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.