Rambling Around Town

Mississippi is one of the fattest state in the nation.  I think I’ve found one of the reasons why.  Nobody walks anywhere around here.  People will literally drive around the block.  And they don’t seem to carpool much either.  At any given festival the ratio of cars to people will probably be not far from 1:1.  For example at Trivia Night, down at a local Restaurant/Bar called Hey Joe’s.  Whenever I arrive the parking lot seems packed even if the place itself isn’t.

I am something of an exception.  Given the choice, my preference is to walk into downtown.  I also walk to work (unless it’s pouring rain), to the DSU basketball games, and even to the football games which requires traipsing over a grassy field behind the arena.  A friend of mine also enjoys walking and reports getting strange looks as if the very idea was a foreign concept.  Bike riders also get the same reaction.

At first I thought it was the heat.  Nobody wants to be walking around mid-day in the summer, especially if work requires wearing long sleeves.  But it hasn’t been hot in months. Yet people still don’t walk much. In fact during the winter,  Clevelanders don’t seem to want to go out at all.  As it turns out, most Southerners are fans of warm weather.

So what gives?  Well part of the problem may be that there aren’t enough sidewalks.  A local paper even commented on this recently.  Outside of Court street and downtown, sidewalks are a scarce commodity rendering Cleveland rather unfriendly to pedestrians.  Now I happen to live near Court street, but those who don’t will have a harder time walking.  However even around downtown it’s not always easy.  The other day I was walking to Hey Joe’s and found a pile of wood left blocking the sidewalk.  Clearly someone had not thought anyone would actually set foot on concrete.  Thus there may be a bias against walking.  Plus with parking easy and gas cheap (among the least expensive in the nation according to AAA) most people don’t have an incentive to walk the way they do in New York. There is also significantly less traffic by which I mean almost none at all.  Driving is thus often pleasant.  And above all this is a rural area.  Outside of Cleveland walking is not an option.

Of course it’s not accurate to say that Mississippi has such high rates of obesity simply because people don’t walk enough.  There are other factors such as poverty and the type of food (fried) they eat down here.   And of course Mississippi is hardly the only place where people never walk anywhere,  The suburbs where I grew up where even less friendly to pedestrians than Cleveland is.  So this is not really a uniquely Southern problem.  But people are very traditional around here and traditionally Americans drive not walk.  So as with many things, the Delta reflects things which are not as visible elsewhere.

Article by Mike

Mike is the Head of Discovery Services for the Delta State University Library. He has lived in Cleveland since May 2013.

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