Its a jungle out there for walkers

First Posted: 7/21/2011

Annually there is a National Walk to School Day. Children are encouraged to walk to school. This is possible for a select circle of students who live very close to the school. However, the idea of neighborhood schools is a little archaic; we still have some but even they have to pull from a fairly large geographic area.

According to standard charts, my ideal weight would be less than the weight I wrestled at in high school. If I ever get that size again, I believe it will call for a closed casket. So I have decided the weight I was at when I got drafted would be acceptable (just below the obese rankings) — I did put on 30 pounds while overseas, which I guess is a product of lots of exercise and good C-rations. So in an effort to get some pounds off, I decided to have a Walk to Work Day.

Using the adage that everything is within walking distance if you have enough time, I set about my course. I live off of BT Road outside of Lumberton and was going to the office on Country Club Road. The trip was mostly along frontage roads, a little bit on Interstate 95 and then over the guardrail and through a break in the fence. I was remarkably close to my estimate (2:15 minutes) and was none the worse for wear except for my brief dance with our county plant — the sticker vines. Of course once you get to work, you have to realize that is only half the trip. Going back, I avoided I-95, walked along the levee, went into town, stopped at the ATM and went home.

Unfortunately, I added about three miles to the trip so it took significantly longer.

A few things jumped out at me that the bicyclists, joggers and walkers have ready knowledge of already. Roberts Avenue and Fayetteville Road are nearly impossible to cross and are most definitely not pedestrian friendly. If you stay on the pavement portion of the paved roads, your shoulder width exceeds the space assigned you so part of you is in the roadway on the wrong side of the white line. The sidewalks in Lumberton reminded me of the game chutes and ladders; they simply end at a certain point so you are to walk on lawns or roads, I am uncertain which.

This is not to be critical of the designers, engineers, etc., but as we look at trying to reduce our obesity rates, a little built environment can help. Think about this one fact — 10 years ago no state had an obesity rate above 24 percent and today 43 states have higher obesity rates than the state that had the highest rate then. Imagine that shift. North Carolina now has the 11th-worse obesity rate among children. So if we are going to encourage physical activity, let us work on our environment and let us see if we can make it a little more conducive.

On a different note, as predicted, by all but a certain circle, school personnel cuts were similar to the closing of a manufacturing plant. Probably all of us know someone affected. When you buy a pack of gum (sugar-free), think about 1 cent of that change and realize that is all it would have taken to save those jobs and many others affected by state cutbacks. Shoot, many people just throw the penny in a tray at the counter. The almighty penny that few would stoop to pick-up would have altered all this. To rephrase, penny foolish, pound more foolish.

n Bill Smith is director of the Robeson County Health Department.

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