MD, a small semi-suburb of Washington, DC. You might expect with $650K plus homes, this would be the place where pedestrian safety, especially for children walking to school, would be king. But sidewalks in the community called Westgate suddenly begin and end as if there was no logic to the universe. And there definitely is no logic there.
Children walk to school in the streets, with motorists, however driving slowly on the back streets, barely come by the children's little feet, or their dogs who are in tow.
Hit hard by the recession, the town of Upper Freehold, NJ, a community in southern New Jersey is now considering alternatives to busing their students to school in order to save money.
Upper Freehold children who live less than 2 miles from their local school but do not have a safe way to get to school--read--no sidewalks--are bused to school every day at the cost of $100,000 a year, reported the Examiner on January 7.
Only 412 students are bused those less than 2 miles, which means it costs the municipality about $242.72 per student to send them to school by bus. Some students actually cost more than others, either because of the type of bus, the number of students being serviced per bus, or the actual school they are going to and its total trip distance.