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Sidewalks on Delmar still unusable

November 2, 2009 Accessibility, Midtown 3 Comments

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.  Although the accident occurred around 6pm driver didn’t see Bansen in her wheelchair on the street.  On December 6th 2007 I posted on the jury finding the city negligent in Bansen’s death since the sidewalks were not passable.  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.  Since I’ve traveled many miles using an electric wheelchair myself.  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.  I showed they were not.   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.  Sadly, the situation is exactly like I found it in December 2007.

Looking West from Beaumont
Delmar looking West from Beaumont

Heading West from the market at Jefferson toward the housing the first block is fine.  But when you reach Beaumont you cease to have a sidewalk.  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.  The owner of the building in the background, 2719 Delmar LLC, owns the entire length of this city block.

Delmar looking East at Leffingwell

Going the other direction from the housing to the market one immediately finds a curb without a curb cut.  I know that if I approached the above low curb just right I could get on that sidewalk.  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?  The city can debate the sidewalk issue but access from the road to the sidewalk is 100% their responsibility.

Delmar looking East at Leffingwell
Delmar looking East at Leffingwell

On the South side of Delmar the sidewalk is not perfect but it is mostly passable.  But here the curb height makes the sidewalk condition a mute point.

Apartments on left with red roofs, market is on bottom right corner

The obstacles are few but they are enough to cause wheelchair users to use the roadway.  The apartment complex is owned by the St. Louis Housing Authority.  Not all of the units are accessible but some are.  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.

2007: The accessible apartment where Basen lived.
2007: The accessible apartment where Basen lived.

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.  Routes to food and transportation isn’t a luxury but a must.  Enough to for someone to risk their life.

Two years ago I emailed several with the city about the sidewalk conditions on Delmar.  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.  They miss “Lisi.”  I’ve promised them I will work to ensure that residents of these apartments will have safe sidewalks to access Delmar & Jefferson.

– Steve Patterson

  • Aragornman

    Really unacceptable.

  • Pete Bansen

    Steven -

    Thanks so much for your continued attention to this issue! I find it unconscionable that the City of St. Louis can continue to be so inattentive to this situation after my sister Lisi lost her life as a direct result of the deteriorated sidewalks. It is especially hard to understand in light of the fact that the City repaved Delmar Boulevard and installed curb cuts at several intersections in the interim. As shown in your photographs, in several locations those curb cuts access a block where there is no sidewalk and the grassy, uneven surface would be completely impassable by someone using a wheelchair.

    As you and your readers may be aware, our parents filed a lawsuit against the City after Lisi’s death. During the trial, the City went to some lengths to demonstrate that Lisi had never filed a complaint about the condition of the sidewalks on Delmar Boulevard – their implication was that had she (or someone) simply filed a complaint, the sidewalks would have been repaired. After the trial (in which a jury found the City at fault, by the way), I filed a complaint with the City and received a response that the situation had been corrected. Obviously, it has not – the conditions that led to Lisi’s death persist to this day – a sad commentary on the level of service and honesty that the City of St. Louis feels obliged to deliver.

    Lisi’s greatest attribute was her determination. She would be pleased and honored that you and others continue to press for safe, accessible sidewalks for her neighbors and friends.

    Thank you for your efforts and best wishes!

    Pete Bansen
    Truckee, California

  • Jimmy Z

    The (un?)intended consequence of ward-based budgeting, especialy with a system based on “equity” – in a ward with as many as needs as this one obviously has, sidewalk improvements rarely make it to the “top of the list”, pretty much every year. As a city, we either need to devote resources where the needs are greatest, even if they generate little in the way of revenue, OR we can continue to keep “nice” areas nice (since they require relatively fewer resources) while our “struggling” areas continue their slow decline . . .

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