During the past few years, I have done a LOT of driving all across the country. Something that you'll notice, if you have a moment to actually get out of your car, is that there are virtually no sidewalks in most American towns, particularly in suburbs. Unless you've had your head in the sand—or in a tub of ice cream—you know that America has an obesity problem. This all centers on cars (and high-fructose corn syrup, but that's another story), which inevitably, currently centers on the oil industry. One of the surest ways to fight big oil and obesity is to build more sidewalks. Think about it: this will create more jobs, everyone can walk more and ride bikes, get fresh air and drive LESS.
In addition to sidewalks, every town in America should have excellent walking trails. I just spent a part of my summer at the Copland House in Cortrandt, NY, where I had a residency. There was a local trail called the Briarcliff Peekskill Trailway that I hiked almost every day. It was so wonderful to have that nearby, but guess how many people I ran into on the trail? Just four: a woman walking her dog and a family of three riding their ATV recreational vehicle—that's it. Perhaps it's that all of the locals go to Bear Mountain, but I think it's that:
A. Many of them don't even know it exists. B. They're all working so they have no time for trails. C. There are NO SIDEWALKS!
It's extremely difficult to get to this trail unless you drive. There are no sidewalks leading to the entrances, and only one entrance has a patch of dirt for parking. There were may days when Victoria and I took Dylan, walking along the road, worried that we would be hit by a car since there were not only no sidewalks, but few or no shoulders either. We were usually the only people walking anywhere in this area, so we felt out of place, like the locals were looking at us strangely, thinking "what's wrong with them? Why aren't they driving? Mybe their car died." This is one trail in one small town, but you get the point.
One reason New Yorkers (city, not state) are generally in better physical shape than many other folks is that they walk everywhere. This is a very broad generalization, but arriving back in the city, it just seemed like people are a little more in shape. Obviously, NYC has problems, such as too much car exhaust (note to self: post another entry on why all NYC busses and taxi's should be electric and general traffic should be banned), but at least most people walk.
If there's an organization out there that promotes the building of sidewalks in America's cities and towns, let me know, because I would love to join.