Ok, folks. This blog post has nothing to do with Russia. It has to do with America. More specifically, it is related to my hometown of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. I’ve been able to visit Cuyahoga Falls a few times over the past year, and the city has a plan that is blowing my mind. [Beginnning rant now]
This is a picture of my dad, taking a stroll on Front Street, circa 1943:
You see, that’s what people did in the 1940’s on this pedestrian street, they employed the decidedly unique human trait of bipedalism and went outside houses without cars.
Fast-forward to 2017: The city of Cuyahoga Falls is planning to spend $10 million to transform Front Street from a pedestrian walkway into a two lane road. This is in an effort to boost local business due to the decline of foot traffic, and also, presumably, because Cuyahoga Falls doesn’t have enough two lane roads.
Probably, I should just go to bed now instead of writing this, but I really have to get this off my chest.
A few weeks ago while in Ohio, I decided to go down to Front Street myself to do some in-depth investigation. I immediately discovered the problem. There aren’t enough parking spaces on the parking deck:
The next issue that can only be overcome by tearing out the pedestrian walkway, is the distance from the parking deck to the nearby shops as is illustrated in this snapshot taken from the parking deck overlooking the bustling market district:
I feel like I’m revealing an issue of national security when I write on the internet that the distance in the above picture is too far for the average American to walk.
Joking aside, the distance from the parking deck to that store (used to be a uniform supply, I think) is LESS than the distance from the average parking space at Wal-Mart to the entry greeter.
But you know, sometimes on a windy winter day, I think to myself, “I might just drive down to Front Street and fill my work uniform order right now. That would sure just hit the spot.”
I mean, call me crazy, but perhaps the issue isn’t the road. It’s people who think 30 yards is too far to walk AND the fact that there are pants that don’t fit right instead of fancy over-priced cupcakes and hot chocolate at the end of this story?
Fortunately, there is a theater on Front Street in Cuyahoga Falls:
Unfortunately, it didn’t seem there would be anything showing. Hello, Cuyahoga Falls! I mean, I understand many of us Fallsites would prefer not to spend our Saturday evening watching a chamber orchestra, or even listening to one. But don’t we at least have a comedian or two who could put on a show and save the walkway from the mayor’s jackhammers?
Now, I know what those of you who are not from Cuyahoga Falls are thinking. You’re thinking I’m not telling you the whole story. You would be right. I forgot to mention there is a beautiful river next to the street with a boardwalk (for crying out loud, overlooking a series of waterfalls). I also failed to mention that the parking deck is absolutely free of charge. Oh yes, there is also a nice fountain. And there is Metropolis Popcorn and the Whistle Stop. I mean, I love the Whistle Stop. I went there like five times when I was a kid and bought some model rockets. I think it’s super cool that the Whistle Stop is still there. But it’s not every Saturday afternoon that I need a model rocket, so the Whistle Stop isn’t going to draw my business on most weekends.
As for Metropolis Popcorn, I was too depressed to walk inside. Probably nice folks. But I’ve never been sitting around at the house and then thought to myself, “I’m going to go for a drive downtown to eat some popcorn”. Usually, I’m thinking the opposite: “I’m going to eat some popcorn so that I don’t have to go outside”. Also, I saw the sign, but couldn’t see the Metropolis.
I think the buildings down on Front Street are pretty cool looking:
But more importantly, in almost everywhere in the world, cities are tearing out their roads and putting in pedestrian streets. It’s more fun, it’s healthier.
Yes, Front Street has its issues, but it’s not because of a 50 yard walk from a parking spot. And these are issues that won’t be remedied by a two-lane road.
I live in Moscow which has a lively city center full of walking streets. I enjoy the sounds and the people on those walking streets, even in the winter. It’s a part of the culture both here and in much of the world, and it is a culture that many cities are working to attain.
So, Mayor Walters, I hear you’ve been paying some shiny consultants good money to tell you the difference between a pedestrian walkway and a two lane road. But I invite you to come on over to Moscow, and I will be happy to give my advice, free of charge. Please don’t turn Front Street into a motorway. You can save a lot of money for the city and boost business. You just need to make bipedalism great again.