Monthly Archives: December 2010

Savannah Morning News columnist wonders about walking

A helpful reader pointed out Jane Fishman’s Dec. 11 Savannah Morning News column, “Walking in Savannah proves to be a not-so-easy task.” Having participated in an event that brings thousands of people to city streets, she wonders why they don’t make walking part of their daily lives.

“Don’t they like to get somewhere during their walk or run? How many times can a person walk or run around the park without wanting to use that time and energy to arrive somewhere?”

She quickly and astutely zeroes in on the problem, which is one pedestrians and cyclists share: Many local streets, having been designed (or redesigned) exclusively for cars, are not enjoyable places to walk.

“Of course, who can blame them? Have you tried to walk on Eisenhower Drive? How about Waters Avenue? Not even the reliable Abercorn Street, which traverses Ardsley Park, has a sidewalk that will accommodate your walking.”

These thoroughfares are dangerous by design. It’s unfortunate that using these streets requires pedestrians to be “adventurous and bold,” but the fact is that many citizens have no choice but to walk on streets that are unwelcoming at best and deadly at worst.

The wrong kind of walkability?

littlekings

Lesley Conn’s Dec. 7 Savannah Morning News story, “Package store request galvanizes Victorian District neighbors,” contains an interesting passage. Nearby residents, she writes, are worried the liquor store will create “more pedestrian traffic on an already well-trod corridor.”

What could happen if there are too many pedestrians? Would the sidewalks crumble? Too late! They already have in some parts of the neighborhood around the former Little Kings restaurant and beauty parlor site.

What the neighbors are truly concerned about is not the volume of pedestrians, but the type: Those who litter, loiter and worse. Certainly these are activities that can “undo years of hard-fought improvement” and they present an interesting problem. Pedestrians are often described as an “indicator species” for the health and well-being of a community. A study released the same day as Conn’s story suggests that living in neighborhoods, where many people walk, enhances an individual’s quality of life.

“The authors found that individuals in more walkable neighborhoods tended to have higher levels of trust and community involvement, whether that was working on a community project, attending a club meeting, volunteering, or simply entertaining friends at home. Residents in the more walkable neighborhoods also reported being in good health and happy more often than those in the less walkable neighborhoods.”

But what if more people are walking for the “wrong” reasons? Do pedestrians motivated by the desire to purchase lottery tickets or bottles of liquor cancel out the improved quality of life?

Another curious aspect of the story, at least as it’s been reported, is what the residents appear not to be worried about. Neighbors have spoken with city officials about Dumpster placement, video camera installation and hiring of off-duty police officers, but in Conn’s follow-up story and a Savannah Morning News editorial there is no mention of another negative impact. While some folks will walk to the proposed liquor store, others will drive. Increased motor vehicle traffic on an already busy street will make it less safe for people walking for the “right” reasons.

Connect Savannah story looks at local geothermal projects

“Energy Underground” in the Dec. 7 issue of Connect Savannah surveys geothermal efforts underway in the area, including one particularly interesting project:

The recent, and under-reported, symbolic groundbreaking of what will be the Savannah Gardens neighborhood redevelopment of Strathmore Estates, unearthed the city’s game plan to provide geothermal energy to 150 single family homes. According to Martin Fretty, city director of housing, “We’re trying to find ways to put in both Smart Meters and geothermal.” If the city succeeds in this Eastside development, it will be the largest residential use of geothermal in the region.

The recent, and under-reported, symbolic groundbreaking of what will be the Savannah Gardens neighborhood redevelopment of Strathmore Estates, unearthed the city’s game plan to provide geothermal energy to 150 single family homes. According to Martin Fretty, city director of housing, “We’re trying to find ways to put in both Smart Meters and geothermal.” If the city succeeds in this Eastside development, it will be the largest residential use of geothermal in the region.

Read more here.

On being blissfully unaware of rising gasoline prices

Picture 7When it came down the Twitter-wire from WTOC-TV last week, I just scratched my head. What is with with gas prices?” Seriously. I had no idea. The photo that accompanied the Twitter question showed an Enmark gas station sign advertising regular unleaded gasoline for sale at $2.88 per gallon (takeout only). Is that a lot these days? I really don”t know. It’s not because I don’t care about money. I just don’t buy much of the stuff.

WTOC revealed what, indeed, was up in subsequent stories and it turns out that gasoline prices are rising. WSAV-TV was on the case, too, with Savannahians Speaking Out on Gas Price Spike.

We appear to entering yet another period in which the news media dusts off one of the most overused cliches in the business: “Pain at the Pump.” Soon people will begin suggesting all sorts of ways to suppress prices, from military campaigns in exotic locales and potentially disastrous schemes for getting at oil that some folks are certain is sloshing around right under our feet. And why not? After all, we recently learned we needn’t worry about climate change.

There are simpler ways to ease worries over gasoline price fluctuations. One is an inexpensive invention that I’ve been using for quite some time.  I’m convinced that it would allow many of my fellow citizens to reduce the amount of gasoline they use. And here’s the kicker: Most of them already own this device. The secret is to use the device in a special way that prevents the need to visit gas stations on a regular basis.

Now, to be clear, it won’t completely shield a person from the effects of rising gas prices, even if they use it exclusively every single day. Fuel prices are reflected in the cost of every good and service we purchase. And, as mentioned above, rising fuel prices can ignite support for some pretty terrible ideas that—if they gain traction—will have negative consequences for everyone. Still, it’s pretty satisfying when you have to struggle to recall the last time you stood at a gas pump and poured money into a hole on the side of your car.

Do you own one of the useful devices I’m describing? Have you discovered how to use it in a way that reduces your gasoline consumption? Are you, like me, smugly disconnected from the daily changes in digits on gas station signs? Should we reveal the secret?