Life in our mountain: This town isn’t made for pedestrians | SierraSun.com
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Life in our mountain: This town isn’t made for pedestrians

Katie Shaffer, Sierra Sun

The other day I was driving down a narrow windy stretch of road in Ponderosa Palisades when I passed two young men walking.

They looked like they were religious spread-the-word guys, dressed in crisp white shirts, neckties, and black slacks covered with long dark trenchcoats. I guess trenchcoats mark you either as a religious missionary or a hoodlum these days. These were very clean-cut looking trenchcoat wearers. One of them was carrying a book, a Bible if I’m not mistaken.

Anyway, what I am getting around to talking about is not their clothing, or that they were knocking on doors trying to convert our townspeople to some point of view. What I noticed was that they were walking single file, and the one carrying the Bible looked over his shoulder at me as I came around the corner.

He was keeping his eye on me to make sure I didn’t run him over, because there was so little room between the space where he could put his feet and the front end of my car.

I felt that these two probably were cursing whoever dropped them off in this podunk town that has virtually no safe places to walk along the side of the road. Cursing may be the wrong word; maybe they were hoping for some help from up above. The guy who looked over his shoulder at me was definitely concerned about his safety, rightfully so. I slowed way down, and tried to give him as much room as possible, to let him know that I was aware of his predicament.

From May to November, walking along the shoulder of the roads around town is feasible. In the winter, when banks of snow fill our roads’ shoulders, walking looks like a pretty hazardous undertaking to me.

There is a man who we see walking all the time. He wears shorts, regardless of the season, and he is one of the few people who live here whose chosen mode of transportation is walking. My children call him the walking guy. “There goes the walking guy!” they’ll say when we pass him.

I actually haven’t seen him much in recent weeks, probably because he is well aware of the hazards of walking along the sides of our roads at this time of year.

The other people who you see out walking are tourists who think that they might just enjoy a walk on our country roads.

You will often see them out walking along a busy road such as Northwoods Boulevard. Hopefully, after a few cars have whipped past going 50 miles per hour, spraying slush and grime, they head back for a safer idea.

In an effort to be kinder to tourists, we should have literature suggesting safe places to walk, such as Donner State Park or the gated road leading out to Martis Reservoir.

I shouldn’t say that our whole town has no sidewalks, because it does seem that as each new building goes up along Donner Pass Road, the builder is obligated to construct a sidewalk. Are these sidewalks meant to someday connect, so that eventually we’ll have several miles of a footpath crossing through town?

Right now, if you were to take off from Gateway on foot and head toward downtown, you would be able to find a sidewalk to walk on until you were just past the Tahoe Forest Medical Offices building. Then, suddenly the sidewalk just sort of ends. There’s another building down the way, under construction, probably with another sidewalk coming soon, but there’s no connecting sidewalk, just forest in between.

I’ve also noticed that the town doesn’t seem to require these sidewalk owners to keep their sidewalks shoveled, so pedestrians really do have their work cut out for them.

Looking at it from the prospective of a master scheme, it’s a good plan to have these sidewalks constructed. But at this point, it doesn’t really work too well yet.

Sidewalks are definitely something one of my friends craved for a few years ago. She has now moved to Reno. She now has her very own sidewalk.

It makes sense that in Reno, they have sidewalks. And here in Truckee, I think it makes sense that we mostly don’t have them. It’s part of what makes Truckee a rural community. The same thing goes for streetlights. Those civilized road “improvements” are for suburban America, not for a small town in the mountains.

Therefore, I am not lobbying for sidewalks or for ordinances requiring that our few sidewalks be shoveled. It’s just that lately I’ve noticed that during the wintertime, this town is not made for walking.

Katie Shaffer has lived in Truckee since 1981.


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