The words “SLOW DOWN!” are emblazoned across the front of Juana Chavez’s bright yellow T-shirt, which she wore as she and her son Javier walked home from school last week. They walked in a single file, Javier resembling a duckling at her heels.
That’s because on this stretch of 52nd Street in the Chollas Creek neighborhood of City Heights, there are no sidewalks. Chavez and her son walked in the street. They hugged the curb as the cars that zoom by hugged the curve.
This stretch of her route is especially nerve-wracking. “If you’re walking, the cars don’t always see you around the curve,” she said. “And they don’t slow down.” Thus the appeal on her T-shirt.
When there are cars parked in the street, she maneuvers around them, leaning in close each time a passing car comes within inches. “When it rains, the cars soak us,” she said of the 30 or 40 other families she knows who make the daily trip up and down 52nd Street.
The 52nd street curve is on one of the main neighborhood routes to Marshall Elementary School. A majority of parents, many of whom lack cars, have no choice but to walk their children to and from school.
That would seem to make the neighborhood a paragon for healthy living. Except that in parts of Chollas Creek, as in much of City Heights, the infrastructure does not support it. So walking’s potential to promote good health is often tempered by the task’s physical risks.