Napa to Pedestrians: Drop Dead, or at Least Fall Down

Why is it so difficult to walk around in the neighborhoods of Napa? A pedestrian sounds off. Do you have a beef about something? Share it here in our weekly Sound Off column, where all voices are heard.


My palms are bruised, my knee is skinned and a good pair of white jeans will never be the same — all because I happened to glance at a shrub while walking along Diablo Street.

Should have known better: That sidewalk has tripped me up before with its wildly uneven paving. It's not just me: My boyfriend has also fallen. When Mom visits, we don't walk on Diablo at all; we detour via Jefferson, which is marginally better underfoot, for our daily trips to the supermarket. 

In my neighborhood, it's not unusual to encounter sections of pavement that have been uplifted by tree roots to the height of four or five inches; many smaller cracks and heaves lie in wait for the unwary. It's not only dangerous, but bespeaks the kind of urban neglect I mentally associate with wind-blown garbage caught in chain-link fencing.

It used to bug me that stretches of north Napa neighborhood streets don't have sidewalks at all — what were the planners and developers thinking? That kids would travel to school via hovercraft? — but now I actually feel safer walking on the sidewalk-less parts of Diablo. The surface provided for cars is better than what we walkers get.

Trim your trees, please

Another plus to walking in the street is that I'm less likely to have various body parts engulfed by rampant vegetation.

Why do people think it's okay for their shrubs to leaf out across half the sidewalk, or to let their trees grow until an average-sized person has to duck to get past them? Do they think passersby don't mind having to dodge into the street to avoid getting their pant legs soaked with dew and leaves in their hair?

Do they think at all? I ask myself that every time I pass the house where for years now a boat has been parked on a trailer that's too long for the driveway.

So as not to inconvenience themselves by getting a trailer that fits on their property, or finding a better place for the boat they almost never seem to use, the residents confidently keep it right on the premises with its hitch almost completely blocking the sidewalk (and invisible in the dark).

Of course, that's standard operating procedure for folks who choose to buy trucks longer than the driveways of their homes: Sidewalk-obstructing SUVs are practically too numerous to mention. But just like the trees and the trailer, they push pedestrians off the one place that's supposed to be for walking, not parking or planting: the sidewalk.

So I can't end my rant without a shout of thanks to the folks on Yellowstone who recently got their sidewalk replaced: Well done, folks, way to be good neighbors! My feet, my knees and my hands all thank you.

Do you have a complaint, about walking in Napa or any other topic you'd like to air? This is our weekly Sound Off column, so go ahead and let us know what you think!

Sari Friedman May 31, 2012 at 07:14 PM
Thanks Louisa, for bringing up a great suggestion for making Napa a better place to live. "Normal" sidewalks could bring people out to walk, which would make for a friendlier, healthier, and perhaps even happier town. I also think that Napa could bring in MANY more tourist dollars if they had signs up reminding drivers that bicycles "share" the road. You take your life in your hands if you bike around here, between the intoxicated drivers, absent lanes, and the fact that when there are bike lanes it's often just a painted line on the street. Is a line of paint going to protect me from a hurtling four ton behemoth? There are a lot of obviously texting/drunk/distracted drivers here. As gas gets evermore expensive and the honeymooners and etc think about vacationing and want to know if there're fun things to do in Napa, biking would be an excellent option. Except that it isn't. Along these lines, I was recently biking at the intersection of Trower and Solano Ave/Rte. 29 when a lady in a SUV started yelling out her car window that I was in the "wrong" lane. There was no biking lane, and I was legally where I was supposed to be: in the regular lane, not the turning lane. I explained that I wasn't turning, and of course she kept insisting out her car window. That's what it's like to bike here. You're lucky if all you get is vehicle exhaust and the occasional yell. I'm lucky she didn't run me over to prove her point.
Louisa Hufstader May 31, 2012 at 07:23 PM
I've had people yell at me, too, telling me to get on the sidewalk (very dumb) or to ride in the bike lane (but I'm turning left!). It always makes me think the same thing: "Did you get your license from a cereal box?"
Cindy Chambers May 31, 2012 at 09:29 PM
I've called code enforcement over boats and large vehicles left for days in Bel Aire that block my line of sight when I try to turn off my street and I have to say that code enforcement HAS tagged the vehicles. Bright red square tags - one guy tore them up and threw them in the street, but his vehicles were gone the following day. As to the uneven sidewalks, I guess I'm different - I'd much rather watch where I'm walking than continue to lose mature, shade producing trees. The city rips out the offending tree, sometimes leaves a petite twig in its place and my street then has flat sidewalks but looks just plain ugly.
Unfiltered Steve Simoneau June 03, 2012 at 05:50 PM
Sometimes when I bike I carry blank business card magnets and a Sharpie. There's a satisfaction to writing "Parking Idiot" on a magnet and leaving it on a car blocking something. If I pass that way again and the car is still there I leave magnets with "Scratch" "Ding" or "Dent" written on them. I have a great idea for a house with overgrown foliage blocking the sidewalk at head level. I'd knock on their door holding a dripping, ketchup-soaked rag to my face, saying their bush gouged my eye and I need a ride to the ER. By the way, do you have the name of your homeowner's insurance agent handy and can I use your phone? If you want people to care all you need is the right type of motivation.
Oli Carr June 04, 2012 at 09:07 AM
I really don't think the neighbors in the area care. I have been in the neighborhood for 5 years now. A lot of the people there could care less about their neighbors. There's also a really bad barking dog problem in the area. If you walk through the neighborhood at any time you will constantly hear loud dogs. Just goes to show they have no respect for others.


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