Ada — I remember getting the call one night three years ago. One of my best friends had been hit by a car. I wasn’t sure what was happening or what I could do. Since I don’t have a car, I had to find a ride to the hospital that night. I later found out that my friend had been walking to Long John Silver’s for dinner when a car struck him. It was the first time I thought about whether there were sidewalks or crosswalks in that area of the city.
The summer after my freshman year at ECU I got a job at a business on Mississippi. The lack of sidewalks and crosswalks became something that I actively thought about because I risked my life walking to and from work every day. Walking from East Main to work took about 20 minutes, depending on how long I had to wait to cross the street. Have you ever tried to cross Mississippi on foot? I described it as playing Frogger once, and I stand by that description. Even at the crosswalk, the only crosswalk from Main Street to Crazy Corner, I didn’t feel safe crossing the street. Have you ever seen someone walk down Mississippi? People either walk through parking lots or lawns, because every other block doesn’t have a sidewalk.
Not having sidewalks is particularly unfair to low income Adans. It’s also tough for people in wheelchairs. I think we have all seen people in motorized wheelchairs driving on the street in traffic. It is only a matter of time until someone in a wheelchair is seriously injured.
It’s odd that a college town with thousands of students is so unfriendly toward pedestrians. About 700 students live on ECU’s campus and many of them do not have cars. Students walk to Walgreens or even Walmart every single day. Most things in Ada could easily be reached by walking; most of the fast food restaurants are at most a 30-minute walk on Mississippi. There are very cute boutiques and bookstores and all sorts of interesting shops down Main Street. I’ve never gone shopping on Main Street because I can’t walk there.