It’s a new day. It’s been a new day for a while and each and every morning when we wake up, it’s a new day. An active and involved member of the Penn Valley Community, Kris Prendergast, penned this poignant statement as part of a letter to the Township’s Circulation Committee in support of safe pedestrian pathways in Penn Valley. She wrote:
"The world has changed since this neighborhood was built in 1940, when no sidewalks were a sign of affluence because their absence indicated residents could afford cars. In 2012, no sidewalks mean backward thinking and reliance on an automobile to the detriment of public health and the independence of our children. We need to make sure Lower Merion Township continues to provide the lifestyle and infrastructure that people want in this century rather than adhering to a value system that brought us the supersized Big Mac with a side of “couch potato”. Please consider the needs of the larger community in Penn Valley as you move forward with a comprehensive pedestrian plan."
I’m tempted to stop right there. She really said it perfectly. It has me thinking about change and progress and about how, as I grow older, I hope that I will continue to learn, grow, adapt and appreciate progress.
Some of the folks in my neighborhood have made claims that sidewalks would hurt their property value. Actually, that isn’t really a valid argument. We have heard that people regularly call the school district to learn where they should buy a house if they’d like their kids to walk to school. An Urban Land Institute study showed homebuyers were willing to pay a $20,000 premium for homes in pedestrian-friendly communities - that translates to higher property values which means more money in the home seller’s pocket and more money in our township’s tax coffers. And a new report from The George Washington University’s Center for Real Estate and Urban Analysis, in partnership with LOCUS: Responsible Real Estate Developers and Investors and ULI Washington, reveals how walkable places and projects will drive tomorrow’s real estate industry and our country’s economy.
Nevermind that protecting children who walk to school is always money well spent. If it provides financial returns to property owners, then that’s a bonus.
I understand that for some who have lived in a community without sidewalks for many years, it will look different. It may feel different. But different isn’t bad. A well-planned footpath meanders around trees, rather than removing them. Walkable communities with sidewalks are said to have less crime because there are more eyes and ears and more neighbor to neighbor awareness. A community that is growing, adapting and thriving is good for all. You certainly don’t have to be any particular age, or new to the neighborhood, to enjoy the benefits of sidewalks and easy access to parks, schools, shopping and neighbors and fresh air and exercise.
I think I’ll put a note on my bathroom mirror “Hey me, 20 or so years from now. Don’t be afraid of change. Keep on learning and growing- and keepin’ on of course.”