I’ve been walking the sidewalks of Northampton, Mass. lately, and with the recent snow and ice storms it’s been a rough ride. Northampton’s sidewalk clearing laws stipulate that property owners must clear or treat the entire width of the sidewalk within 24 hours of the end of a storm, and keep it clear or treated after that.
Let’s imagine an alternate history where after a storm, each property owner was required to clear the entire road in front of their house, and they had 24 hours to do so, but the sidewalks were cleared by trained professionals. Obviously a disaster, but the current (opposite) situation is unfair and difficult for sidewalk users.
We shouldn’t have to wait 24+ hours to have safe passage, and the inconsistency and lack of enforcement of each property owner’s obligation to keep it clear makes the dangerous even after that.
What’s impacts does the current policy have?
There’s a disproportionate impact to people with less money and can’t afford a car, and to people for whom it’s unsafe to drive, such as undocumented people.
Wheelchair users end up riding in the street, using a private vehicle if they have one, or rely on van services, which are usually funded by tax dollars. Wheelchair users do use the rail trails that are plowed in the winter.
Public transportation access is limited. Most bus stops are not right at someone’s house and their destination is also not right at a bus stop.
Those with a car use it more, which has environmental impacts but also health impacts as people don’t get as much regular exercise. Children are driven to school instead of walking.
The City of Northampton has a complete streets plan. I couldn’t find mention of keeping the sidewalks clear of snow & ice, so I decided to research how other cities manage.
Burlington, Vermont plows all their sidewalks with small plows, concurrently with street plowing during the day and at night in time for schools to open.
Amherst, Mass. has a sidewalk plowing route for major sidewalks and prioritizes sidewalks that facilitate students walking to school. After the initial plowing route is done, residents are required to maintain the sidewalk in a passable condition
As a step towards treating sidewalk plowing as we do street plowing, I would like to see us move towards a system similar to Amherst’s, where the city assists residents by plowing the sidewalks during a storm on major thoroughfares (which are especially dangerous to walk in the street), and then property owners must maintain them after that.
Let’s make it so all of us, regardless of how we choose to get around (walking, biking, public transit, driving), have equal access to transportation.
I’ve started a new series of hikes using public transportation leaving from Northampton, Massachusetts. Our third hike will be Saturday, April 15, 2017 – details below. You can also follow the series on the PVPTH Facebook page.
Mt. Tom Range from Rt. 141 to Rt. 5
Difficulty: Hard – steep climbs, long distance.
Distance: 6.5 miles.
Transit:PVTA R41 (schedule , map) & B48 (schedule, map) from the Academy of Music, 274 Main St, Northampton, MA 01060, $1.25 each way.
Meet Saturday 4/15/17 to catch the 10 a.m. bus at the Academy of Music – we’ll take the R41 bus through Easthampton and get off on Rt. 141 at the top of the hill just after passing into Holyoke. We’ll hike north on the New England/M&M Trail, up over Mt. Tom and along the ridge, heading down after Mt. Nonotuck to East St and then Route 5. We’ll catch the B48 bus back into Northampton by late afternoon.
If you’re coming from Williamsburg, Leeds or Florence, you can catch the R42 bus which becomes the R41 at the Academy of Music.
I’ve got a handful of possible co-op projects in the works right now: a housing co-op, a community investment co-op, a bike shop conversion and a camp co-op.
One of my favorite places to visit is Monroe State Forest. There are shelters, old growth forest, and Dunbar Brook has pools and waterfalls, surrounded by fern covered boulders. I would love to have a wild place close to home to visit and camp with friends, but purchasing land on my own would be too difficult. And of course I like to sharett. So why not go in on it?
The Camp Co-op is a wild space shared by 10 to 15 households. Ideally it would be in a forest by water – a river, stream or lake. We would purchase the land together and decide together how it would be used and cared for.
Here are some goals and ideas I have:
Members could sign up for exclusive use times and there would be many shared use times.
Within biking and bus distance of Northampton, Mass.
Non-buildable land, so that it’s affordable and minimally taxed
Ideally no road access, just a foot and bicycle right-of-way. No motor vehicle use.
Zoned so that we could build a tent platform or 3-sided or open sided shelter. We could also erect a canvas tent for the winter with a portable wood stove.
We’d have a forest management plan which would include a focus on growing acorn, nut and fruit trees, and would use wood from the site for campfires. We wouldn’t export wood, unless we are able to purchase more acres than needed for the camp.
A safe and respectful space, for each other and for the land.
An annual membership fee would cover the taxes and accounting, and minimal supplies.
The price and number of shares would be set so we could buy the land with cash, and low enough to be affordable for many. We could loan money so that some people could pay in installments. If feasible, share price would be based on ability to pay.
And some questions:
How would we govern ourselves? Consensus or majority? Collective or board?
Drug and alcohol use policies?
Long term camping?
What’s the impact of many people on the space? Would we rotate through different parts of the land to allow it to recover?
If the share price is originally dependent on the land price, how would that change if someone wants to sell their share? Would it be the same price, adjusted for inflation, or adjusted for the land value (the market)?
This past weekend I went on a two day walking and camping journey, never leaving the city of Northampton, but feeling miles away.
I started with one destination in mind, about an hour’s walk:
After crossing an abandoned beaver dam, I ate lunch and took a nap under mosquito netting. I had purposefully not set a goal beyond the first stop. I could stay where I was and do nothing, explored the area or continuing walking for the rest of the day. So I asked myself, what do I want to do? And nothing came back. I didn’t know. It was painful to sit there and second guess my desires, and just not feeling like doing anything, but know that that was doing something anyway.
Finally I decided to stash my pack and follow the deer trails. I got turned around a couple of times, found a great spot to camp, and found myself observing more, less concerned with what to do and just doing it.
I found a beautiful spot to set up a hammock on top of a boulder, strung up between two trees that I had to climb high up in to secure the ropes!
I left the next morning more able to pay attention to the forest and follow my interests. On the walk back I stopped in unannounced on two friends and reconnected!
On May 13th my yearly walking journey begins in Albany, New York at the Albany 2016 – Break Free From Fossil Fuels, an action to block fossil fuel trains and fight for climate justice. From there I’ll head south toward New York City, on foot and by train, arriving in Brooklyn on May 21st.
On last year’s walk (Walking journey 2015), I walked to Vermont and back from Northampton, staying with friends and new-found friends, recording a radio show and listening and sharing stories. I was surprised how many people were inspired by my journey, even though I had no goal other than to enjoy the world and the people I met.
This year I will be adding to that goal, and asking people their thoughts and feelings about climate change as I walk, trying to better understand what’s needed to move the movement forward, helping people come to terms with their feelings and help them find a place to take action that’s not coming from a place of guilt or coercion. I’ll share what I find out with you in radio or video form.
I won’t be carrying camping gear so I’ll be staying with people. I’ve found hosts for each night. I’ll be passing through Hudson, Germantown, Saugerties, Woodstock, Bearsville, High Falls, New Paltz, Marlboro and Beacon. Know anyone I should meet? Or would you like to walk with me for a day? Please be in touch!
I gave a free talk at the Forbes Library on Saturday, February 6 at 1 pm in the community room. I spoke about sharing and learning the skills of cooperation, reforming the culture of busyness and creating non-traditional family.
I’ve been living cooperatively in a cooperatively-owned house for the past 10 years, and gotten tremendous benefit from that, both economically and socially. It’s also been a challenge to learn how to get along with each other. Bringing up the difficulties before they build to a place of resentment, openly talking about feelings and hashing out the details are skills that I’ve learned and am still working on.
I’ve been spending time every week for the past three years with my adopted niece who is now 5 years old. Together we’ve created videos, gone biking, hiking and on public transit adventures, and this past summer we’ve been building a house on a bike trailer to travel to Antarctica with. It’s been about following her lead, and finding the places where I have interest too. I feel very much adopted in her family and all of us support each other – having dinner together, saving thousands of dollars in child care costs, and filling my need for connection with children.
And I’ll talk about making space in my life, through sharing and cutting expenses, and through meeting my needs in multiple ways at once. Some are: biking for transportation and exercise, cutting wood by hand with a two-person saw and talking the whole time, taking the time to walk places to help me think and to see so much more than I would see traveling faster.
I’ve taken a lot of inspiration from people of color and raised poor and working class people, locally and internationally, who are cooperating and conserving and living in ways that many white middle-class people have lost touch with. I’ll be speaking about my experience, understanding that my situation is unique and that I have had a lot of privilege to have the space to figure out new solutions, and these solutions won’t work for everyone. Oppression is very real and puts us in a bind unequally. Making space in my life has given me the time to work on fighting to end systemic oppression without burning out.
I’ve started a new series of hikes using public transportation leaving from Northampton, Massachusetts. Our second hike was Saturday, November 14, 2015 – details below. You can also follow the series on the PVPTH Facebook page.
East Mountain & Holyoke Community College Trails
Difficulty: Hard – hills with some steep climbs, navigating unmarked trails. Also difficult to alert the bus driver to the right spot to be dropped off at.
Distance: About 4 miles.
Transit:PVTA R41 (schedule , map) from the Academy of Music, 274 Main St, Northampton, MA 01060. $1.25 each way.
Meet Saturday 11/14 at 1 p.m. at the Academy of Music – we’ll take the R41 bus through Easthampton and get off on Rt. 141 in Holyoke across from the entrance to the Whiting Reservoir Trail Head. We’ll hike south on the New England/M&M Trail, climb the northern end of East Mountain and connect to the Holyoke Community College (HCC) trail system, catching the bus back from HCC at 4:10 pm, arriving in Northampton by 4:50 pm. Blaze orange is recommended as it is bow hunting season for deer.
I’ve started a new series of hikes using public transportation leaving from Northampton, Massachusetts. One of the great things about using transit to get to places to hike is that it’s easy to do one-way hikes – you can get off at one stop and take a hike to another stop, all without requiring shuttling two vehicles. Our first hike was Saturday, October 31, 2015 – details below. Also follow the series on the PVPTH Facebook page.
Mt. Nonotuck, Goat Peak and Lake Bray
Difficulty: Moderate – uphill on a carriage road, up and down along the ridge, then downhill on trails
Distance: 3.2 to 4.0 miles (1.1 on roads, 2.1 to 2.9 on trails)
Transit:PVTA B48 (schedule , map) from the Academy of Music, 274 Main St, Northampton, MA 01060. Travel time is 10-15 minutes each way. Runs 7 days a week, less frequently on Sundays. $1.25 each way, or $3 for a day pass.
Hiking time: 1.5 to 2.5 hours, depending on speed and how much time you want to spend exploring the Eyrie House ruins