Walking in the 'Hood

The pitFALLS of power walking

(EDITOR's NOTE: We thought we'd highlight this column today again because the Los Angeles Times just featured the issue and mentioned the same neighborhoods that she's talking about in Sherman Oaks and Studio City. See the story here.)


Walking in the ‘hood can be hazardous to your health. Power walking in the ‘hood can be life threatening. Oh, not if you’re going around and around on the flat dirt tracks at Beeman or Hazeltine Parks – but it’s getting there that’s dangerous. Let me explain.

My very first article for Studio City Patch was about my Potholes reigned on Milbank and I tripped and fell on my way to my power walk track destination more than once because of them. But they’re gone now and our street is as smooth as a baby’s… Well, maybe not that smooth.

But, here’s the rub. It’s not only pot holes that can hurt you, but sidewalks. Yup, sidewalks. They just jump up and smack you! There’s just no other explanation for my rubbing elbows with them so often. But it’s the dawn of a new year and my New Year’s resolution is to exercise more – damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.

My husband plays tennis a couple of times a week at so I often walk over there to use the outdoor upper and lower body machines as I power walk around the track, catching a glimpse of his doubles match as I do.

Well, on one of those mornings en route to the park, the sidewalk up and attacked me, forcing my knees, palms, elbows and face into a rendezvous with the cement. It wasn’t a pretty sight. Trust me.

I rallied. I picked myself up and continued on. Hey, I could do it when I was still dancing, why not now? I won't tell if you won't that dancing and barre work “working through the pain” was thirty years ago. I'm still a dancer at heart and that should count for something, right?

On my way home after working through the pain, I decided to investigate the villain that assaulted me and discovered that the sidewalk was “uneven” causing the toe of my sneakers to get caught making me go splat. This wasn’t the first time I found myself on the ground because of broken sidewalks. Years of neglect and tree roots have broken the sidewalks in front of many of my neighbors’ homes and no one seems to be responsible for repairing them. I call it the blight of the sidewalks where you wind up tripping the blight fantastic.

But the broken infra-structure of our streets isn’t the only danger out there when walking in the ‘hood as I recently discovered. Not only do we have to keep our eyes on the sidewalk, we need to develop eyes in the back of our heads.

Why?  iPods!

To ease into my new New Year’s workout routine, I decided to by-pass the track and check out my nearby neighborhood tree-lined streets (most, thankfully, without sidewalks)… streets I hadn’t walked in awhile. I was amazed at the changes. Homes had been remodeled or new ones had been built from scratch. Even in this economy, our ‘hood was still upgrading (well, except for the sidewalks). 

I was enjoying the “sights” and happily dueting Country Roads with John Denver (I know, I know - so shoot me - I still like him) when a car came up behind me and ran me down.  (OK, I'm exaggerating - but it was close). I had no idea the car was there. I hadn't heard it approach since my ears were plugged with Mountain Mamas taking me home.  

My heart raced as I narrowly escaped death, but then I got pissed. The road was not narrow, I wasn't walking in the middle, and no other cars or pedestrians were in sight (most streets in my residential neighborhoods are sort of quiet, "suburban-Country Roads”). There was absolutely no reason for him (and it was a "him") to drive up right behind me, scaring me to death and forcing me off the road in some sick game of "chicken"—his car vs. me. 

As I watched him drive by he was talking on his cell and totally ignored me, oblivious to the fact that if I hadn't jumped out of his way, I'd be roadkill. Soooooooo, not only did he almost kill me, or at the very least, cause me bodily harm, he was arrogantly breaking the law. I flipped him "the bird" but it didn't make me feel better (I really wanted to punch his face - a lot - and I’m not prone to violence). 

I love my iPod and really don't want to stop listening to music on my long walks on quiet, “little-trafficked” neighborhood streets, so I'm going to have to be more alert, grow those eyes in the back of my head or walk backwards.

The moral of this story? Between the years of suburban neglect of our sidewalks with no change in sight, coupled with the ever-changing 2lst Century technology, when you’re walking in the ‘hood, keep your eyes and ears open and pick up your feet.

Ilona Saari January 08, 2012 at 04:02 PM
That's a good question. I've always assumed it was the town/city's responsibility, but I don't know for sure. I know it's a town/city's responsibility re: sidewalks in front of stores and other commercial bldgs. Something we all should probably find out since there are a zillion law suits waiting to happen not only in Studio City/Sherman Oaks, etc., but across the country... Seems everyone forgets about sidewalks.
Richard January 09, 2012 at 04:58 PM
I am in accord with your frustration about sharing the road with non-attentive drivers. I ride a bicycle all over Los Angeles and I too love listening to music on an iPod. I use a mirror that attaches to my sunglasses and I have worked with it to the point of always looking behind myself to check for cars. Is this a perfect solution? For now it's my only solution. Just a suggestion, good luck...
Ron February 01, 2012 at 02:32 PM
My wife and I often walk on Ventura Blvd. Many times, we have almost been hit by cars a left turn while we are crossing the street. People are so intent on beating traffic that they don't watch. I have to remember to wear white at night, and carry a flashlight.
Elke Heitmeyer February 01, 2012 at 03:26 PM
When walking on streets without sidewalks, you really should walk on the left side, facing oncoming traffic so you can easily step out of the road, when a car comes. Everybody is crying for more services from the government, yet most people are opposed to raising taxes. Something has to give. If I had a pothole in front of my house, I would fix it myself.
Ilona Saari February 01, 2012 at 04:07 PM
Hope y'all check out the LA Times article Mike posted above my article. It's interesting.


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