The walking classes

Pedestrians of Jerusalem unite!

walkingjerusalemAJ29888 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
I'm not going to gripe about uneven surfaces, the cracks in the road and the potholes, the unsightly filth that masks the beauty of the city, the dog droppings that are not picked up, the ugly fences that have been built up along the routes designated for the light rail system, the constant traffic congestion, the lack of logic in the workings of the traffic lights or even the fact that so many city streets have become public urinals with the accompanying odor and dangers to health. Not that I've become inured to all these things - but they bother me less than the disappearing pavement. After all, pavements were invented to separate walkers from riders. Prior to the advent of the pavement, depending on their geography, pedestrians were constantly in danger of being run down by horses, donkeys or camels. Once the pavement with its slight elevation came into being, it created a clear division between those whose progress was determined by four legs and those whose progress was determined by two. Eventually, the four legs became four wheels, giving further emphasis to the need for separation between those who drove or were driven and those who walked. Initially pavements - at least those in main streets - were very wide. This was probably in deference to the much higher ratio of walkers. But as people began to get more affluent and women began to acquire greater independence, the number of vehicles on the roads increased, so much so that the resultant congestion created a need for underpasses, overpasses and additional highways. Too often, however, the problem was 'solved' by encroaching on the pavement. This was done by either shaving off large tracts of pavement to enable the widening of the road, or by allocating sections of the pavement to motor vehicles. Either way, it considerably narrowed the areas designated for pedestrians. To add to the discomfort of the walking classes, trees that once acted as a border between the pavement and the road were moved from the outer edge of the pavement to the inner edge. To ensure that they were included in the city's irrigation of public parks, flower banks, et al, the trees were surrounded by stone enclosures. These take up an unfair amount of space, narrowing the pavement by more than half a meter. To add to all these factors, pedestrians have to contend with motor cyclists, bicyclists, roller skaters, skateboard and scooter exponents who make life on the pavement a nightmare. The only wheels on the pavement should be those of baby carriages, infants' strollers, wheelchairs and shopping buggies. Pedestrians have been robbed of the luxury of day-dreaming on the pavement. Once, the worst thing that could happen to a pedestrian in a day-dream was bumping into someone approaching from the opposite direction. Today, pedestrians are constantly under threat of motor cycles or bicycles and their passage is often impeded by motor vehicles that are not only parked on the pavement, but which cruise the pavement in search of a parking spot. The situation can get very scary. Motorists who park on the pavement have absolutely no consideration for pedestrians. They park at angles that force the pedestrian to step into the gutter if not right out into the road and into the path of oncoming traffic; they block access to front gates, park entrances and places of business. It's not funny, and it makes many of us angry. Pedestrians of Jerusalem who want to walk in comfort, who want to see the aesthetic balance between the width of the pavement and the width of the road, must unite to reclaim the pavement. Jerusalem is traditionally a city of pilgrimage. In Hebrew, the expression for pilgrimage is 'aliya b'regel' (going up on foot). The way things are going, there won't be anywhere for the pilgrims to walk. According to media reports, sidewalk parking will be gradually phased out in Tel Aviv from the beginning of next year. The ban will apply not only to four-wheeled vehicles, but also to motorcycles. If Tel Aviv can give consideration to its pedestrian population, Jerusalem can surely do the same. Pedestrians of Jerusalem unite!