Sharing the Road More Traveled
By: Holly Lange, Visitor Center Ambassador
I’ve lived in a variety of locations over the years, from relatively rural areas, to densely packed busy cities. Because of this, the special balance I have found here in Stapleton is something I truly treasure.
In one of those cities I used to call home, I witnessed a number of crimes on the street. I was nervous to walk alone, but since I had to, I cultivated the “I’m invisible” walk. It didn’t work. Having a car in this city didn’t make much sense, either. The parking, if you could find any, would be very expensive or very unsafe (I remember the “no radio” signs in many of the cars). The stress of the constant solicitations for money, the requests for me to “smile”, or other so-called compliments really started to make me wish for a place that was more car-centric.
I got my wish when I moved to a “car-culture” city. This was a place where a lot of the cars cost more than town-homes and the freeways were a tangled labyrinth of frustration, made even more harrowing by a few natural and man-made disasters. There was a moment, however, early after my arrival, when I was driving in my car and had Gary Numan’s song “Cars” in my head (“Here in my car, I can lock all my doors…”), and I smiled. Of course, on high traffic days, a song from The Police would come to mind (“packed liked lemmings into shiny metal boxes…”). Every trip involved careful planning, and leaving at least twice as much time as any mapping estimate would indicate.
So, that brings me to Denver, and specifically, the place I have called home for over ten years: Stapleton. When the weather is nice, I like to walk, and luckily there is an extensive network of sidewalks and trails to choose from (38+ miles worth and growing). If I’ve got some time, I’ll take the dog and find a place to eat outside. He’s partial to the Berkshire, in case a bit of bacon falls from my plate. If I want to travel a little farther, I’ll take my bike.
However, when the snow is coming down, or the temperature sinks below zero, I do appreciate that life doesn’t have to stand still and I don’t need to dress like Nanook of the North. Yes… enter the automobile. Since I have my own home staging business, I wouldn’t be able to earn a living if I didn’t have a car that could hold a lot of stuff and drive well in the snow. I can get to and from my appointments, no matter the weather, and then park it safely in my garage.
What I love about Stapleton is simple: choices. Biking, walking, public transportation, and driving are all equally viable options in different circumstances. I’ve biked to the Farmer’s Market, walked to the bank, driven to the grocery store, and taken an RTD bus to the airport. I have always had the power here to make the choice that was best for me at the time. Plus, that choice can change depending on the weather and how much time I have. In the near future, I’ll be able to add RTD’s high-speed commuter rail to the mix and travel to DIA or downtown. I’m looking forward to exploring downtown Denver without having to worry about parking!
As a side note, must admit that these choices come with responsibilities. When traveling by many different methods, there’s an opportunity to cultivate some empathy for the other people on the road. The ability to put myself in another’s shoes means I can avoid a clash between these different modes of transportation. A little eye contact goes a long way, too.
When I’m walking, and about to cross an intersection with traffic, I make sure to catch the driver’s eye. When I’m a driver, I do the same thing. I hang back from the intersection and wave the pedestrian on to cross. I give extra space when I see a dog or a child, as a precaution to allow for the unexpected. When I’m on a bike, I follow the bike routes and I don’t ride on narrow streets where a bike and a car can’t travel at the same time. I also wait at stop lights and ride on the correct side of the road. I keep an eye out for cars turning right in front of me, and people opening their car doors while parked. A little empathy for the fact that we are all human, plus a healthy dose of caution can make our many transportation options more pleasant, and safer.
I feel lucky to be able to live in a place where I can make these choices; and I’m grateful that they share equity in the neighborhood. A car wash or a parking spot is very welcome when I need one. A sidewalk or bike route is equally important. Each one is an option that has its own integrated “place” in Stapleton, and allows people to be mindful of those with whom we share the road. Whether in a car, on a bike, on a skateboard or walking, we all deserve a little space.