Maybe you heard from several news reports, that last week the Columbus Division of Police has begun stepped up enforcement to crack down on jaywalkers and drivers who are not properly yielding to pedestrians. However positive the intent may have been, the tone of the coverage, as well as several quotes from the CPD raised some eyebrows both locally and nationally. For example:

“It’s not just enough to be legally correct in your actions as a pedestrian. You need to give yourself every advantage which includes wearing bright, reflective clothing…” said one.

 

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(Google Streetview from 4th Street in Columbus)

If you read these as misguided or as anti-pedestrian you aren’t the only one. As an advocate for walkability and better transportation, reading this, I’m reminded that now is the time to shift the Columbus conversation. It’s easy to catch the light rail or high-speed rail fever, but walkability is just as urgent, if not more, in Columbus.

Sidewalks aren’t sexy, yet 50-60% of Columbus remains without them. Crosswalks aren’t in the news, but all too often they’re ignored by drivers and unmarked for pedestrians. Jaywalkers are coming under enhanced enforcement, but how often are they just responding to unsafe, auto-centric road designs?

You may not ride a bus, you may hate getting on a bike, but one thing you can’t escape is the pedestrian experience. We all deserve a safe way to cross the street, a smooth sidewalk for our feet, or a safe ramp for our wheel chair. Light rail may be long term, but we can build a sidewalk in a week; we can paint a crosswalk in a day.

You’ll soon see a rollout of our MoveUs campaign, aimed at improving multi-modal transportation in our city. The recommendations cover a broad list of topics, but perhaps none are as impactful to every citizen as those aimed at improving experience of pedestrians in Columbus.

Let’s make our streets safe for you and I, and our kids, and our neighbors, and our parents, and our grandparents. Walkability is fundamental to our health and our long-term success as a city. Lets walk with swagger.

Joshua Lapp is the Vice-Chair of Transit Columbus and a Columbus resident