Originally Posted Spring 2008
A pedestrian is defined as a person who travels on foot. Pedestrian walking takes place throughout the whole city of Billings, Montana; however, it is mostly seen in downtown where many large businesses, stores, restaurants, and hospitals are located. The close proximity of many businesses in the small downtown area of Billings requires pedestrian rules for the safety of citizens and to give public order.
There are many factors influencing why people choose to travel on foot throughout the city of Billings, Montana. First, traveling by foot can save money in various aspects of life. Choosing to travel by foot and not by car saves money on gas, maintenance, parking passes, and tickets or fines. Bike expenses and bus passes also cost money, unlike traveling on foot. Pedestrian walking is a good form of exercise and an excuse to get outside for some fresh air. Feeling the city environment is also a reason why people chose to travel by foot. Seeing the buildings up close and experiencing the city life can only truly be felt when walking through the city. A common interest among many citizens is environmental safety. Choosing to walk instead of drive is a way to help the environment. All of these are factors that lead to pedestrians choosing to walk. The desired outcome for pedestrians is to get from place to place. In Billings, the destination of travel for pedestrians can consist of work, school, restaurants, the grocery store, home, and local shopping.
Although pedestrian walking seems simple there are many different aspects that contribute how safe and efficient it can be. There needs to be designated sidewalks separate from the streets for pedestrians to walk on. Clearly noted crosswalks with painted white bold lines for traffic to recognize are also necessary. Traffic signs and crosswalk signs indicate when it is safe for pedestrians to carry out their activity, such as crossing the street. These are especially efficient in busy areas when traffic is heavy so people from out of the city can navigate safely. City information signs (such as museums, library, and historical district) help tourists and other people who are not from Billings to identify what the city has to offer. The value of courtesy by drivers support pedestrians safely walking in a city. The courtesy of fellow road users grants the safe travel of pedestrians by allowing them to cross at crosswalks, respecting their rights as a road user. Another supporting factor of pedestrians walking in Billings is the Farmers Market, and other local city activities. These activities support walking around the city, which actually makes it easier to get around during these events. These various aspects together support pedestrians walking throughout Billings.
Although many things in Billings support pedestrian walking there are a few factors that interfere with it. First, traffic (cars, buses, and cabs) all interfere with walking. Traffic is a safety hazard and can be an inconvenience to walking throughout the city. Also, bicyclists use the sidewalks that are meant for walking on, which can obstruct a walker’s pathway. Another factor that can hinder pedestrian walking is if the sidewalks, crosswalks, and signs are constructed or working incorrectly. Cracked sidewalks make it unpleasant to walk around the city, and if crosswalks and signs are not properly working or displayed then citizens are not as interested or able to saftly walk in the city.
I am focusing on the area of pedestrian walking for a few reasons. First, I enjoy walking through downtown and absorbing the city life. Also, it is intriguing to me that a lot of the time people will walk to avoid other juridic controls with driving or other public transportations. Although pedestrian walking is a way of avoiding laws and rules, it too has its own juridic controls.
There are not a large number of laws concerning pedestrian walking, however they are encouraged to be followed. These laws are for the citizens to follow. The laws are stated online, within the City Code, and are commonly known amongst citizens.
As stated in the Billings City Code, Chapter 24, article 800, the city has to designate and maintain crosswalks at intersections and any place they feel necessary. Also, to establish safety zones in areas the pedestrians need protection. This law protects the citizens, and also makes walking through the city more appealing to the public. Another law states that pedestrians must use the crosswalks while in the business district. This law is enforced for the safety of pedestrians and road traffic. There is one more law listed in the Billings City Code pertaining to pedestrian walking. If a citizen is blind, they must carry and use the appropriate metallic colored cane for traffic and other pedestrians to identify. This law is also listed in Chapter 24, article 800. Violations of any codes can result in arrest; however the violator may also be released and given a court day by the arresting officer. The citation will usually end in some sort of fine to pay, depending on the severity of the violation.
Although those are the only laws directly regarding to pedestrian walking, people walking about the city must be aware of other rules. Public display of drinking in Billings is defined as carrying or exhibiting of open cans, bottles, glass, or any other container of alcoholic beverage (Chapter 3 article 201). Public display of drinking is prohibited in Billings, unless one has a permit for activities such as carnivals, festivals, or parades. If pedestrians are caught walking around Billings while under the influence they will be arrested and taken to jail. Fines and community service may also be enforced. Another law citizens need to be aware of is the curfew regulations the city has established. Stated in the City Code, citizens less than 12 years old should not be in public places (which include walking around Billings) between the hours of 9:00pm to 6:00am. Minors under the age of 18 years old should not be out in public areas from 11:00pm to 6:00am Sunday through Thursday. Friday and Saturday, and summer months minors under the age of 18 years old should not be out in public areas from 12:00 am to 6:00am. The curfew laws in Billings are created for the safety of its youth.
The effects of these rules restrict the way citizens can behave and act while walking around the city of Billings. Although most people would use the crosswalks, sidewalks, and signs for safety, there is some burdensomeness that comes along with the juridic controls of being a pedestrian.
When walking around the city sometimes there are shortcuts that involve crossing a street where there is no crosswalk. The law clearly states that you must use crosswalks, and it is a burden that you have to walk the long way because of the law. Also, it a burden to have to wait at each crosswalk, even if there are no cars coming. It can slow you down having to wait for sign to changes, and in the fast pace world that we live in people don’t have time to waste standing for a crosswalk. It is also a burden to always make sure you are wearing comfortable, good walking shoes. These shoes can be pricy, but also it is a burden to have to remember good shoes when going out.
The curfew rules are a large burden for any citizen, no matter the age. Firstly, it limits the freedom of what individuals wish to do. Under aged kids cannot drive, so walking is a popular form of transportation. However, when they are restricted to walk about the city at certain times, they cannot go to places and do things they want to do. When it gets time for the curfew, parents will have to get in the car and collect their children. This is a burden to the parents also, because they have to take time out of their day to bring their children home when they are perfectly capable to walk. It is frustrating when juridic controls restrain your life from doing what you want.
Although most citizens would not display public drunkenness, it is somewhat of a burden to have to know you need to act in a certain way to stay out of trouble. Citizens may feel the threat of police charging them with public drunkenness after a night out, so instead of walking home they may have to call a cab, a friend to come pick them up, or even worse get in their own car and drive home.
These juridic controls also cause a burden to the city administration. They have to spend money, time, and effort on maintaining safe sidewalks and crosswalks. The juridic controls for pedestrian walking cause wide spread burden that ultimately wastes time, costs money, and impedes people from doing what they want.
There are a few alternatives to escape the burdensomeness of pedestrian walking. The easiest solution is to no longer use walking as transportation throughout Billings. There is public transportation (the MET) that citizens can use, along with driving their own cars and carpooling to their destinations. With these changes one would no longer feel the burden of crosswalks or watching how they act.
Moving or working outside of the city is another alternative. If a citizen’s housing or workplace is too far to walk, than they have to use another form of transportation which relieves them of the juridic controls. Moving outside of the city where there are more trails and open spaces, and less juridic controls is also a way to escape the laws.
I believe these juridic controls do limit people’s ethical thinking. It seems most of the juridic controls are basic common sense, and most pedestrians would follow them. However, since the controls are enforced people are less likely to think ethically (whether their action is good or bad). The controls make it so we don’t have to think ethically, everything is already spelled out for us and we know the do’s and don’ts of pedestrian walking. If the laws were not applied then pedestrians would have to for themselves think about their safety, the respect for others, and the ‘right thing to do.’