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Hudson Valley — a Scenic, Historic and Livable Haven

November 6, 2014

 

Fall sunset over Hudson

“Just another Hudson Valley sunset.”

My husband’s observation, made as we watched the autumn sky turn a fluorescent red, underlined my appreciation for the natural beauty of the Hudson River Valley. I’ve always felt lucky to be living in this place, with its rolling hills, mountains, acres of forests, and the 150-mile-long waterway at its heart.

The rich history of the region also makes it special. You can visit West Point, the sites of Revolutionary War forts, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s lifelong home, and the family home of Washington Irving (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow author) — to name just a few interesting places.

One of the best ways to appreciate the beauty of the landscape and the big river is to hike up one of the mountains located next to the Hudson or nearby. Although I often hike many of those trails, I never tire of the gorgeous views in every direction from the summits.

View of Hudson River from Anthony's Nose near Peekskill, N.Y.

A view from Anthony’s Nose in Hudson Highlands, near Peekskill, N.Y.

The valley’s diverse hiking trails include 30 miles of the Appalachian Trail, so you can cover part of the A.T. (a hiker’s Holy Grail) without devoting weeks to the effort. The first section of the 2,200-mile trail was built at Bear Mountain State Park, which overlooks the Hudson, and ran west through Harriman State Park — both great places to hike, picnic and enjoy the scenery.

Manhattan may have the wonderful High Line elevated park, but Hudson Valley has the Walkway Over the Hudson, a former railroad bridge that is now billed as the world’s longest elevated pedestrian bridge. If you’re not afraid of heights — the structure is 212 feet tall — it’s a great place to take a stroll or connect to local rail-to-trail walking and biking trails.

For a blend of nature, history and culture, a great place to visit is Boscobel House and Gardens, an early 19th-century building on beautiful grounds that overlook Constitution Marsh, a postcard-perfect spot along the Hudson. In the summer, the river serves as a stunning backdrop for plays performed under a tent by the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival troupe.

Constitution Marsh and Hudson River, Garrison, N.Y.

Constitution Marsh and Hudson River, Garrison, N.Y.

You can even combine outdoor recreation with an art history lesson. The Hudson River School Art Trail project has created a map of sites that inspired the work of the Hudson River School artists. When visiting the sites, you can see the views that Frederic Church, Thomas Cole and other painters captured on canvas.

At least one of those 19th-century landscape paintings features a section of the Palisades, reddish-brown cliffs that hug the western shore of the Hudson in the Nyack area and stretch about 20 miles south into New Jersey. The cliffs are an impressive sight, whether you’re viewing them while standing on the opposite shoreline or sitting in the local commuter train that travels along the river to Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan.

You can still see signs of the damage done during the 1900s, when chunks of the Palisades slopes were removed and shipped south to New York City, where it was used as building material for docks and roads. Now the cliffs, which rise to a height of about 550 feet, are protected as a National Historic Landmark.

Then there’s the expansive Hudson River itself, where you can motorboat, sail and kayak, and in some areas, swim.

When I posted the sunset shot, above, on Facebook recently, a friend asked whether it’s possible to swim in the Hudson. “Yes,” I replied, “as long as you’re wearing a cast-iron wet suit and goggles.” I was only half-joking.

Sections of the Hudson were once extremely polluted due to raw sewage discharges along the river and the dumping of industrial chemicals by riverside businesses. The Hudson is much cleaner these days, thanks to federal and state laws and the hard work of Clearwater, Riverkeeper and other environmental groups. But pollution continues to be a problem, mostly because runoff from fertilizers, pesticides, automotive fluids and other contaminants still makes its way into the water.

It’s possible that the entire river will be swimmable one day. Meanwhile, in a region that has been named one of the top 20 places in the world to visit, there are plenty of other ways to enjoy the Hudson Valley.

 

Looking south from Storm King Mountain, Cornwall-on-Hudson.

Looking south from Storm King Mountain, Cornwall-on-Hudson.

 

© Janice Leary and My Point Exactly, 2010-2017. Unauthorized use of this material, including original photographs, without written permission from this blog’s author is prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Janice Leary and My Point Exactly, with links to the original content.

Time to Ramp Up Recycling

May 24, 2014

RR bins

While waiting for the local train to Manhattan a few years ago, I watched a worker empty three bins. One was for trash, another was for newspapers and a third was for bottles and cans. The employee nonchalantly dumped the contents of all three receptacles into the same trash bag.

So much for saving the planet.

More recently, I was glad to see the new dual-purpose trash cans at my health club: one half is clearly labeled “waste,” while the other is just as clearly labeled “recycle.” But when I peeked inside, I saw that the recyclables side was filled with garbage.

dual can

Is recycling really that hard? Why is it that people will dutifully separate trash from recyclables in their own homes for weekly pickup but can’t be bothered to do the same at work or elsewhere outside the home?

In one office where I worked several years ago, every employee was given a bright blue basket marked “white paper” so that the hundreds of printouts generated weekly could be recycled. But many staff members ignored the bins, which was the company’s one concession to reducing waste.

Now there’s a new source of waste: those single-serving coffee and tea pods, such as K-Cups, which have become popular in offices and other workplaces. Some companies that sell one-cup brewing systems, including Keurig Green Mountain and Nespresso, have begun programs to collect used pods for recycling. But how many businesses will opt to participate?

coffee pods

Efforts to recycle and reuse supplies in the workplace and goods at home seemed to be hip for a while in this country. That trend was reflected in popular culture. “Parenthood,” “Desperate Housewives” and other TV shows, for example, began showing characters returning home with cloth grocery bags instead of paper bags — a subtle reference to being “green.”

But for some reason, these simple steps to help curb our nation’s mounting waste no longer seem fashionable.

As of 2012, only 34.5% of households in the U.S. engaged in recycling, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The rate is up from about 10% in 1980, but has grown little since the turn of this century.

Meanwhile, recycling rates in several European countries are 50% or higher, the European Environmental Agency reports. If 63% of Austrians and 62% of Germans can fill up recycling bins, why aren’t more Americans becoming greener?

These days, it’s hard to justify the objection that recycling programs are inconvenient or unavailable. Whether you live in a city or suburb, there’s a good chance that your community offers curbside pickup of recyclables.

When asked about this just last month, 55% of the participants in a U.S. survey said their community provided this service. (Meanwhile, one in 10 admitted that they dumped trash into recycling containers because their garbage cans were full!)

Some cities require owners of office buildings and other commercial properties to participate in local recycling programs or risk getting a fine. But a business doesn’t need that kind of incentive or have to be a paragon of environmental consciousness to encourage employees to be green. They can do so simply because recycling and reusing supplies lowers their costs and boosts their bottom lines.

So how do we make it easier to be green? Here are some suggestions:

  • At work, use your own ceramic coffee mug and water glass. Not only will that trim your workplace’s usage of paper and plastic foam cups, it’s bound to improve the taste of your beverage. You also will put a dent in this statistic: the average American office worker uses about 500 disposable cups yearly.
  • Instead of using disposable pods in your home coffee machine, use one of the reusable filter cartridges or recyclable pods now on the market.
  • At home, use cloth napkins instead of paper ones. Inexpensive washcloths work just as well as fancy linens.
  • Bring old or used rechargeable batteries, fluorescent light bulbs and electronic devices to stores that accept them, such as Best Buy, Home Depot and Target.
  • If your community accepts junk mail for recycling, include notes, receipts and other scraps of paper in the mix. My town recycles all kinds of discarded paper, along with newspapers, catalogs and the like.
  • Recycle wine bottle corks. ReCORK is a natural cork collection and recycling program that has drop-off locations, such as local wine shops. The corks are turned into footwear and other products. Just think, you could complete  the circle by buying a pair of cork sandals!

Do you recycle at home and/or at work? What green tips do you have?

© Janice Leary and My Point Exactly, 2010-2017. Unauthorized use of this material, including original photographs, without written permission from this blog’s author is prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Janice Leary and My Point Exactly, with links to the original content.

New Bird on the Block — Chapter 4

November 10, 2013

mid-squawk

This is not the face of an alien. It is a guinea fowl in mid-squawk, a photo op captured as the bird noisily tapped his beak on my front door during one of his recent visits.

Despite the racket he makes (and the damage he is inflicting on my door), the animal’s visits are always welcome. The way he looks, the sounds he makes, the hilarious way he runs – these qualities make for one loveable and endlessly entertaining bird.

Ghedi (GEH-dee) the guinea fowl landed in my suburban neighborhood three-and-a-half years ago and decided to stay. To this day, my neighbors and I have no idea how or why he turned up here. It’s possible that he escaped while being transported to or from a farm. Or he might have wandered away from his original home — possibly a nearby orchard or small farm.

But where Ghedi came from doesn’t matter. What’s important is that he is now one of Us. He’s become a neighborhood pet, an odd-looking avian creature who wanders from one yard to another and one front door to another, stopping to watch his reflection in doors, windows and the side doors of cars.

Ghedi & mirror

The sight of Ghedi roving the neighborhood has become so familiar that if I don’t see him for a day or two, my world seems slightly off-kilter. And I’ve become so accustomed to hearing the talkative bird’s array of calls, that I sometimes mistake another bird’s chirps and caws for Ghedi’s.

With his plump, egg-shaped body, polka-dotted feathers and drooping red-and-white wattles, Ghedi is a sight to behold. He is a helmeted guinea fowl, so named because of the triangular, bony “helmet” on top of the bird’s head. Because guinea fowl are native to Africa, my husband and I decided to call him Ghedi, a Somali name meaning “traveler.” But often, we refer to him simply as The Bird.

Ghedi at bowl

The Survivor

Ghedi has lived through three winters, including a particularly snowy one a few years ago. That season, my next-door neighbor Joe and his family set up a shelter for the bird in their garage, arranging a bed of hay on the floor, along with bowls for birdseed and water. They later propped a large mirror against a pole next to Ghedi’s bed so the creature could admire himself while confined indoors.

Had Ghedi not had a warm place to stay during the winter, he probably wouldn’t have survived this long. The rest of the year, he roosts overnight in a densely branched pine tree that borders my lawn and Joe’s lawn, which is now The Bird’s home base.

The fowl routinely turns in at sunset, flying up into his tree and settling down on a cluster of branches for the night. Before he falls asleep, he sings his “lullaby” – a lusty outburst of cackling that lasts several minutes.

Under other circumstances, that nightly cacophony would be irritating. But since it’s The Bird’s unique song, it’s funny and somehow, soothing.

Outfoxing the Fox

Last spring, a pair of foxes spotted Ghedi and began making unannounced visits to his home. Worried that Ghedi would become fox food, Joe kept the bird inside the garage for several days. When it appeared that the foxes had given up their quarry, Ghedi was allowed to roam again.

Soon afterward, Ghedi chased one of the foxes down the street, squawking shrilly and flapping his wings until the terrified animal ducked into the nearby woods. That was the last time I saw that fox, or any fox, dare to cross into The Bird’s territory.

Ghedi has even stood his ground against a coyote, albeit one with a bum leg. When the coyote limped out of the nearby woods, where a pack of the wild animals occasionally stays, Ghedi flew onto a fence post and screeched at the coyote until it scampered away.

But The Bird knows enough to go to higher ground when truly threatened. When another (bigger and healthier) coyote sauntered into Ghedi’s front yard last summer, the fowl soared to the top of a utility pole — easily 40 feet high — and perched there until it was safe to return home.

Ghedi close-up

The Clown

Ghedi’s antics are a steady source of amusement. There is his bee-eating stunt, for instance. Yes, live bees that have the misfortune of flying close to the bird’s beak, which snaps open and shut in milliseconds to capture the intrepid insects. This is not an unusual pastime for a guinea fowl, according to the University of Kentucky’s Cooperative Extension Service:

Guinea fowl have been known to stand by a hive and eat the bees as they come out.

For this particular guinea fowl, another favorite activity is knocking on my door. During the fall and winter months, Ghedi hops up my front steps and raps his curved beak on the glass storm door — sometimes because he’s looking for a meal, but mostly, because he simply wants attention. Between the staccato taps, Ghedi whistles and squeaks softly. The fowl is a regular one-man band.

Also high in entertainment value is the sight of Ghedi sitting in a loose patch of dirt and briskly flapping his wings, creating a miniature dust storm. This is known as a “dust bath,” which Guineas regularly take to remove parasites and debris from their skin and feathers.

Then there are the times when Ghedi engages in a bird-versus-sedan race by jogging along the driver’s side of my car as I back out of my driveway. This recreational activity, while amusing, is also a little scary. I have to make sure Ghedi has moved a safe distance away before I can continue on my way.

The Bird also greets me when I come home. As I pull into the driveway, he runs full-tilt toward my front steps and yells impatiently until I fill his bowl with birdseed. He picks out the millet, leaving the rest for chipmunks, squirrels and sparrows that now see the big bird as their meal ticket.

New Digs

Just in time for winter, Ghedi is trading up to a chic new home. Joe decided it was time to give The Bird his own place, so he recently installed a small wooden shed in his back yard. With the mirror already in place, things are looking good for the fowl.

I’ve read that guineas have an average lifespan of 10 to 15 years. So with his new winter home and plenty of bugs and birdseed to keep him nourished, Ghedi may be my good buddy and neighbor for years to come.

Ghedi on lawn

© Janice Leary and My Point Exactly, 2010-2017. Unauthorized use of this material, including original photographs, without written permission from this blog’s author is prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Janice Leary and My Point Exactly, with links to the original content.

Got a hobby? A cause? There’s a Meetup for that!

August 4, 2013

trail marker

As I trekked up a mountain trail on a recent Saturday, I chatted with several other hikers, some of them regulars, some of them newcomers. We were a motley group with at least two things in common: a passion for hiking and a love of the outdoors.

What made this outing possible was a social networking website. Not Facebook, not Google+, not Twitter. The site is Meetup.com, where people can organize a group around virtually any interest or activity and attract like-minded enthusiasts from the same geographic area.

It’s a simple concept that works surprisingly well.

A few years ago, a friend familiar with my interest in hiking suggested that I check out Meetup to see if I could find a local hiking group. So I visited the site and discovered that there were at least two hiking groups based in nearby towns. I immediately joined them, and later joined two more groups so I would have plenty of hike dates, destinations and levels of difficulty to choose from throughout the year.

hikers on Mount Beacon

Taking a break during a hike on Mount Beacon in New York.

Today, if you were to search for hiking-related groups within a 50-mile radius of my hometown, this is a sample of what you would find:

Northeast High Peaks & Photography, Off Leash Hiking Enthusiasts Meetup Group (for those who want to amble with their dogs), Silent Meditation Hikes in Harriman State Park (led by a minister), Girls Just Want to Have Fun & Stay Active (self-explanatory), and even the New York Cemetery Hiking Group (not as creepy as it sounds).

There are also hiking and walking groups specifically for gays, lesbians, single parents, moms, young professionals, single middle-aged adults, vegans – the list goes on.

What’s nice about many of these recreational groups is that they also participate in cultural activities, such as attending local concerts, festivals and plays, including those performed by the talented Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival troupe. And after some hikes, participants keep moving – on to nearby restaurants for food and drinks (a reward for the seven or eight miles they just traversed).

hikers & birch trees

As of now, there are nearly 134,000 Meetup groups in 196 countries, according to the organization’s website, which describes Meetup as the largest network of local groups on the planet. The company’s goal is both admirable and ambitious:

Meetup’s mission is to revitalize local community and help people around the world self-organize. Meetup believes that people can change their personal world, or the whole world, by organizing themselves into groups that are powerful enough to make a difference.

Yikes! That makes my hiking groups seem a bit frivolous. But that’s the beauty of Meetup: It provides a central place – a kind of virtual coffee shop – where people can come together to pursue the activities, interests and causes important to them, no matter how ordinary or esoteric.

And, of course, you can join as many Meetup groups as you like. Sarina, a member of three of my hiking groups, also belongs to groups that organize kayaking, skiing and golf outings. The only limit is the amount of free time and energy you can muster.

Torne south view

The Hudson River looking south from Popolopen Torne summit during a springtime hike.

The best thing about being an active Meetup member is just that – being active. Unlike most social networking sites, this one is designed to get you off the couch and moving in some fashion – toward a trailhead, an art gallery or some other destination – and mingling with other members of your community.

Some people use social networking sites to document their every activity or political opinion or restaurant meal. And that’s just fine. I’m also a regular user of Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms. But I also need to spend several hours each week untethered from computers and smartphones, feeling my muscles work, breathing in fresh air and savoring the natural beauty in my environment.

Mount Beacon southwest view

A recent view from the top of Mount Beacon.

Okay, so I do carry my smartphone during hikes. But that’s mostly for taking photos or in case of emergencies on the trail (really!). And on one occasion, my cellphone came in handy when another hiker and I were so engaged in conversation that we missed a turn in the red-blazed trail we were following.

About 30 minutes later, the hike organizer called from the foot of the mountain to ask where the heck we were. We turned around and made it to the parking lot just in time…to join the group at a local watering hole.

Are you are Meetupper? If so, what is your group’s purpose or passion?

suspension bridge

© Janice Leary and My Point Exactly, 2010-2017. Unauthorized use of this material, including original photographs, without written permission from this blog’s author is prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Janice Leary and My Point Exactly, with links to the original content.

From Copley Square to Ground Zero, our cities bounce back

April 28, 2013
One World Trade Center

One World Trade Center

One week after the Boston Marathon bombings, I visited Ground Zero for the first time in a decade. Intellectually, I was curious about the progress of One World Trade Center. Emotionally, I felt the need to see a different kind of progress: the resilience of another historic American place scarred by terror and bloodshed.
The tower, which is nearly complete, did not disappoint. As I stood across the street from the World Trade Center construction site along with a few tourists taking pictures, I was impressed by the shimmering glass-clad building formerly known as the Freedom Tower – and uplifted by what it symbolizes. It was reassuring to see that the dust and noise of the somber recovery efforts 11 ½ years ago have been replaced by the dust and clamor caused by heavy equipment operated by crews working steadily at the 16-acre site.
Including its spire, which is clearly visible from the ground, the tower will be 1,776 feet high – taller than the original Twin Towers and the highest building in the Western Hemisphere, according to the developers.

Those statistics certainly are impressive. But I am more awed by the idea that New York has been able to move forward from the grim days of 2001 to reclaim this now-sacred piece of lower Manhattan and show would-be terrorists that like Boston, the city of New York is strong and determined to recover from acts of senseless violence against its citizens and guests.

My heart still aches for the Boston bombing victims and their families. Although New York State is now my home, I grew up in a close suburb of Boston and will always identify with the city. At my core, I will always be a Bostonian.

I have many wonderful recollections of days spent in the city. Among my favorite is the memory of standing along the Boston Marathon route in Copley Square to cheer on friends and all the other participants who had trained so hard to compete in the 26.2-mile race.

I hope to stand there once again to celebrate the event and its diverse, multicultural participants next April, when the 118th Boston Marathon will take place. With any luck – no, with Beantown grit and heart, the event will be bigger, better and more Boston proud than ever.

Boston_Marathon_2010_in_Wellesley

2010 Boston Marathon. (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

© Janice Leary and My Point Exactly, 2010-2017. Unauthorized use of this material, including original photographs, without written permission from this blog’s author is prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Janice Leary and My Point Exactly, with links to the original content.

Doomsday Dread Rises Again

December 13, 2012

NASA image

Sorry, but you’ll still owe that January rent payment. Rumors to the contrary, the world is not going to end on December 21st.

This assurance, however, isn’t likely to convince true believers of the latest prophecy of the apocalypse. This time the prediction of Earth’s demise is tied to the ancient Mayan calendar and its time cycles of 394-year periods.

But doomsday believers have misinterpreted the calendar, according to archaeologists, who say that 12/21/12 marks the end of a particular cycle, not the planet’s expiration date.

So don’t bother to cue “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine)” to start playing at midnight December 20th.  But you may want to get up extra early the next day, as daylight will be at a premium on the 21st  — the winter solstice, a global event guaranteed to occur.

While Americans are waiting to see if the White House and Congress will back away from the fiscal cliff, citizens around the globe are preparing to slide over the earth’s edge into oblivion — or if they’re lucky, into the heavenly realm. Some have even bought package tours to the abyss.

Really. Tourism groups and resorts in Central America are offering getaways linked to the 12-21 prediction, while Guatemala’s Culture Ministry is sponsoring an event in Guatemala City that is expected to draw nearly 1 million end-of-days-trippers. While some of the travel itineraries are merely clever marketing ploys, others are deadly serious.

View of Guatemala City with volcanoes in the background. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

View of Guatemala City with volcanoes in the background. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In France, true believers are expected to gather near Pic de Bugarach mountain this month thanks to an Internet-fueled forecast that an alien spaceship will rise from its mountain hiding place to rescue them from destruction. And in Russia, the prospect of the apocalypse on the 21st has led to hysteria among some citizens and hoarding by others.

The supposed Mayan prophecy is only the latest prediction of fire, brimstone and redemption (or not) this decade.

Remember Harold Camping? He is the California minister and Christian radio station founder who told anyone who would listen (and sadly, many did) that the Rapture would occur on May 21, 2011, followed by five months of worldwide suffering until the globe’s last gasp.

Scratch that. When the planet still had a pulse on 5-21-11, Camping backpedaled, saying that he got it wrong and revising the date to 10-21-11. Alas, Oct. 21 came and went with not one of the Four Horsemen in sight.

Camping’s edicts would have been merely fodder for “The Daily Show” and jokes circulated via Twitter were it not for the fact that some of Camping’s followers quit their jobs or donated money to his organization in the belief that his prophecies would come to pass.

All this world-disaster planning leads one to wonder: Why are the latest end-times predictions being made? And why do they take hold?

When the world’s major problems — wars, natural disasters and economic crises – seem insurmountable, some people believe that the apocalypse is looming, according to historians, anthropologists and theologians.

Lorenzo DiTommaso, a professor of religion at Concordia University in Montreal, explains what’s behind doomsday thinking in an article posted on the Concordia website:

“The world is often seen as a terrible place, filled with oppression, injustice and the menace of death. Apocalypticism provides a powerful response: The world is so bad, it can’t be restored. So it will be swept away.”

Which should come as good news to believers who count themselves among the sure-to-be-Saved. For the rest of us, December 21st will be just another day — to shop for Christmas gifts, take off for a long weekend, or perhaps, to clean up after the world crumbles.

© Janice Leary and My Point Exactly, 2010-2017. Unauthorized use of this material, including original photographs, without written permission from this blog’s author is prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Janice Leary and My Point Exactly, with links to the original content.

[The NASA image above is from the Visible Earth catalog.]

Curb Enthusiasm — One Path to Walkable Towns

September 16, 2012

Sidewalks, once a staple of American suburbs, have become as rare and retro as drive-in movie theaters. This isn’t just a matter of street design aesthetics. The demise of sidewalks has made it increasingly difficult to walk around in suburban communities, whether for fitness, pleasure, doing errands or dining at a local restaurant.

For instance, the main road that leads to my subdivision-style neighborhood is narrow and winding — and motorists typically drive 10 miles over the speed limit while navigating it. So whenever I walk along this street, I hustle — facing the traffic so I can see oncoming vehicles — until I eventually reach the safe harbor of a sidewalk.

But the sidewalk doesn’t continue in one long ribbon leading downtown. Instead, it disappears for long stretches, reappears, and disappears again.

Needless to say, these are not pedestrian friendly conditions.

You don’t have to be an urban planner to realize that a community without a good network of sidewalks is one that encourages residents to drive everywhere — even to a grocery store, coffee shop or school that would otherwise be a 10- or 15-minute walk away. In other words, it’s a place designed for cars, not people.

A sidewalk-less town raises not only social and environmental issues, but also health concerns, especially at a time when one medical study after the next is underscoring the detrimental effects of sedentary lifestyles.

Research has linked sitting for long periods to a host of health problems, including obesity, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels and higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease or cancer. Some of that sitting, of course, is done while we drive from one place to another in our communities.

Researchers have also documented just how little we walk these days. A study of pedometer-equipped Americans, for example, found they walked an average of 5,117 steps a day, compared to the 9,700 steps that Australian and Swiss citizens tread daily.

Although 5,000 steps equals about 2.5 miles, that’s not much, according to the scientists, who said  Americans would need to trek another 30 to 40 minutes daily to catch up with their Australian and Swiss counterparts.

Hoofing It in Your Hometown

The health benefits of residing in a walkable town are clear. People who live in neighborhoods with shops and other businesses within easy walking distance have a 35 percent lower risk for obesity, a study of nearly 11,000 Americans concluded.

There are also economic advantages for residents and municipal governments. America Walks, an organization that advocates for accessible and safe walking conditions in the U.S., sums it up:

Over the past 50 years development trends have created low-density suburbs and exurbs that require people to go further distances to satisfy basic needs and often make travel by foot impossible. Suburban subdivisions often lack sidewalks and feature multilane highways that cannot be safely crossed by foot.

Communities that develop according to smart-growth principles, which include walkable street networks, cost less for individuals to live in and cost less for local governments to administer.

Paving the Way to Walkability

So how can we make our communities more walkable? Why not start by reintroducing sidewalks to our streetscapes?

A Federal Highway Administration report details some other perks of sidewalks:

  • Children learn independence by having a safer place to travel
  • A good system of sidewalks may allow older pedestrians who no longer drive to walk to services and socialize in their community, while offering a continued independent lifestyle
  • Wide sidewalks can be gathering places in neighborhoods and business districts, and offer space for families and friends to walk and socialize together
  • Wide sidewalks in business communities offer an opportunity for trees, landscaping, and other amenities that create an inviting place for customers to shop and do business

I realize that new sidewalk construction has to be funded by someone — usually taxpayers and their  local governments. And in new housing developments, the homeowners typically cover or share that cost.

But urban planners say sidewalks and other pedestrian-friendly improvements pay for themselves in the long run. In fact, the more walkable a community is, the higher its property values.

It’s nice to know that a sidewalk system can spawn so many benefits. All I want, though, is to be able to stroll safely from my house to my favorite café. But I’d have to move either to another town or back in time several decades to make that possible.

What do you think? Do you have any ideas for making the suburbs more walkable?

 

© Janice Leary and My Point Exactly, 2010-2017. Unauthorized use of this material, including original photographs, without written permission from this blog’s author is prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Janice Leary and My Point Exactly, with links to the original content.

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