Doing What’s Easy: Friday Fun Day, February 1, 2012


As you read this, I am either preparing for or celebrating a birthday tea with a group of kindergarteners. On a snow day, no less! Now is that a fun Friday thing to do, or am I COMPLETELY out of my mind? I’m suspecting the latter but hoping for the former. this is, by the way, NOT the “doing what’s easy” referred to in the title!

When kids’ birthday parties intersect with Pinterest, we do NOT do what’s easy. But when it comes to getting around, we choose the easy pretty reliably. It’s why we walk around downtown, but drive from Applebee’s to the Barnes and Noble next door. Copenhagenize published a fun graphic this week that shows in simple line drawings why we get around the ways we do. I especially get a kick out of his interpretation of bike and pedestrian routes.

A Short History of Traffic Engineering

Next up: the way we travel (car, bike, foot) affects how easy it is to stop on a whim. The Atlantic Cities published an article this week called Cyclists and Pedestrians Can End Up Spending More Than Drivers. Here’s what they had to say:

This finding is logical: It’s a lot easier to make an impulse pizza stop if you’re passing by an aromatic restaurant on foot or bike instead of in a passing car at 35 miles an hour. Such frequent visits are part of the walkable culture. Compare European communities – where it’s common to hit the bakery, butcher and fish market on the way home from work – to U.S. communities where the weekly drive to Walmart’s supermarket requires an hour of dedicated planning.

Mmmm, pizza. I agree, except that it takes me way more than an hour to plan for a big shopping trip! But I seldom escape downtown without stopping for coffee and a little window shopping.

And there are a lot of reasons why we might want to stop on a whim. Up in Traverse City, Gary at MyWHaT related a tale this week of a stalled motorist and the pedestrian who stopped to help. It’s easy to stop when you don’t need to find a place to pull off and turn around. On foot, you can just… stop.

Petey had chosen to be unencumbered by a steel box on wheels. He was free from the stress and touch of anxiety that comes with being in an unproductive rush, and had no question of his duty–if he could just cross the street, which isn’t so hard when you mind the gaps.

Once Petey crossed, and without rush or hesitation, he approached Mac and his Plymouth, extended his hand with a smile, and said these three words, “need a push?”

Remember the guy I saw struggling through the snow last week? I didn’t stop to help him because it was too HARD to do in a car (granted, if I’d been on foot that particular day I would have been struggling, too). But it’s not the first time something like that has happened – I’m sure you’ve had similar experiences. I’m beginning to realize that using my car to get around is keeping the people around me at arm’s length. I don’t really face an active help/not help choice, and I may not even realize when someone needs help. What does it mean that I’m driving past the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger at 30 miles per hour or more? Have you experienced anything like this? What did you do – and did you feel like it was the right thing?

Enjoy your weekend, whether it brings blizzards or sun!


2 thoughts on “Doing What’s Easy: Friday Fun Day, February 1, 2012”

  1. There were more times I didn’t help because I was driving than times I could help because I was driving. Two examples: I saw a young blind man with a cane trying to navigate a really odd railroad crossing on the bike path. It’s not a straight cross so I knew exactly why he was having trouble. But I was whizzing by (and late for daycare pick up) so I didn’t stop. Another day, long ago, AC and I saw the remnants of a fender bender and then a young woman walking with a baby in an infant car seat. We turned around and gave her a ride home. It felt good to do that. She seemed tired and I’m guessing this car accident created a whole new raft of problems she needed to deal with so maybe that one small gesture made it seem less daunting? I hope?

    1. Oh, yeesh, the blind man – that stresses me out just thinking about! And I’m so glad you gave that young woman a soft place to land. If she was walking down the street carrying a heavy car seat was her best option, she probably didn’t have someone else to provide that for her.

      I find it interesting that these incidents stick out in our memory – I’m not sure what that means exactly, but I think it’s interesting.

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