As a resident of Yosemite Lakes Park (YLP) for 20 years I do not often see people walking or biking along the street, children riding their bikes to school or mothers or fathers pushing their child in a stroller to the park. My home community is a wonderful place to live, however it is exposed to a number of environmental hazards and barriers that discourage physical activity, harming both physical and community health. I argue that one of the greatest environmental barriers to an active YLP community is the absence of sidewalks.
California Walks, a statewide advocacy group promoting pedestrian safety and walkable communities refers to “walkability” as a measure of how safe, friendly and accessible walking isin a neighborhood or community-indicating the number of people who can or will be physically active. As a contributor to personal well being, walking is a form of physical activity that improves both physical and mental health. It is recommended that people exercise for at least 30 minutes each day and walking can be that medium of exercise.
An article posted in the Current Opinion of Cardiology states that walking is a promising strategy for yielding cardiovascular health benefits for the general population. As a form of transportation, walking is the most universal form of it, reducing one’s dependence on a vehicle. Walking helps connect people and places, allowing individuals to build relationships with those they are surrounded by. It also allow us to recognize the community we live in and therefore builds our appreciation for the place we call home.
However, with the lack of sidewalks, YLP is not a walkable community and all the activities listed above can be described as dangerous. As a pedestrian, sharing the road with a car is a threat to one’s life as our roads are narrow, curvy, and overall unwelcoming to a walker or biker. YLP also does not have any crosswalks, encouraging pedestrians to dangerously cross wherever and whenever they please.
I want to recognize that the lack of sidewalks are not the only environmental barrier to an active community. Distance between destinations plays a primary role as the layout of our community is extensive and spread out. Another environmental barrier increasing the inactive lifestyle in YLP is the summer heat and smoke, deterring residents from spending time outdoors. Many may argue against the implementation of sidewalks due to the cost and one’s desire to live in the foothills rather than a suburban town or city. However, health and safety must be a priority and we should challenge ourselves to hold higher standards.
I am calling for a reinvestment in our community’s health and safety. A commitment to the physical health of individuals at all ages by providing exercise opportunities that are both inclusive and accessible to everyone. I am not recommending that every street is lined with sidewalks, but what about the two miles of road between Rivergold Elementary and the YLP Clubhouse? Or the one mile of road between the YLP Clubhouse and the YLP Trading Post? Or the 0.3 miles of road between the YLP Trading Post and YLP Rec Center? These sidewalks would serve as links between our elementary school students, community members, community centers, and park building relationships and the resiliency of our community.
I am a resident of the YLP community hoping for an increase in unity and believe sidewalks can be a source of it.
Yosemite Lakes Park
Rose Curley is a resident of Yosemite Lakes Park and undergraduate student at UC Berkeley. As a Molecular Environmental Biology major, Rose is interested in the intersection between environmental and human health considering a career in sustainable agriculture and/or public health.