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Is it just me or is anyone else noticing a greater amount of pedestrians on roadsides these days? Maybe they’ve always been there and I’m only now noticing them, but that’s unlikely. People walking in Central Pennsylvania tend to stick out, even in our urbanized areas. But I’m seeing them in suburban and rural stretches.

I saw a middle-aged couple today pushing a shopping cart full of groceries. They were going against traffic in a right-turn lane along Route 30 at the intersection with Memory Lane, not exactly a pedestrian-friendly zone. (hint: there’s no sidewalk within several hundred yards and it’s right before Route 30 turns into a high-speed autobahn between York and Lancaster. In this photo, they would have been up ahead along the guardrail where you can see the arm of the traffic light sticking out. They were heading towards the camera.)

I imagine at least a few people are choosing to walk rather than drive, what with gas prices being, uh, high. I wonder if we’ll soon be seeing news stories about higher-than-normal deaths among walkers.

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This is exactly the sort of thing suburban visitors need to see when they step out of their car in a downtown area struggling to return to life:

This particular ad — spotted May 10 — came from downtown York, catty-corner from the Central Market. I had to laugh. Fear of crime, justified or not, seems to be one of the biggest obstacles to bringing people into the city. What better way to erase people’s fears than to remind them that people they see on the street could be carrying both guns AND drugs?

I love going into the city, but I don’t like explaining pictures of three-foot tall guns to my children.

On another note, I think York County commissioner and anti-crime crusader Steve Chronister could take a few notes from this article about fighting urban violence. It might work better than ads.

So I was in New York City last Saturday — and not to see the Pope, though he apparently had the same plans. What struck me driving in was the enormous effort it must take to send food, water and other essentials and non-essentials into the metropolis — not to mention the energy that goes into heating and cooling all those ginormous buildings.

Don’t smaller, distributed cities like York and Lancaster, Gettysburg and Chambersburg make more sense? A big city is sort of like a big coal-burning power plant, a relic of the industrial age that will have to change if we truly care about the environment.

Yet, people in big cities think of themselves as somehow more eco-conscious than us provincials. Sure, they don’t drive. But how do they think all those organic soaps get into the stores they can walk to? Yes, our small towns have problems with sprawl and traffic. But it seems like they’d be easier to address.

What also struck me was the way people sat on the grass in the small slice of Central Park (the lower west corner) where my son and I ran around for an hour. No “group” was bigger than three people, and they were all magically about 15 feet apart. The distance couldn’t have been more regular if they’d all been out there with measuring tape before they set down their blankets.

Another observation: I get the sense (rightly or wrongly) that urbanites see themselves as less conformist, more individualistic than suburban or rural people. Yet, when you think about it, what’s so against-the-grain about choosing to live in the same place as 8 million other people? That seems like a pretty big herd.

Anyone who cares about the city of York, Pa. — and I’m sure there are some out there — should give a closer look at this, the crime plan put forward by one of our county commissioners, Steve Chronister.

Sure, the plan’s costs might drive up our taxes yet again and people outside York city don’t like the plan’s urban focus.

But consider this angle: The plan’s main advocate is a real-estate agent. Maybe, just maybe, he sees some potential in the city and figures a stronger anti-crime push could lay the groundwork for home sales.

Is it cynical? Perhaps. But it’s better than gobbling up more of our county’s diminishing green space.