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Frank Gray

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Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Benita Pickard, and her husband, Ned, say that when the city annexed Waynedale it vowed to put in sidewalks. That was in 1953, and Waynedale residents are still waiting.

Sidewalks promised long ago yet to appear

When Benita Pickard and her husband, Ned, were married in 1953, they settled in Waynedale, a section of town where they have lived ever since.

Benita, though, also recalls that not long after they settled, the area was annexed by Fort Wayne. Part of the deal, Pickard said, was that the city would install sidewalks.

The Pickards have moved at least a couple of times since they moved to the area 61 years ago, and today they live in the Avondale neighborhood off Lower Huntington Road.

But some things, Pickard says, haven’t changed.

Those sidewalks that were promised? “My mother-in-law started saving” because residents would have to pay a portion of the cost.

“She’d be over 150 now,” Pickard said, so she’s long gone, and the sidewalks seem to be long forgotten.

“It shows how things slip through the cracks,” she said.

In a way, it no longer matters to Pickard. “We’re in our 80s,” and they have a car.

But Pickard still worries.

She sees families traveling on foot along Lower Huntington Road and in other areas, old people dragging carts of groceries behind them, and people in motorized wheelchairs that have no other way to get to the grocery and shopping areas in Waynedale.

“We see families, women carrying babies and two toddler hanging on to them, trodding in the gravel on the side of the road. I hate to see those women because if someone gets distracted for just a second” the result could be a tragedy.

Awhile back, Pickard said, the mayor announced that Waynedale would get trails. That’s a good thing. They’re great for recreation and, for some, transportation by bicycle or some other means.

But Pickard would prefer sidewalks.

“I’m reading about this Legacy money,” she says. Maybe Waynedale could rate a bit of that, though there has been no widespread call for it.

Pickard’s isn’t an unjustified gripe. I’ve written about the city’s lack of sidewalks linking places that people have to go, the fact that people have to walk in the street along main drags to get anywhere.

I’ve seen those little motorized wheelchairs puttering along where the cars buzz by at 40 mph and faster.

It’s more than just a worry. Numerous pedestrians have been killed when they were hit by cars while walking along the edge of busy roads, often early in the morning or late at night.

Granted, some weren’t behaving in the safest of fashions. They wore dark clothing and walked in the same direction of traffic so they couldn’t see what was coming.

Some, though, have been struck as they walked well off the side of the road, hit by cars that left the road.

Sidewalks aren’t cheap. They require land and planning and sometimes the cooperation of residents who have to share in the cost.

One wonders, though, what’s cheaper – the price of sidewalks or the cost of the life of an occasional pedestrian.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at fgray@jg.net. You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.

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