We have been pleased to see Rockland — both the city government and the community at large — increasingly take the needs of pedestrians, as well as bicyclists, skateboarders and wheelchair users, into account. But it’s worth discussing the significant challenges that remain.

Last week Nate had occasion to walk to City Hall one drizzly weekday morning, and this is what he found.

On Ocean Street, where his journey began, the sidewalks are overgrown and decayed and, at times, indistinguishable from lawns or driveways. On South Main Street, he immediately noticed the puddles, unevenness, and cracked pavement. These sidewalks are passable on foot (though maybe not in a wheelchair) during the summer, but in the winter they become so dangerously encased in snow and ice that it’s often safer to walk in the street. The telephone poles in the middle of the sidewalks on South Main impede snow plowing and make life especially difficult for people with mobility impairments.

Crossing Pleasant Street south to north on the west side of South Main is dangerous on foot! Pedestrians are almost invisible to drivers turning from Pleasant onto South Main, and that has led to close calls for us (as drivers and as pedestrians). Walking Pleasant up to Broadway is comparatively smooth sailing. But the intersection with Broadway is tough to navigate. The sidewalk on the south side of Pleasant ends, and there are no crosswalks across Broadway, so to get past the intersection, you have to dart across a busy street. And then once you’re across, heading farther west on Pleasant, there are no sidewalks, so you have to walk to City Hall on the shoulder, including around a dangerous blind curve. This feels exceptionally dangerous at night — for example, when walking to or from city meetings during the winter. There’s also a stretch right before City Hall with no shoulder, so the only practical option is to walk in the road.

Think about this: To get to City Hall — the public’s place of business — from Ocean Street, you have to negotiate one of the most formidable pedestrian obstacle courses in the city.

Walking back from City Hall to an appointment downtown, Nate opted for New County Road, a less-traveled alternative to Pleasant Street, also with no sidewalks, but with much less traffic. All was well until the intersection with Park Street, which is quite a puzzle for pedestrians. The traffic light at the crossing with Broadway is a few hundred feet away, but there’s no obvious way to get to it. Route 1 is busy, and there are no crosswalks, and no sidewalks on your side of the street. The most practical strategy seems to be to cut through the car dealership on the corner, or else skirt the parking lot in the narrow space between parked cars and Route 1. The latter option means walking on a shoulder with no physical barrier or visual separation between you and lots of traffic. The sidewalk mysteriously starts right after the dealership, though, on this trip, it was blocked by a bright orange “TRUCK TRAFFIC USE 1A ALTERNATE ROUTE” sign. After maneuvering around the sign, things were fine walking east on Park until the intersection with Union Street, where there is little room to stand while waiting for the light to change, and no physical separation on the corner between you and traffic. In a wheelchair, that corner might be a nightmare. After Union, Nate was downtown, where the sidewalks and navigation again become easier.

What are we to make of all this? First, the streets of Rockland have been maintained and prioritized for cars, not humans. The location of City Hall strongly discourages anyone who walks either by necessity or by choice from participating in city government. And though the destination of this particular trip was City Hall, there are plenty of other problem spots in Rockland: the inadequate lights and crosswalk outside Oceanside High School (as of graduation on June 10, the crosswalk still was not newly painted), the nightmare intersection of Maverick and Camden streets, Main Street north of downtown in the winter, and others.

Think about this: Our local youth are making their way to school in dangerous conditions. Are we going to continue to allow this?

We know people who live without cars due to financial constraints, medical issues, disability, age (young or old), environmental concerns, OUIs, and other reasons. Rockland’s pedestrian infrastructure limits the mobility of all of these people. We imagine a Rockland in which everyone is safe walking, wheeling, cycling, and skating, and in which the streetscapes are alive with activity and interaction. If you share this vision, please let us (limecitylove@protonmail.com) and the city government know the places in Rockland where you can’t travel safely without a car, and demand that this situation change!