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It's hard to make Harford bike and pedestrian friendly

It would be wonderful if we, as a society, weren't so dependent on our cars.

But in this day and age, we want things done now, or rather we wanted them done already, so we get things done as fast as we can. Why walk to the store? Why ride a bike to a friend's house? Cars will get us where we want to go so much faster than anything else. Only time travel would be faster, and let's face it, that won't happen for a long, long time, if ever.

We are impatient, and I'm just as guilty as anyone else. I wanted my groceries yesterday, I wanted my hair cut last week, I wanted to get my kids form day care already. Face it, the faster we can get things done, the better. Ideally, that would leave us more free time, but it doesn't seem like many of us have lots of free time, just time to get done the things we wanted to do last week.

Anything much more than a few blocks away and people are going to hop in their cars. I do. I live about a half mile from a busy intersection with a fast food joint, a couple convenience stores and a drug store, but I wouldn't dream of walking to any of them to get what I need. It's not the fact that it's right at Route 543/22, what I consider one of the more horrible intersections in Harford County, it's that it's just going to be faster to jump in my car.

Maybe if some sidewalks were installed along Route 543, I'd be more apt to walk to Rite Aid or Burger King and pick up dinner. As it is, it's dangerous enough navigating that area in the car, forget about on foot.

Perhaps that's part of the big push to make Harford County more bicycle and pedestrian friendly. If I knew I'd be safe, I just might do a little more walking and a little less driving. Maybe I'm not the only one. If we had more time in our busy days and busy lives, walking and biking for things other than exercise might become the norm, not the exception.

I think that's what we all need to do, just slow it down a little bit.

Harford County wants to become more bicycle and pedestrian friendly, and is developing a master plan to address some of the issues with doing such.

The plan will identify what facilities are needed and what action needs to be taken. It's development is being guided by an advisory committee that represents a variety of people whose help is needed to implement the plan.

Anticipated to be a year-long process, development of the plan will include opportunities for public input. In addition to public workshops, citizens will be able to follow the process and provide comments online at the Department's website,, until April 16.

The public input process begins today (Wednesday, March 28) with an open-house workshop at the Harford County Government Administration Building, 220 S. Main St. in Bel Air, from 5 to 8 p.m. in the second floor conference room. Participants are welcome to stop in any time during the period to learn more about bicycle and pedestrian issues and to provide input on how to improve conditions for biking and walking throughout the county.

The problem, though, is that the farther out you get from one of the three municipalities of Aberdeen, Bel Air or Havre de Grace, the harder it is to get anywhere unless it's by car. Never mind that the roads in much of northern Harford County don't have sidewalks or that many of the busiest roads don't have bicycle lanes, in many places it's just plain too far to go for the things we need.

My parents live in Street, about 4 miles from downtown Jarrettsville, the closest convenience store or restaurant. The only thing closer is Foard's Western Auto, and it has a limited customer appeal.

Walking or biking Route 165 wouldn't be too bad (though the walk could take every bit of two hours), and it has a wide shoulder, so you'd be relatively safe (compared to a road like say, Route 543, which has no shoulder), but cars are whipping along at least at 45 mph (the speed limit) if not faster. Once you get to Jarrettsville, your choices are limited – a convenience store, a car dealership, a couple gas stations and a post office to name a few. Another quarter-mile or so in one direction is a liquor store, in another direction a pharmacy, a couple banks, a library and a hardware store. (Getting your purchases back home could be pretty cumbersome, too.)

So unless more areas are commercialized, it's going to be a long time before places like Jarrettsville become walking communities.

Just because a place is pedestrian-friendly, though, doesn't mean it's safe. I think downtown Bel Air is an easy place to walk, but getting most drivers to stop at pedestrian crosswalks is close to impossible. I run from our office to the Ma & Pa Trail, crossing Main and Bond streets where they come together, a few times a week, and I can't tell you how many cars pass right by me at those crosswalks each time.

Walking and biking as a means of transportation just don't seem practical to me, but they're great forms of exercise. And I would encourage anyone to get outside and take a walk or run or hop on their bike just to move around. I think if we all walked a little more or rode our bikes more often, we'd be better off. We'd be healthier, because we'd be getting more exercise. It would give us time to take a deep breath and relax, instead of always being anxious and in a hurry.

And then we'd all be just a little bit happier.

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