Although my husband still seeks the snow in the high country, I’ve rearranged our garage to reflect the change of the seasons. Ski gear to the basement and bikes in the garage. Patio chairs are wiped down and our lawn is now scattered with a smattering of our son’s brightly colored toys and findings in nature like a pile of sticks. In our neighborhood, the sidewalks are once again full with the busy activities of a community emerging from hibernation. Chalk art adorns the sidewalks, and kids and adults alike are spending more time outside, either exercising their bike legs or out for a stroll after dinner. Spring has sprung and so have we!
With this emergence, I am often reminded that I need to be much more aware of pedestrians and cyclists. During the winter, I’m careful of snow and ice while driving my car, but this is the time of year, and through the summer and fall, when many of my friends and neighbors are commuting to work on their bikes, walking downtown during their lunch break, or ambling on the sidewalks with their strollers and toddlers on their little bikes in tow. As we transition to spring, I ask that you see pedestrians and cyclists.
Kalispell has few dedicated bike and pedestrian paths, but motorists should remember people, especially kids, are often riding home from school on their bikes or waiting patiently at designated crosswalks for a pause in traffic. Living near the Conrad Mansion and Woodland Park, I am often shocked at how cars fail to see pedestrians. Residents and tourists alike wait at those safe crossing areas while busy traffic fails to yield. Another area of concern is the intersection of Woodland Avenue and 2nd Avenue East where there are two poorly marked crossings for pedestrians, and I myself have experienced the panic of racing across the road as a car fails to see me, or my bright green stroller. This crossing is an access point to Woodland Park, and the City of Kalispell should consider improving pedestrian safety measures immediately. There is also a school nearby, and there are many students who use that intersection as well. It’s a dangerously marked intersection for cars and only worse for pedestrians.
Our community benefits greatly when we all get outside, walk around, and ride our bikes. Our community benefits greatly when we make it safe to do so: with adequate and highly visible pedestrian crossing areas, crosswalks that ensure enough time for people to cross safely, and signage and lighting that alert motorists to the presence of pedestrians.
I’m taking a personal challenge to drive less, bike and walk more. But when I do drive, I am committing myself to truly seeing pedestrians, either giving cyclists a share of the road, or stopping at all crossings to ensure those with little legs can make it across safely. Together let’s advocate for more pedestrian access as well as increased safety measures that ensure that our community can walk and ride without fear or the potential for an accident.
Maggie Doherty is the owner of Kalispell Brewing Company on Main Street.