The package arrived UPS. At the time I could not think of anything I had ordered and was a bit eager to see what was hiding inside the large, sturdy envelope. The return address was local and there was no business like NewEgg or Amazon on the postage which is usually what is delivered to our house via UPS, confusing me more. As I walked back into the house I had already torn the adhesive edge open and was looking for a place to dump out the contents. At the table I pulled out a clip board and two very large clipped bundles of duplicate forms, an AARP pen and a measuring tape. When someone sends you a clip board and a rubber edged tape measure you know some serious business is about to commence. My business was volunteering to assist Mid-Michigan Environmental Action Council and AARP Michigan as they teamed up to complete a Walkability Study (Audit) for the city of Lansing. I found out about the study from Rory Neuner, who thought I could take what I do for City Saunter and apply it towards the Walkability Audit. I agreed and took the next step to join the volunteer roster and signing up for section 62. Despite both of these projects walking the streets of Lansing to gather information, I found that there were enormous differences with how they wanted their data collected and how I collect my “data”; i.e. photographs and jottings in a small notebook. For City Saunter I don’t need to pay much attention to street light type (historic, coach, acorn globe, or cobra head) unless it somehow is interesting enough to photograph. But for the walkability audit I need to make sure I notice which type is on each street and mark it on the two-sided form. I also don’t pay much attention to the ramps at the end of the sidewalks. Although there was the one time I noticed there was a handicap ramp going out into the street but no sidewalk attached to it in any direction; interesting and photo worthy. On this audit I have to record what ramp is at each crossing, where it is on the street, how long it is and whether there are domes on it (those help keep wheel chairs from rolling into the road). When I’m out walking I usually only walk one side of the road. While doing the audit I am required to walk both sides of the street and observe what kind of condition the sidewalks are in. I also need to inspect, draw and do measuring at each intersection. I need to check for streets signs with numbers, bus stops, crossing signals and parking availability. I also mark if there is a bike lane or a mid street crossing. I think my favorite section of the form is when I walk down the sidewalk and use code to distinguish disrupted sections of the walk; P=patched with asphalt, B=blocked, H=heaved no tree, HT=heaved with tree, S=sloped, and O=other. I think the funniest question is whether the air is polluted. All I smelled was dryer sheet, does that count?
Today’s walk was less than a mile but it took me two hours. Normally I can walk three miles in an hour, including stopping to take photos. I think the extra time will ultimately be the most dramatic difference between the two projects but I think it will be well worth it.
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