Transportation in Billings – A Look from The Sidewalk
Nearly everyone owns a vehicle and uses that vehicle as their daily transportation method. However, this past spring I decided I wanted one of these electric scooters, and I bit the bullet and bought one. It's been a blast to ride around town and has saved me hundreds (if not thousands) on gas! Though, one thing has really stuck out. Billings accessibility is fragmented. From broken and missing crosswalk buttons, to neglected bike lanes and non-existent sidewalks, getting around in Billings (beyond maybe a few blocks within your home) is at times more chore than joy. Here's some detail on things needing attention around town.
Fix and ADD crossing buttons.
Even in downtown, many of the crosswalk signal buttons are missing their large button plate (Or are simply dated). Instead, they have a small, hard to press button to trigger the crossing. Yes, there are more modern units that holler "WAIT" at you, though they are not widely adopted on crossings. One quite dangerous location is at the corner of Grand and 6th. There IS a crossing button on the north side of the road, however in the middle of the road the control button only triggers the signal to walk back north. Otherwise, you are stuck waiting for traffic to cross south. Even the basic buttons are better than nothing.
Busted and MISSING sidewalks!
For those of us walking, jogging, or running around town... many of the sidewalks contain sections with decently sized tripping hazards. Even in front of Billings Senior, there are sections that stick up over an inch above others. Right next to our own building, a service box sticks up out of the concrete at a corner by Dickey's BBQ. Now, the one solution I have seen is to simply *paint* the edge bright red, "alerting" people to the hazard. Not sure if I agree with this solution, simply because it seems lazy. Even worse, spots without any sidewalk what-so-ever. Either walk through the muddy ditch, or on the road and risk being the next BREAKING NEWS story.
Worn out and MISSING bike lanes.
Not too much to elaborate on here. A few weeks back I came down Lewis Ave, and at a few locations the road striping had worn off so badly people used the bike lane as a vehicle lane. That being bad as is, what's worse is people PARKED in the bike lane. I mean, come on. You know it's there, and I or anyone else should not need to go around you into traffic.
Bonus: Planted Mailboxes ON the sidewalk
This one isn't as widespread, however on certain side streets over by 24th Street, some homeowners have mailboxes literally on the sidewalk (Picture does no justice but take a look next time you're in the area). It isn't even wide enough to walk on at some spots, being the planter is so large. I understand aesthetics, but this is going too far if you ask me.
So, here's my ask for the City of Billings. Can we put a bit more focus on getting around the city NOT in a car? Billings is beautiful to take a walk, ride a bike or scooter, use the one wheel or whatever. Driving a car everywhere right now isn't exactly the cheapest, or the best way to experience what we have around us... but also having to be in dangerous situations because we simply choose to not drive is not ideal. I, and many others who take more wallet and eco-friendly transportation would be grateful.