As neighborhoods go, ours is better than some and worse than others.
There are apartments and duplexs and townhomes and single-family homes all within a few blocks of each other. It represents the kind of zoning I’ve learned to expect from this area, as if everything was built first and regulated later. Which I think is how it actually happened.
But what really makes my neighborhood stand out is how dark it is. There are streetlights here and there and sidewalks, broken by the same lapses of judgement that mark local zoning.
Driving through the neighborhood after dark is truly terrifying. Pedestrians appear out of nowhere. Cyclists are just as obscured, even when their vehicles are lit by tiny bike lights and reflectors.
As a motorist, your first visual clue that someone is out there is a shadow in the path of approaching headlights.
I’m sure I don’t live in the only neighborhood where going for a walk is equivalent to taking your life in your hands. Although there are some parts of Northwest Florida with continuous sidewalks set back from roadways, there are more like mine.
This area was not designed for folks who don’t drive. I often see folks struggling along in motorized wheelchairs, oftentimes riding along the road with cars passing within a few feet.
People like to complain, and after today’s story on the high number of local pedestrian deaths, there will be an outcry for change.
But the reality is that there is no money or room to add sidewalks or improve lighting to literally thousands of miles of local roads.
We can wish all we want. We can pressure local elected officials to make roads safer. We can urge law enforcement officers to crack down on the scofflaws who drive too fast, roll through stop signs, wobble in and out of their lanes and fail to use turn signals.
But if we’re honest, we can see those scofflaws ourselves when we look in the mirror.
We are the folks making dangerous roadways even more dangerous, and some of us are doing it literally every time we get behind the wheel.
What can we do? We can slow down. Get off our phones. Leave the radio alone. Look at the road when we’re talking to people in our cars. Take a few extra minutes to travel our daily routes. Expect the unexpected. And arrive safely.
Daily News Managing Editor Wendy Victora can be reached at 315-4478 or firstname.lastname@example.org