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Cover photo showing the road under construction.

When a demand trail meets a stroad

This tiny trail has existed since before I moved here, five years ago. It's a “demand trail.” Those are formed when people regularly need to cross an area with no paved path.

Photograph of a trail across grass and leading to a road.

Some storefronts are across the street. A neighborhood is behind me. But even if I had a wider shot, you still wouldn't be able to see any crosswalks. There aren't any in sight.

Almost every time I pass this trail, I see someone using it. In fact, a woman walked across just after I took this photo! I wish the image showed that, but I don’t like photographing random strangers. Either way, my point is that this trail is very actively used.

With these conditions, it's not hard to see why a “demand trail” is, well, demanded. But why isn't this demand being supplied with a safe, paved trail?

The orange traffic pylons mark where the street is widening. It's expanding from two lanes into four lanes, transforming into more of a “stroad.” This construction has been happening for three years now.

Crossing this street was never safe. When all four lanes are open, it will be even more dangerous.

The story of this trail is sadly a common pattern. We ignore the needs of certain people. We build expensive infrastructure for the people we think are more important. We don't care if that makes life more dangerous for the people we choose to overlook.

I assume our engineers aren't malicious, but when you design a town from a satellite’s perspective, you don't see what people need on a “human scale.” Often, the residents aren't empowered enough to speak up for themselves, or they just don't trust or care about their government.

Out status quo is backwards. We should orient society to serve the least among us: the poor, the disabled, children and infants, people without cars, the uneducated, people who can't work, people without computers or phones, and the list goes on. Trails like this are a sign that just because you choose not to serve some people, those people don't stop living their lives.