Man, I’m trying to stay positive. I swear I am. But then stuff like this happens. The city has announced that it is splitting the Katy Trail by last name. Everyone can use it Monday through Wednesday. But beginning this Thursday, you’d better know the first letter of your last name if you want to go for a walk. Surnames starting with A through L get the trail Thursday and Saturday; surnames starting with M through Z get Friday and Sunday. This is being done to ease congestion, and it’s a great idea except for one small point: it’s dumb as hell.
THING ONE: I went grocery shopping Sunday. The aisles at my store are clearly marked with big red arrows on the floor to indicate that they are one-way. I mean, every 6 feet there’s a sign or an arrow to remind you. Tim, what did you see while grocery shopping? I’m glad you asked. I saw idiots! People everywhere were walking against the arrows. I’d point at the floor signs and say through my mask, “One way, friend.” One lady was confused, apologized, and reversed course. The other five people I admonished just sauntered by — if you can aggressively saunter, which is how it seemed to me. People: having your head up your ass does not protect you from the coronavirus. But a lot of folks are using this strategy, so divvying up days by surname won’t do squat. If people can’t follow red arrows in grocery stores, they won’t follow this suggestion.
THING TWO: Even if they did, the math doesn’t work. The city divided the alphabet roughly in half. Twelve letters get the trail one day, 14 letters the next. Surnames aren’t distributed evenly from one side of the alphabet to the other. What’s the distribution in Dallas? I don’t know. Neither does the city of Dallas. But here’s something fun to read from a 2018 Wall Street Journal article (sub. req.). Headline and subhead: “A Long Wait to Vote? Odds Are, You Were in the A-to-M Line: Last names of 64% of voters begin with letters in the first half of the alphabet; N to Z breezes through.” I suspect the same thing would happen on the Katy Trail if people observed the recommendation. Here’s the gist from the WSJ:
Nationally, the last names of 64% of registered voters begin with letters in the first half of the alphabet, according to a Journal analysis of voting data from L2, a nonpartisan voter file vendor. That trend is echoed in nearly every county in the country, and in some cases, it’s even more extreme. In Louisiana’s Avoyelles Parish, 74% of registered voters have names that begin with letters A to M. In Rolette, N.D., 73% do. And in Robeson County, N.C., it’s 70%.
MY SOLUTION: Let me, Tim Rogers, walk the Katy Trail with a paint gun. When I see people getting too close to each other — POW! Problem solved. You’re welcome. Not all heroes wear capes. But for this assignment, I will wear a cape. Here’s the full release from the city about their dumb idea:
DALLAS — To manage the increasing number of Katy Trail users and encourage physical distancing during the COVID-19 outbreak, Dallas Park and Recreation will implement a trail management strategy that gives visitors access to the trail on specific days according to their last names.
The public will have normal access to the Katy Trail on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays.
But beginning Thursday, April 23, for the rest of the week and on the weekends, users whose last names begin with A through L are asked to use the Katy Trail only on Thursday and Saturday. Users whose last names begin with M through Z are encouraged to use the trail on Friday and Sunday.
The Dallas Park and Recreation Department worked with the Friends of Katy Trail to create this approach to lessen congestion and encourage physical distancing. Mayor Eric Johnson’s office and Park and Recreation also consulted with Dallas County Health and Human Services Director Dr. Philip Huang regarding the guidelines.
If users comply with the guidelines, the City expects a significant reduction of congestion on the trail, which will lessen the risks of spread of COVID-19.
“The Katy Trail is an incredible asset to our city, and I love that Dallas residents want to use it to get fresh air and exercise during these difficult and unprecedented times,” Mayor Johnson said. “But I support the Park and Recreation Department’s approach to creating adequate physical distancing on the Katy Trail. We cannot allow this amenity to become a health hazard. We have to be willing to adjust our practices and behaviors and take personal responsibility to stop the spread of COVID-19 so that we can save lives and get through these challenging times as quickly as possible.”
“We know that getting outdoors is another way for families to cope with stay-at-home regulations. Overcrowding and congestion on the Katy Trail make it nearly impossible for users to practice adequate physical distancing. Our communities’ safety remains our key concern. We are working together to reduce the spread on this pandemic,” said Dallas Park and Recreation Director John D. Jenkins. “We want our outdoor spaces to be accessible and we want visitors to do their part to protect themselves and others.”
If families want to get out during the day, Director Jenkins and Mayor Johnson also suggested they go to parks within walking distances of their homes. Neighborhood parks may be considerably less crowded than larger, well-known ones. With more than 397 parks and 160 miles of urban trails, some sites are well-known, while others are not.
Dallas Park and Recreation staff have selected some of their favorite parks and trails for people to explore. Check out Dallas’ Best Kept Secret Parks on the department’s website at DallasParks.org.