Hi, mom walking with a stroller here. Just crossed the park to get some groceries, stop at the bank, and maybe hit up the toy section for five minutes of window shopping if the kids are good. It’s a walk I do a lot and I’ve gotta say, it’s shit.
Your first thought may be that my problem is with cars: not stopping for me, getting too close for comfort, cutting me off… that kind of thing. But that’s not it. Actually, people in cars are usually pretty great. One lady even stopped when she saw my husband was taking a picture of me from across the street. What a sweetheart!
Sooooo what’s my issue? Oh, maybe the TERRIBLE PEDESTRIAN PLANNING IN NEW NEIGHBORHOODS. Ding ding ding. It’s ridiculous.
Okay, the residential streets themselves are fine, with ample sidewalks. I’ve got a cul-de-sac front yard which is fabulous for kids at play and getting to a playground? That’s easy peasy. I’ve even got a beautiful park near my house which I love to bike or walk through. It leads, as I mentioned before, to a bunch of businesses I frequent. And ay, there’s the rub!
Shopping centres are set up to cater to cars, and if you’d like to be a pedestrian, you have pretend you’re a car to navigate it but, spoiler alert: you’re a lot slower, smaller, and squishier than a car. Many sidewalks just… end. Sometimes there is a curb that drops off into oblivion and you are suddenly in a two-way traffic zone. Try pushing a stroller from Home Sense to Wal-Mart or to Dollarama. It’s madness with nary a crosswalk, zero walkways, and blind spots like mad. People are nice and let me cross! But I’m in the way, muddling my way through, just hoping everyone reaches our destination unscathed. I see pedestrians’ expressions when I’m the one driving. They’re confused, annoyed, and often terrified.
What’s the solution? Three things. One, MORE RAMPS PLEASE. Square curbs are tough when I’m carrying bags and pushing a stroller. Two, there’s so much parking, it’s never completely full. Can we not make a walking lane where the last row is? That way I wouldn’t be pushing my babies where cars can’t go around me. Costco has it. And third, and this is for future builds, pleeeeease can we start designing buildings with parking in the back? Nutty idea? No no, I think it’s good, hear me out. Picture walking up to Home Depot from a sidewalk and going in. Picture every main entrance moved up to the sidewalk. It would even look better. Parking lots would be behind the buildings. Sure, there’d be a slightly longer walk from your car to the front (although honestly, most of those places already have other entrances so they could just be moved all the way to the back for car access) but we’d get used to it. I see it being a circle of walkability around the stores, although maybe your imagination has something even better in mind.
And just in case you think I've forgotten about people with limited mobility and other issues that require close parking, I imagine street-like parking in front with stalls exclusively for drop-off and permit parking. As it is, I often find myself saying aloud, “what if someone was in a wheelchair right now?!” Those curbs that just, bam, drop off? I carry my stroller down. What’s someone in a wheelchair going to do, back up?! Ain’t no way someone is using their chair to go from point A to point B around there right now. It’s a get-back-in-a-car situation.
Let’s do better in designing residential shopping malls to accommodate pedestrian traffic. After all, when we get out of a car, we are all pedestrians. More ideas? I want to hear them. Or maybe you know how to take action. I want to help.