Four years ago today Elizabeth Bansen was struck and killed by an SUV as she returned home from the market two blocks East of her apartment.Â Although the accident occurred around 6pm driver didn’t see Bansen in her wheelchair on the street.Â On December 6th 2007 I posted on the jury finding the city negligent in Bansen’s death since the sidewalks were not passable.Â The accessibility of sidewalks has long been a passion of mine. From that post:
Besides the broken sidewalk in front of the existing business on the street, much of the sidewalk area on this block is completely impassable to a person in a wheelchair.
I did that post nearly two months prior to the massive stroke that disabled me.Â Since I’ve traveled many miles using an electric wheelchair myself.Â My first two and a half months home from the hospital I couldn’t yet drive so, like many, the wheelchair was my only means of independence.
In 2007 Director of Streets Todd Waelterman and City Attorney Patti Hageman either weren’t sure if the sidewalks were fixed or thought they were.Â I showed they were not.Â Â Yesterday I drove over to see the couple of blocks along Delmar to see if the sidewalks between the housing and the market were corrected.Â Sadly, the situation is exactly like I found it in December 2007.
Heading West from the market at Jefferson toward the housing the first block is fine.Â But when you reach Beaumont you cease to have a sidewalk.Â The city claims the sidewalk is the responsibility of the adjacent property owner but in recent rulings around the country the courts are determining that cities cannot push of this basic service onto the owners of abutting properties.Â The owner of the building in the background, 2719 Delmar LLC, owns the entire length of this city block.
Going the other direction from the housing to the market one immediately finds a curb without a curb cut.Â I know that if I approached the above low curb just right I could get on that sidewalk.Â But a resident of these apartments would know the sidewalk doesn’t go through. What about taking the other side of Delmar to avoid being in the street?Â The city can debate the sidewalk issue but access from the road to the sidewalk is 100% their responsibility.
On the South side of Delmar the sidewalk is not perfect but it is mostly passable.Â But here the curb height makes the sidewalk condition a mute point.
The obstacles are few but they are enough to cause wheelchair users to use the roadway.Â The apartment complex is owned by the St. Louis Housing Authority.Â Not all of the units are accessible but some are.Â Occupants of these units have two basic needs — food and access to transportation. Much of the public transportation is on Jefferson where the market is located so this route along Delmar is a critical path.
I am fortunate to live an a step-free building downtown but for many wheelchair dependent public housing units like these are their only choice.Â Routes to food and transportation isn’t a luxury but a must.Â Enough to for someone to risk their life.
Two years ago I emailed several with the city about the sidewalk conditions on Delmar.Â I’m will again do the same so that hopefully two years from now residents of these apartments will have a safe route to the store and to transportation.
And finally, I’ve emailed with Elizabeth Bansen’s father and two of her siblings.Â They miss “Lisi.”Â I’ve promised them I will work to ensure that residents of these apartments will have safe sidewalks to access Delmar & Jefferson.
– Steve Patterson