When I moved to Memphis, I had a vision of biking to work. I live 1.5 miles away, and the main street I would bike has a bike lane. Perfect. Except it isn’t. Cars routinely ignore the bike lanes. Some park in them. I’ve seen quite a few cyclists almost get hit biking uphill on the street I would use. Needless to say my vision of biking is on hold until I build more confidence in my ability to avoiding being hit by a car.
Anyway, last week I decided that just because I wasn’t biking to work didn’t mean I had to drive. I could walk.
During today’s thirty-four minute walk, I walked by a group of male nurses outside a senior care facility who asked if I needed a nurse. Recently, 27-year-old Mary Spears was murdered after refusing a man’s advances. Her death was fresh in my mind. I passed three drivers who felt the need to honk at me. Whenever people honk, I roll my eyes. What does honking do besides startle people? Ugh.
When I got close to campus, I had to cross the street using a crosswalk that isn’t controlled by a light. A few days ago, my colleague (who is blind) and I were walking in this crosswalk and two cars nearly hit us. I was thinking about this today as I watched a car speed up to pass an elderly woman who was already in the crosswalk. I thought about how awful it is that we seem to always be in a hurry. When the woman and I passed each other, we smiled and exchanged pleasantries. If the car bothered her at all, there was no evidence.
When I got to the college’s gate (yes, gate), I greeted the security officers, one of whom stopped me and asked, “who is the woman you were walking with the other day?” He was referring to my colleague. We talked about crosswalks, speed racers (aka drivers in the area), and my name,to which he said “I’ll treat the “A” as silent. I can remember Shante.” I replied, “that’s fine…that’s what family calls me anyway.”
When I drive to work, I don’t have to worry about catcalls and honking. But I also don’t notice signs announcing new construction or exchange words with moms and babies on the way. I often wait until the last possible minute to leave,which sometimes puts me in the “hurry” mentality. If I had driven today, I wouldn’t have met Jimmy and Shirley. Sure, it is likely I would meet them later, but I hardly ever use the main gate to the campus. When I drive, I use the electronically controlled gate instead–less human contact.
Even though I have to plan my time differently, deal with unsolicited street harassment, and hope I don’t get hit in the crosswalks, I like walking to work. It is one, small step towards challenging the tendencies to always be in hurry. Walking reduces my carbon footprint. I hope I work up the nerve to bike, but until then, walking will do. Besides, how else do you “stop and smell the roses” If you’re never out among them?