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Maria fell this week.

Maria doesn't normally fall. She's in great shape, and her balance is just fine, thank you very much.

But this is the second time in about a year, landing on the sidewalk face first. Literally.

It's a hazard of being a jogger in north Long Beach — or pretty much any mature neighborhood, I suspect. That is, it's a hazard if you're not willing to drive to the nearest school with a track, or you can't stand running on a treadmill.

I hasten to add that I have absolutely no experience in this regard. I've said multiple times that I don't understand why anyone would run unless someone or something is chasing them.

But I've learned not to say that to Maria. She likes to participate in things like the Tinkerbell 10K and Half Marathon (love those medals), and that requires the occasional training run.

Back to the fall. Maria has been taking Tiger along recently. It gives him some needed exercise, and he likes the attention, particularly since Sassy died.

So she's got to pay some attention to where the dog's going. And I understand that one of the ways runners get through the whole experience is by letting their minds wander to more pleasant things, like easy chairs and a bowl of chips.

But it takes paying attention to run, or walk, on Long Beach sidewalks. Particularly north Long Beach sidewalks.

That's because ours is a mature neighborhood. Mature is a euphemism for old, in case you weren't aware.

So the trees (and we're blessed to have many trees) are mature, with well-established root systems. Sometimes those roots go under sidewalks. When they do, the roots win. Every time.

Add that the sidewalks themselves often are a half century or more old. Some of these walkways seem to twist and turn all by themselves.

Some 15 years ago, the city lost a lawsuit that required better ADA (that's Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance, and the powers that were committed to setting aside at least $3 million a year to install curb cuts at corners and otherwise made sidewalk more user friendly.

That emphasis continues today. Some council members have successfully pushed to put more in the pot to fix sidewalks faster. Roots were cut out, or cemented around, and smoother walkways started popping up in the better neighborhoods.

Then, according to what I can find out, another lawsuit put the emphasis back on ADA compliance. The sidewalk repair schedule got reworked. Root and age damage repair was pushed back.

Some residents have taken things into their own hands and cut deals with the city to help pay for repairs in front of their homes. I have no worries in that regard — no street trees in front of my house, and the concrete is holding up just fine, knock on wood.

But most of the folks in my neighborhood couldn't pay to fix sidewalks, even if they wanted to. Staying current on the mortgage is accomplishment enough.

And Maria isn't going to run back and forth in front of my house. She isn't going to run in the street — too dangerous. If we can't get the sidewalks repaired, what's the answer?

I've got it. Let's install jogging paths on all of our streets. We could put them right next to the bike paths that are going in everywhere. It would only take another foot or two of the right of way.

What do you say? Want to join the campaign? Jogging paths for all! It's the safe thing to do.

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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