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Active Transportation

By Ms. Alyssa Rodriguez P.E., PTOE posted 08-01-2021 11:17 PM

Bicycle commuting should be part of my week, but I have yet to commit. Currently, my primary excuse is trail bridge construction. Once it is finished, however, it will be an exceptional improvement. That particular crossing traverses a six-lane arterial at-grade and creates significant delay. Several attractive route alternatives exist, particularly once I cross into the Henderson, NV, USA jurisdiction. On the other hand, it is hot.

In general, my trips to the grocery store also involve a car despite the fact that the store is less than a mile away, and many of my trips retrieve only a few items. I live in a rural preservation area, so there are no sidewalks, but there is also very little traffic. The challenging decision is deciding to walk a short distance along Las Vegas Boulevard with no pedestrian infrastructure or to utilize the uninviting rear entrance to the shopping complex. I certainly would not use it after dark.

Unlike me, many other pedestrians, likely from the timeshares across the street, regularly access the store and cross the boulevard to do so. Few utilize the signalized crossing, as it requires backtracking and waiting in the Vegas sun for the walk symbol. The store access, or lack thereof, emphasizes the importance of human-scale projects in making short trips so much more hospitable and pleasant. Protected crossings, lighting, and a solid surface path would make a world of difference at this site. 

Granted, those kinds of projects don’t always go as planned. A trailhead project in a newer neighborhood resulted in a small community protest. A few neighbors felt that adding a shade structure and picnic table would result in teenage keg parties. Keep in mind that the homes are less than 50 feet from the trailhead area. Subsequent photographic evidence of the disturbances showed volunteers in matching shirts cleaning the trail and mounted police patrolling. The naysayers, of course, now regularly use and appreciate the facility.

Frankly, the temperature excuse is really only applicable for a short period of the year. Generally, the weather in the Las Vegas Valley is quite conducive to active transportation in all forms. In fact, even the heat leads to one of the more unique Vegas experiences–running or walking The Strip on early weekend mornings. The buildings afford some of the only significant shade, and the ambiance is rather unique. Quite a few of the fellow pedestrians have yet to sleep from the previous night.

Personally, I know the benefits to my physical and mental well-being, but the knowledge isn’t enough to prompt a change. Several of my favorite vacations have included cycle trips, so perhaps the adoption of a more active lifestyle means appreciating the sights along my commute. Walking the neighborhood certainly affords the ability to see things I wouldn’t normally notice from a windshield. For instance, my neighbors tossed an entire fiberglass pool slide on bulk trash day, the elderly weathered the lockdown well, and someone decided to raise turkeys during the pandemic.

Despite the infrastructure challenges, the occasional complainers, and the heat, active transportation is a joyful activity. Time to ditch the excuses, use my feet, and even get on that bike.

This is the President's Message from the August issue of ITE Journal.