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.