Friday, January 1, 2010

A clear path in the new decade

Shortly before Christmas, I read an article about Caltrans, the California Department of Transportation, agreeing to settle a lawsuit by making the pedestrian passages along its roadways more accessible to the disabled. Not only was it a nice Christmas gift. It’s about time.

There was an article several years ago about a man who was involved in filing the lawsuit. He used a wheelchair and, I think, lived in Long Beach. He showed a reporter what it’s like to travel in a wheelchair along Pacific Coast Highway, a major thoroughfare with constant traffic. With some sections not having curb cuts and others having utility poles in the middle of the sidewalk, the reporter shared that it was a pretty harrowing experience.

Yikes! I remember thinking I know the feeling.

I remember it being pretty harrowing getting from the Santa Monica Pier to the boardwalk below in my wheelchair. (That is, before I found that there’s a ramp leading directly from the pier. Duh!) I had to cross a Highway 1 off-ramp, and the sidewalk was so high and narrow that I sighed with relief when I was able to get back into the street.

This doesn’t only happen in the big, bad city. I live off of a major road, which is called a highway, and I avoid riding along it in my chair. When I have to do so, I usually ride in the street. As unsafe as this may be, it feels safer than going on the sidewalk with all its cracks, utility poles, bumps, driveways, plants, etc.

So I say hooray to Caltrans for finally taking this on. The project will go on well into this new decade and will not only include improvements for those of us in chairs but also for the blind (audible crossing signals, etc.) and others.

Walking along a highway isn’t very attractive, not to mention safe, but sometimes it is by far the most convenient or the only route. A sidewalk that is really narrow or high or is blocked by trees and poles can very well be like having no sidewalk.

What were the designers thinking?

It is like the bathroom in the motel room that I stayed in a couple nights ago while I was on a holiday trip. It was pretty good, pretty accessible. Except for the mirror above the sink, which was way too high for me and anyone in a wheelchair to use.

Who designed this? Certainly not a disabled person.

1 comment:

  1. The roads in San Francisco can be harrowing also, especially when the road is narrow and winding along the outskirts of the big city.

    My memory goes back to the road signs stating to "share the road" with bicylclists. My first thought was how does anyone share the road when it is so narrow? As the more I thought and gave the right of way to the slow moving bikes, (going up hill), reminds me of the experience the other day while I was back home, here in
    La Verne, complaining of all things how inconvenient and outright risky, some ten speeders ride in pairs along the shoulder of the highway and even go into the left turn arrow lanes, to be in the way? But, no, now I see the yielding aspect has not caught on, at least for thoses who say, "how dumb can one be? Sticking your bike in the way of my right of way?

    The fact they need to share the road, especially when it is illegal, and as you describe John, out right unsafe to go on the sidewalks, makes me recall the share the road sign, which is unseen in Southern California, much less change the mindset of the raging commuters.

    Every once in a while I will see a memorial of candles set up for an unfortunate soul, who was doing there very best to commute, or just get to exercise with the racing team, or maybe even jogging, where they were obviously plowed into by a unattentive speeding car, on a blinf curve.

    We must all share the road, as more and more people go training or transporting themselves with all the rights of a vehicle, unsafe as it may seem. Let the road be biker or even wheelchair aware and friendly, so every chair, bike, or crosswalking pedestrian can be safe with sharing the road, like the signs say, with less hardline speeding cars.

    The repair of sidewalks are a violation of ADA regulations, with not to much enforcement unless there are complaints, not from motorists, but for accessability for wheelchairs and pedestrians.

    With more motor conscientious drivers we can all slow down and yield the safe passage for everyone who needs to commute or enjoy a walk.