Getting around… with a knee scooter

I fractured a bone in my right foot on July 7 while backpacking along the Pacific Crest Trail in the Granite Chief Wilderness. I initially thought it was a tendon problem, because I’d had some discomfort with the tendon before, however, in stepping on the outside edge of my foot on a rock, the pain level increased manifold. I walked out on it. On Friday, I went into the doctor, got an x-ray, and now have a lower leg cast. What does this have to do with transportation? Well, I’m now getting around with a knee scooter, rather than walking or bicycling.

It has been interesting, and here is my take on it so far. The knee scooter has small wheels, about eight inches, so it is less stable than a bicycle, or a wheelchair. Because it is somewhat unstable, I use a lot of energy maintaining balance. Though I’ve noticed, now that I’m paying more attention to people using wheelchairs, that the unpowered ones are not all that stable either. But it does move along quickly, faster than walking though not as fast as bicycling.

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sidewalk buffers

garden sidewalk buffer on Q Street
garden sidewalk buffer on Q Street

The purpose of sidewalk buffers, also called planting strips, is to isolate pedestrians from moving motor vehicles, where parking does not provide a sufficient buffer. Sidewalks adjacent to the curb are called attached sidewalks, while sidewalks with a buffer are called detached sidewalks.

Traditionally all residential, collector, and arterial streets had buffers. Retail areas often did not, in order to make getting from the car to the sidewalk more convenient.

Modern suburbs, however, usually eliminated the buffer strip from all streets in order to maximize the area available for development and roadways. Pedestrians do not like to walk next to fast traffic. In part, the elimination of buffers is why there is much less walking in the suburbs. The lack of buffers also makes an area look harsh, with a bland expanse of pavement rather than the welcoming and beautiful strip of nature. The planting strips and their vegetation require maintenance, and responsibility for those areas is another question of responsibility.

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