ellen vanderslice.
radical pedestrian.


The moment that made me a radical pedestrian came in 1985, when I was crossing the street in Portland with my infant daughter strapped to my chest and my toddler son by the hand, and a motorist cut us off. He nearly ran over my kid and my toes.

Primed with indignation and a big hit of adrenaline, I bopped the back of his car with our diaper bag as he pulled away. And this man, who was in such a hurry that he couldn't yield the right-of-way to a mom with two babies, found the time to stop his car, get out, put up his fists and say, "You ever do that again I'll beat the shit out of you."

Setting aside the absurdity of his utterance (Again? You bet I'll do it again, buster! But why wait till next time? Here, lemme unbuckle my baby and we can settle this right now...) it is truly amazing how personally people take it when you touch their cars.

I don't bop cars anymore. After years of losing umbrellas and my temper, I came to the realization that I can't help raise the level of civility on the street by giving in to rage. The thirteenth-century Persian poet Rumi said, "When you give respect, you get respect. If you bring sweetness, you will be given almond cake." Nowadays I just smile like the front end of a 1948 Buick Roadmaster.


Some radical pedestrian notions:


Sprawl Makes Us
Why Walk?
Why Not?

We Need Walkway
Network Models!

The late, great Susie Stephens died crossing the street on March 21, 2002.

Pedestrian Action in
Portland, April 1994

Pedestrian activism is better when you organize and do it together. Over the years, I've had the good fortune to fall in with terrific people who share this peculiar interest in walking and pedestrian rights. I have learned much from them. There is a vibrant, growing network of folks across the country who are all working to make our communities better places to live and to walk. You can read more about that work at http://americawalks.org/.

Tips for crossing: make eye contact
and smile like the front end of an old Buick

This page was updated on 11/11/15 for the first time since 2002. Problems? info@ellenvanderslice.com