, Newburyport, MA


March 5, 2013

A walk in the park? Not when it snows


Due to the mostly blocked sidewalks, I was compelled to continue my brisk walk out in the street. Using the High Street bicycle lane much of the time due to the vast areas of unremoved snow along the curb, I experienced many close calls with motorists who seemed to want my walk to end at Anna Jaques Hospital.

One hesitates to contemplate the possibility that these close-call motorists are entirely bereft of common sense, but that is certainly the impression they present.

Otherwise, who in their right mind would think that driving a two-ton automobile within striking distance of a pedestrian is preferable to briefly moving over the center line to give walkers a wide berth? Last time I checked with the Newburyport Police Department, moving over the center line to avoid sideswiping a pedestrian is not only not a ticketable traffic offense, it is the proper procedure.

So why do so few motorists fail to swing wide when passing pedestrians? Ignorance of the law may be one excuse. Just plain ignorance may account for the rest. In any event, having once been struck by the exterior mirror of a passing pickup truck, I can attest that it is not a pleasant experience for the walker, and it may well be an expensive one for the driver.

Oddly, the smaller the vehicle, the more likely their drivers were to brush back a walker by passing too closely. Meanwhile, larger vehicles — especially commercial trucks — generally gave this pedestrian a wide berth. Might there perhaps be some correlation between vehicle size and cranial capacity? One wonders.

Snow removal, or rather the lack of it, remains a contributing hazard. Yet, when you think about how long New England has been inhabited, you might wonder why we haven’t conjured up a more creative solution by now, instead of the old Yankee strategy of simply waiting for the spring thaw. Sure, it’ll all melt eventually, but what do we do in the meantime?

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