Please step away from the car
I’ve been trying to find the time to walk around more on the Coastside. Every time I do, I’m delighted with what I find. I know that most of us are intimately familiar with parts of this place, but I suspect that we could all spend more time of out of our cars and walking around.
Every time I get out of the machine and walk around or ride my bike, it’s a revelation. The difference between traveling 40 miles an hour shrouded in metal and glass and two miles an hour is all the difference in the world. For a long time, I didn’t understand why Marshall McLuhan considered the automobile to be a medium. But experiencing the Coastside from your car is like watching it on TV.
I didn’t really understand how huge and wild Wavecrest is until I biked across it, even though I’d driven past it hundreds of times by then.
A few weeks ago, I walked out toward the quarry in Pacifica and was stunned—Highway 1 and its noise disappeared as I dropped below the grade, and I could see the hills, but not the houses to the east.
Last year, I wrote a story about what it was like to walk across Pilarcitos Creek alongside Highway 1 (it’s horrible).
And just a few weeks ago, I walked along the Pilarcitos Creek Trail for the first time. Even though it doesn’t go anywhere, it’s a vast improvement over the alternatives and is quieter and more natural than you might expect. And a surprisingly large large number of people were using it, too.
Unlike other Bay Area communities, there are very few parts of our community that aren’t walkable, or can’t be cycled. Last week, I found myself walking in Colma and was stunned by how many streets were inaccessible to pedestrians, and most of those that I could use were frightening and unpleasant. Of course, most of Colma’s residents are dead.
I’ve wanted to write about why we need to get out of our cars and walk around for a while. I was finally inspired to this piece when I heard an essay in Living on Earth on KQED, from a guy calling himself The Reactionary Pedestrian.
I found out there is no bridge anywhere in the state of Louisiana that you can walk across the Mississippi River. It is prohibited. It is becoming illegal to get across this country on foot. I can’t believe anybody building a bridge across a river for four lanes of automobiles and not even considering pedestrians and bicycles. Anyway. Waiting on a bus to get across the river. I don’t have the energy to get across any other way right now.
You’ve got to be out there, breathing exhaust fumes every day. You’ve got to walk down the road at night and step on a lump and not know whether it’s a piece of blown-out tire or another dead owl. That’s how you get to be a fanatic reactionary pedestrian. You can read all you want about the paving of America, about urban sprawl and smog and vanishing habitat and on and on, but that’s just theory. It’s awful out there by the side of the road! It gets worse every day!
The text of the essay is available online, but I recommend listening to the audio version, so you can hear his voice and the highway humming ominously in the background.
There are dozens of places on the Coastside that I know I have driven past heedlessly and want to discover.
What are your favorite places to walk on the Coastside? What things are we missing by not getting out of our cars? What are the hidden delights about this place? How does your perspective change when you get out of your car?