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Pedestrian Free Iselin New Jersey

The place where I slept last night was in Iselin, New Jersey. The place I have to work today was in Iselin, New Jersey. The two locations are one mile apart.

road signI thought, given these facts, that instead of riding in a car, I would take a walk between the two locations. I would get a little bit of exercise, and avoid the unnecessary burning of gasoline, I thought.

I failed.

My problem began with navigation. The pedestrian route I had planned took me through residential neighborhoods. These neighborhoods had been planned with roundly meandering streets, meant to stimulate the natural curves that country roads take to conform to the local terrain, and thus make residents feel less urban in their nonetheless tightly packed subdivisions and condominium reservations. What these roads succeed in is depriving an outsider of any reasonably reliable sense of direction.

Lack of sidewalks was another problem. New Jersey drivers zoomed past me at high speeds, zipping around those faux natural curves, but there was often nowhere for me to walk but on the narrow shoulder of the busy streets. What sidewalks there were didn’t last for longer than 100 feet at a time.

Then there were the fences. Looking at my map, I could see where intersections of streets should have taken place. In some of these places, the streets actually maintained a 3-foot wide stretch of turf between them, to discourage through-drivers, and chain link fences with padlocked gates, to discourage through-walkers. I jumped these fences, and moved on.

I was defeated by the bridges. I tried three separate places to follow the streets across the Garden State Parkway, which appeared to be nothing more than just a huge expanse of pavement covered with cars stuck in traffic, without any parks at all. All three bridges that I found to get over the Parkway were without sidewalks, and filled with thick traffic leaving no room for me to walk.

I stood on a corner, stymied, until I saw a taxi cab coming by. I flagged the driver down, and he took me to where I needed to go, three tenths of a mile, in about ten minutes, making elaborate turns upon turns to cross the busy traffic.

“You cannot walk here,” said the driver, in a South Asian accent. “There is no way. In the United States, people do not walk. If the police see you walking on the side of the road, they will pick you up and take you to a safe place and tell you to call a cab.”

I stepped out, handed the driver some cash from my wallet, and assured him that there are places in the United States where people can walk. “No, no, no, this is not so,” he said, and drove away. I picked up my bag and walked the remaining twenty feet to my destination.

12 comments to Pedestrian Free Iselin New Jersey

  • Anonymous

    Nice story. It’s too bad that they seem to have gone out of their way to prevent walking. I lived in DC for a while and I miss how pedestrian friendly it is. I’m back in the Midwest now, and while there’s room to walk, it seems like these newer cities are so spread out it’s impossible to walk anywhere.

    • I agree. The design of places like Iselin seems to presume that no one will want to walk anywhere, and will hop in a car to perform every single task. A place with no space for walking is a place that doesn’t have space for humans to act naturally.

  • Tom

    There is probably zero sense of community in this town. If it isn’t walkable, it isn’t “people friendly” and therefore cold, off-putting and probably a bit freightening.
    i just signed up for a project in West Chester (a college town) to bring about more community gardens (and therefore, community).
    This is where we’re headed eventually. Even the big cities will become walkable communities as society collapses and things start to fall apart. i expect large sections of most cities to just become abandoned, like no-life zones, which will return to the earth in due time.

  • Tom

    i’ll let you know how it goes. Right now we’re organizing. There are a LOT of young (college age) people and a smattering of us ol’ folks. These “kids” are really well informed, knowledgeable and energetic. We met to discuss what’s in our food – which concerned everything from brake-dust from cars and especially big trucks leaching into soil and groundwater, Fukushima radiation wafting over the US, nanoparticles of aluminum in chemtrails, as well as chemical fertilizers, Roundup and other pesticides and herbicides. We talked about creating gardens all over the place so that people can have access to fresh veggies where they live.

    Some of these people were so tuned in that they knew of sources for non-GM chickens, turkeys and other livestock (two or three of them already work on farms in the area) and on Monday the 18th we’re going to watch a movie about Monsanto.
    They’re just getting this up and running now, so we’re in the “talk” stage. i’m there to learn and help, providing what little i know about anything when appropriate.

    Though i still think we’ll be lucky if we make it through the next few years, this gives me some hope and pleasure meeting friendly, like-minded people who want to at least TRY to get something going for when the food shortages start.

    Meanwhile my own garden is booming with spinach, kale, swiss chard, beets, beans, peppers, tomatoes, watermelon, squash and i just put in a row of ruby red chard last week.
    i enjoy the best salads every evening and have given away many gallon bags of greens.

  • Tom

    The radiation isn’t just coming from Fukushima:

    http://www.youtube.com/user/dutchsinse

  • MIchelle

    I grew up in Iselin. The problem isn’t that it wasn’t designed for walking, the problem is that it wasn’t designed for the type of traffic in the streets. This was a small town that got too big too fast. Someone decided that we didn’t need farms (yes even 25 or 30 years ago we still had farms), bought them and put up high rise office buildings and the surrounding roads cannot handle the traffic associated with all of people coming into town every day to go to work. When I was a kid it was still a small town. We rode our bikes everywhere. Route 27 was a small 2 lane highway that connected Elizabeth with New Brunswick and it didn’t have very much traffic. Now traffic is pretty much a dead stop most of the time.

    • Too many people driving is a problem. Fewer people in New Jersey should be driving. They should be living closer to where they work, taking public transportation, or car pooling.

      When there is NO way to go from one part of Iselin to another, just a mile away, by walking, the problem certainly IS that Iselin is not designed for walking. Growth in a community can happen intelligently. The leaders of Iselin clearly didn’t have much foresight.

      Certainly, bicycling in Iselin now would be suicide.

  • I can’t imagine where in Iselin you were walking that you couldn’t walk a mile. I do it every day in Iselin NJ.

    • I’m sorry, Ernie, but I can’t imagine that you can’t imagine it. Have you not been through your own community? It’s filled with barriers to pedestrian movement!

      There may be very specific one-mile stretches through Iselin that can be walked, but there are many destinations in Iselin where, if you want to go in a certain direction, you just can’t walk from there to here.

      • I’m just curious as to where. I’ve been from where I live on Green Street to JFK Hospital, Menlo Mall, Metropark of course, Shoprite, past Little India. Been through a lot of it, actually.

  • The first walk I tried was from near the Woodbridge Mall to South Wood Avenue on the other side of the Garden State Parkway. I tried three ways to get over that Parkway, and I couldn’t find one with any place for me to walk, and traffic was thick and dangerous.

    Another walk I tried was going south, from near the Woodbridge Mall down to Fords Park. I just couldn’t find a safe way to do it.

    It’s not just the huge highways that crosscross Iselin that are the problem. Residential neighborhoods mostly don’t seem to have sidewalks, and they curve and twist in ways that thwart the ability of any sane pedestrian to make any kind of distance in a reasonable time. The fences that people put up to thwart foot traffic – at the ends of streets, are particularly obnoxious.

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