Maybe you forget your near-death experiences. I don’t forget mine. It happened on Waverly Road, exactly along that little stretch of road the city of Lansing and Lansing Township may lay this alleged $1.3 million "Sidewalk to Nowhere."
It’s all still so vivid in my mind, like Bridget and my drive home from Indiana in a whiteout. The night where I stayed locked onto a semi’s taillights amid a Star Wars scene of flying snow.
On this particular evening four years ago, I mapped out an entirely new run to break up the monotony of my regular four-to-five-mile loops.
I left my Westside neighborhood running south over the Martin Luther King Boulevard bridge to Moores River Drive. I turned right up the hill. (Hey, I’ll see some nice houses. Maybe I’ll see the governor or Dan Mulhern. They’re runners, too! Ooooh!)
Moores River Drive doesn’t have sidewalks in many parts. For me, it didn’t matter. The street was wide enough. The few local drivers swerved away from me at a leisurely 15 to 20 mph pace. The view through the trees and over the ledge of the Grand River was beautiful. I took a deep breath and relished my find.
Then came Waverly. Call me a fool, but I consider Waverly Road still being in the city, you know where people live, where some people need to walk to get to a bus stop, a park, a neighbor’s house, a store down the road. That kind of thing.
I mean, Waverly is a four-lane road. It’s a narrow four-lane road, but it’s one all the same. I just assumed a neighborhood coming out of Moores River would have a sidewalk where I could make my loop back along Old Lansing Road up to Main and across the freeway at Hungerford.
I found out the hard way that wasn’t the case. I crossed the bridge over the Grand River and quickly found myself on this tiny rut path beaten into the ground a foot away from the road. Cars blissfully blazed by at 45 mph in the right lane as if I were a moving utility pole.
Before I realized I was in trouble, I was in trouble.
Quickly, I found my options to be:
a) Running in the road only to become part of somebody’s grill.
b) Staying in the rut and taking a barrage of tree limbs in my face, hoping my left arm didn’t become dislodged from my body from a passing car.
c) Eating the posts holding up the sign reading, "Welcome to the City of Lansing."
d) Turning around and facing a) and b).
You’re right, I could have stopped running, and I did. For a second. Until I realized my life wasn’t any safer and my best solution was to get the heck out of there.
Old Lansing Road didn’t come soon enough. It was the longest .38 miles I’ve ever run. I can say it was one of the quickest, too.
I was so rattled I nearly stopped at the Westside YMCA to vomit and then get Bridget to drive me home.
Instead I gleefully trotted on their sidewalk. Until their property ended and I was back running with traffic. I said a prayer. When I got home, I’d have hugged the sidewalk in front of my own house if I’d had the energy.
I’ve never run that route again, and maybe that was the point. Maybe the residents don’t want to see a sweaty 30-something-year-old guy in his tight running shorts trotting by their window. It’s not what I’d like to see either, quite frankly.
But what if I had been run over by a car? Outside of suing the driver, Lansing Township or the city of Lansing would have been next on my list (or Bridget’s had I died). Both municipalities are negligently and willfully overseeing an accident waiting to happen, and I bet it wouldn’t take but a phone call or two to find a lawyer who’d agree with me.
And had I died, Bridget’s asking price would have been north of $1.3 million. You can count on that.
Without a sidewalk, a pedestrian will get hit on that stretch of road. Maybe not this year or the next, but it will happen.
I understand folks move "out to the township" to get away from "city life," but Lansing Township isn’t "nowhere." It’s not even Vevay Township with its endless cornfields. It’s a collection of neighborhoods and some businesses. Just like Lansing … but without sidewalks, curbs, gutters and city garbage pickup.
The residents out there will pay for it eventually, either through the new sidewalk or a legal settlement … and the sidewalk that will inevitably follow.
(Kyle Melinn is the editor of the MIRS Newsletter. He can be reached at melinn@ lansingcitypulse.com.)