He's back at it!

People who know me know that I belong on the Trail. I've thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail (twice),the Pacific Crest Trail and the mighty Continental Divide Trail. I've hiked many of the long trails here in Michigan including being the first to hike both the Ironwood Trail and the Great Lake To Lake Trail. My next big adventure will be the Israel National Trail starting in February 2017.

The purpose of this blog is to keep anyone who is interested informed of my progress and to encourage those who are able to support me in this endeavor.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Stop Walking!

"Put your hands where I can see them!" Except for the rotating red and blue lights, I was blinded by his flashlight. He ordered me to put my hands behind my back and interlace my fingers. He bent me over the hood of his vehicle and kicked my feet apart while he searched me for weapons.  All I could think was "What could I have done? I was just walking home from work!" Walking, it turns out, was the crime.

I live in Detroit. Home of the American automobile. It is, of course, a car culture but it's evolved into something more than that. It has become 'anti-pedestrian'. People here drive everywhere and I mean EVERYWHERE. That means they don't walk anywhere. Ever. Walking is frowned upon. Why would you walk even a short distance when you can move about safely in a shiny, climate controlled, metal box? Forget the fact that it's natural and healthy to walk and that we are all bipedal apes - our bodies were meant to move forward on two feet. Not here. In Southeastern Michigan, we were apparently designed to sit behind the wheel of a car.

For me, the idea that walking here is frowned upon is reinforced every day. As I leave my subdivision, on foot, I come to Telegraph Road. It's a divided highway with 3 lanes each running North and South. Should I want to cross this road legally, I have to walk 1.5 miles south to get to a traffic light that offers a cross walk all the way across. I could go north about one mile to a cross walk but that means traversing the on and off ramps of both Ecorse Road and Interstate 94. No sidewalks. No lights. Not exactly 'pedestrian friendly'.

I work about 2.2 miles from my home. As a long distance hiker capable of covering 30 miles in a day, why wouldn't I walk there? I LOVE to walk. I love to be out-of-doors. I love the sunshine and the rain. I love the snow and the wind. Why not walk? Because I almost get hit by a car. Every day. It matters not that I'm in a cross walk and that they have a stop sign or a red light. Sometimes, it's that the driver is a jerk and just doesn't care (or know) that I have the right of way but mostly, they just aren't looking for pedestrians. Mostly, I see drivers with a stunned look on their face like "Look at that strange human. He is somehow moving forward without his car. Where is his car?" The rest just give me the finger. Or honk at me. Or both.

Just the other day, the genius who forced me to jump out of the way of his turning van argued that he'd rather run me over than get rear-ended by slowing down enough to allow me to safely cross a side street. Yes, I had the lawful right of way, but I have a feeling that, here in Downriver Detroit, a judge would probably ask "What the hell were you doing? Moving about on two feet... "

So, back to the police officer with his hand on his gun. "Mind if I have a look in your backpack?" he asked. "Yes, I do mind," I replied. "What law have I broken?" I asked. "You walked across train tracks. That is trespassing. If you want, I'll just arrest you and you'll get more than searched." was his reply. He was right. I did cross the railroad tracks. I let him dump the contents of my backpack and my pockets across the hood of his vehicle. I stayed, bent over, hands on the hood, while he climbed back into his car with my license and talked on his cell phone. Twenty minutes passed. Traffic was stopped. I was freezing and embarrassed but afraid to move off the hood of his car. He typed into his computer and scribbled notes. I wasn't sure if I was going to be arrested or get a ticket with a fine that I could not afford.

He let me off with a warning and sent me on my way. I guess I was grateful, in a strange way, because he actually could have arrested me. Those train tracks are private property. I was trespassing when I crossed them. The only place to legally cross was about a half mile away, where cars fly across with no problem. You can drive across but, God forbid, you walk across. I humped it the extra half mile with cars whizzing by just a few inches away from me (this was safer than crossing the tracks?)

His warning worked: I won't cross those tracks again anytime soon. He said that I was "in the computer" and that if I was caught walking there again, I would be arrested. I'm not writing this to claim that I was right and he was wrong. Actually, considering the hundreds of miles of track that I have hiked, it's about time that I was busted. I've climbed over and around trains. I've passed many signs that said 'Property of the Railroad - No Trespassing' and kept on going. It's just that, well... I was only walking. Walking in a city where it is not okay to walk.




19 comments:

Roberta McCoy said...

Boggles the mind the laws they choose to enforce. As much as you like to walk and I am envious of your freedom, I worry more for you when you are walking the streets of Taylor than I do when you are out on the trail. These streets are much more dangerous and unpredictable. Be safe my friend.

Marti Boynton Tamaroglio said...

I have heard of quotas, but this seems early in the month for such random nonsense!

sunsets said...

Ive been crossing a track for a year now in all seasons to get to a hiking trail by the river...maybe I need to watch my back now! How ridiculous and frustrating for you Im sure!

Rob Hillier said...

Yeah, but now you're a bad ass outlaw!! Code 3!

Christopher Hillier said...

Thank you for your comment, Roberta. You are correct: Hiking on a National Scenic Trail is way safer than walking here in Taylor. I appreciate your well-wishes and I will be careful.

Christopher Hillier said...

Thanks, Marti. He might have been trying to fill a quota or he might have been on a power trip but the message was reinforced: Don't get caught walking in Downriver Detroit.

Christopher Hillier said...

Thanks for the empathy, Sunsets. Definitely watch your back.

Christopher Hillier said...

That's right. I'm a bad man. An outlaw like Josey Wales. I been busted for Code 3. Stay away - I'm dangerous. (Code 3 is 'trespassing on railroad property')

Anonymous said...

Why don't you take Pardee to Wick? Skip Telegraph?
...martha

Christopher Hillier said...

I do, now. It's an extra half mile. I cut west to Telegraph on Crowley.

Johanna Penny said...

James Robertson of Detroit had been walking to and from his job for a while now and I don't remember reading the he got arrested for walking. In fact, people bought him a brand new car and the police helped him move out to a new apartment. Hmmmm....go figure!

Christopher Hillier said...

Johanna! My dear -
I read about that guy. I hate it that he is going to convert - he WAS one of us (pedestrians). Now he'll be one of THEM (drivers). Glad for him, if that's what he wants.

Miss you and Loren. Hope you are happy and healthy.

Trish said...

Just think, in some cities you can still be arrested for spitting on the sidewalk...an old law that is still on the books. No matter how stupid (sometimes) the law can be, the law is still the law. Unlawful behavior is at an officer's descretion as to how he/she wants to handle it. Just as in any profession, there are bad guys and good guys. In this particular case, perhaps there had been a recent crime, or crimes that had occurred (or happening) in that general area. Or maybe they were looking for a suspect in the area and wanted to cover their bases. When we're on the receiving end of a bad encounter, it's not good. Try and look at it from his point of view. (Maybe he was a new cop and wanted to go thoroughly by the book, who knows). If I lived there I would feel that it was my que to move to a walk friendly city. Stay safe.

Christopher Hillier said...

Really? Guess I should have thanked him for being so kind.

Veronica said...

This brings up a great point about the lack of safe AND legal ways to walk in our city. Frequently you only get one or the other, and sometimes neither! When the kid and I walk up to the Meijer/Lowes/Target massive mall on Outer Drive in Allen Park, the sidewalks just...end when you get close. It's like they never even considered that someone would want to approach on foot, even though they built it in a heavily residential area. It's even worse when I'm pushing a stroller or riding a bike, because at least without wheels I can just step over the curbs and cut across the endless concrete.

I have also seen my neighbor drive the 1.5 blocks to CVS. She beat me there, by 5 whole minutes!

Christopher Hillier said...

Thanks for your comment, Veronica. I'm glad that you are teaching Vivienne that it's possible to get around on foot but the thought of her being out there with all those cars whipping around terrifies me.

Miles Granger said...

Hi Chris,

My name is Miles. I think your hiking blog is awesome! I use to have my own, but found myself having more fun looking at others than doing my own.

Anyway, I'm contacting you to see if you would be willing to look at my blogging tool I made. I moonlight as a programmer and decided to make a map plugin tool that I always wanted for my blog. Essentially, it allows only the map owner to pin their blog posts to it. I also thought it would be fun to have a 'visitor map', so blog followers could sign it and create a geographic guest book of sorts.

The main site is: https://postplotter.com
but to get a better idea of what it does, visit https://postplotter.com/howitworks

I just launched it, but I'm wondering if maybe I'm the only one that ever wanted a tool like this. If so, I might just take the site down. (Server time isn't free.)

I really appreciate it, and thanks for keeping your blog going. I know it isn't easy! :)

Best regards,
-Miles

Zack Backpack said...

Drive everywhere for everything and your health suffers. Try to walk and people look at you funny or worse. It's a lose-lose situation.

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