Shirley Gonzales made no secret of her views on transportation when she ran for the San Antonio City Council in 2013. She laid them out in her answer to a questionnaire: “pedestrians first, followed by cycling, public transportation and private automobiles, in that order.” Gonzales promoted this agenda even though she was running in a city where fewer than 2 percent of commuters walk to work.A few months later, after she’d won the election, the tales of some of her constituents drove the issue home. Most prominent was the story of Sharon Ledesma, a 28-year-old single mother who was crossing a four-lane street one night when a car switched lanes and veered toward her and her two children. Ledesma managed to push the children out of the way. Dominic, who was 11 at the time, and Mallory, who was 8, survived but had serious injuries. Both had broken bones and were on crutches for weeks. Ledesma, however, did not make it. She was declared brain dead at the hospital. The next day, after her kids had a chance to say goodbye, her family took her off life support.Gonzales began to hear from other San Antonio families. The city had one of the highest pedestrian death rates in the country. In fact, 373 pedestrians had died in the metropolitan area over the previous decade. And Gonzales’ own district, largely poor and Hispanic, had some of the most dangerous streets, especially Culebra Road, the arterial where Ledesma died. That four-lane road shares many of the characteristics of other deadly stretches for pedestrians: Cars traveling near the speed limit of 40 mph pass between modest homes and retail outlets, while pedestrians walk along sidewalks separated from the traffic by only a low curb for as much as half a mile between crosswalks.
Even if we can’t commit to an entire day of unplugging, surely we can all give up 5 minutes. I know that’s a stretch, but if you can manage the discomfort, Giorgio Armani and S’well will provide the funding equivalent of one day of clean water for a child for the UNICEF Tap Project.Two years ago, we told you that if you could go 10 minutes without touching your phone, Giorgio Armani would fund a day of water for a child in need, and it was an unpredictably popular article, but 10 minutes must have been too long, because this year, the bar has been lowered to just 5 minutes. The UNICEF Tap Project has actually been operating for the past ten years as a way to help alleviate water poverty, although perhaps it takes a silly blog post title and a name brand such as Armani to get our attention.Just to put this in context, most of us with smartphones will never have to go thirsty for very long, nor will our lives be threatened by water and sanitation issues, and we can ‘reach out and touch someone’ almost anywhere in the world, anytime we want, through our magical minicomputers that we call phones. And yet, in 2016, about 1000 children younger than 5 years old will die every day from lack of clean water and hygienic sanitation facilities, coupled with lack of adequate healthcare.