May Walnut Creek Mayor's Message
May 01, 2015 10:46AM ● Published by Jennifer Neys
Walnut Creek Mayor, Bob Simmons
By Mayor Bob Simmons
Pedestrianism was a competitive sport that started in England in the 1800s with contests to see who could walk 50 miles in the shortest time. The sport spread to the United States, and watching people walk became America’s most popular spectator sport. One famous walker accomplished the feat of walking one mile every hour for 1000 hours between June 1 and July 12, 1809. Pedestrianism had the first celebrity athletes, corporate sponsorships, and its share of drug and fixing scandals. Some things never change. Moreover, trainers of the competitive walkers considered champagne a stimulant and advised their pedestrians to drink a lot during the race. Pedestrianism lost its popularity when the safety bicycle was invented (replacing the penny farthing) because it was more interesting to watch the speed of a bicycle race than the speed of a pedestrian race.
How does pedestrianism relate to Walnut Creek? First, while this is largely a car-dependent community, it also happens to be a highly walkable community. In addition to having downtown and open space areas, our city is fortunate to have several paved trails. There are three regional trails: the well-known Iron Horse Trail, the Contra Costa Canal Trail, and the Briones-Mt. Diablo Trail (which is unpaved when it goes through our open space). The Briones-Mt. Diablo trail is also named the Mokelumne Coast to Crest Trail (a statewide trail) and the American Discovery Trail (a national trail). Walnut Creek also has several local trails: the Ygnacio Canal Trail, the Sugarloaf to Shell Ridge Trail, and the Shell Ridge to Lime Ridge Trail. It’s possible to walk through all four open space areas in one day with only a relatively short distance on city streets (from Acalanes to Sugarloaf)!
Second, the city has just released its first-ever draft of a Pedestrian Master Plan for public review and comment. You can read the plan online at www.wcwalks.org. If you like to walk, you will find the draft plan interesting. Did you know that 24% of the people who use the Walnut Creek BART station arrive there by walking? Or that while the greatest number of pedestrian injuries occurred at intersections, all four fatalities (from 2004-2013) occurred mid-block, outside of any cross-walk?
The plan doesn’t cover trails in our open space or even connections to trail heads in our open space, so it is an urban and suburban walking plan. When the final plan is adopted, it will provide the framework for the city’s work on improving walking in our community. It focuses on identifying pedestrian safety problems and suggesting possible improvements more than in creating new pathways.
One more note: remember the advice to competitive walkers to drink champagne? While we read a lot about distracted driving, distracted walking is also a serious problem. In 2009, of the more than 4,000 pedestrians killed in the United States, 35% were legally drunk. Walking safely in a car dominated society can be a challenge. Be safe, walk smart, and enjoy walking in Walnut Creek. I do.