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Last Mile to Cahokia Mounds Is Impossible For Pedestrians

September 27, 2021 Accessibility, Featured, Metro East, Walkability Comments Off on Last Mile to Cahokia Mounds Is Impossible For Pedestrians

I’ve working on my bucket list in the last two years living with stage IV kidney cancer. Right after Memorial Day I was able to visit Milwaukee, my very first time in Wisconsin. I’m also working on items closer to home that I can safely do during a pandemic. To help me I pulled the 2013 book 100 Things To Do In Saint Louis Before You Die off my bookshelf.  One of several books written or co-authored by my longtime friend Amanda Doyle.

Well, I don’t see myself being able to physically sled down Art Hill, or use a paddle boat in Forest Park. Hmm, visit Cahokia Mounds? I’ve always wanted to see it, it’s likely the only additional  World Heritage site I’ll be able to visit — I’ve been to Independence Hall & many Frank Lloyd Wright buildings, including Fallingwater.

Embarrassingly in my 31+ years living in St. Louis I must admit I’ve never once visited Cahokia Mounds, a World Heritage site only a 15-minute drive into Illinois from St. Louis. Like so many places I thought I could go  &  things I could do in the future, until I became disabled a month before my 41st birthday. I had lived here less than 18 years before I had a massive stroke, meaning I couldn’t walk around the large Cahokia Mounds site. My power wheelchair allows me to “walk” around places like the Missouri Botanical Gardens.

In case you’re unfamiliar with Cahokia Mounds:

The remains of the most sophisticated prehistoric native civilization north of Mexico are preserved at Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site. Within the 2,200-acre tract, located a few miles west of Collinsville, Illinois, lie the archaeological remnants of the central section of the ancient settlement that is today known as Cahokia. (Cahokia Mounds Museum Society)

The fastest way there is for me and my husband to just drive there. But, I couldn’t see much because I can’t walk far. I also have a manual wheelchair we can put in the trunk, but he’d have to push me or I use my right foot and right hand to propel myself. One of us would get worn out.

I’ve traveled to five different states using transit and my power wheelchair so I should be able to go less than 10 miles. So I looked. Yes, I can roll 8/10 of a mile to the Convention Center MetroLink light rail station, take the train east to the Emerson Park station, and then catch the #18 Madison County bus northbound to Fairmont Ave at Collinsville Rd. Then it’s just a mile west along Collinsville Rd to the entrance to Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site (map).

A mile isn’t an issue at all, a week ago I rolled almost 5 miles home from Siteman Cancer Center. Yes, returning home on MetroLink would’ve been considerably faster but I got to see a lot of stuff along my route. I’m on disability so I’m usually not in a hurry. So what’s the problem?

The problem is Collinsville Road is a high-speed (45mph) 4-lane roadway with zero pedestrian infrastructure. None. No pedestrian signals or crosswalks at the signalized intersection near the bus stop. A few businesses near the intersection have a public sidewalk but they’re not connected to each other. Most of the mile distance is just a very tiny shoulder and a ditch. If I were somehow to make it I’d need to cross Collinsville Rd. Opposite the entrance to Cahokia Mounds is a pedestrian sign, but trying to cross 4 lanes of high-speed traffic is a death wish.

Approaching Cahokia Mounds from the east you see it on the left. On the right is a pedestrian crossing ahead sign, next to the ditch.
Further up as you get close to the entrance the road splits so there’s a center turn lane. On the right is a Cahokia Mounds sign pointing drivers left. The driveway to the right has a culvert under it so any water in the ditch can continue to flow.

My thoughts turned to contacting someone to bug them about this. But who? Most of the north side of Collinsville Rd is in Namioki Township, Madison County. Part of the south side of Collinsville Rd & Cahokia Mounds are in Collinsville, St. Clair County. Yes, most of Collinsville is in Madison County, but this part is in St. Clair County. And finally  the the intersection of Collinsville Rd & Fairmont Ave/Black Lane is State Park Place, an unincorporated community in both Madison & St  Clair Counties. Maddening fragmentation!

I suppose an able-bodied person could navigate this last mile, but I doubt anyone would.  Back at State Park Place there’s business on both sides of Collinsville Rd, including a Mexican restaurant on each side. I read somewhere a while ago that one is among the best Mexican restaurants in the Metro East.

My first task will be to contact Cahokia Mounds to see if they have any power wheelchairs/scooters for rent, their website doesn’t mention accessibility at all. I’ll also contact the Highway Dept at each county, though it might take state and/or federal funds to get anything built. I just want to get things…rolling.

Steve Patterson

 

St. Louis County Moved Mandatory Beg Button After I Complained About Not Being Able To Reach It

September 10, 2020 Accessibility, Featured, Planning & Design, St. Louis County, Walkability Comments Off on St. Louis County Moved Mandatory Beg Button After I Complained About Not Being Able To Reach It

Buttons used to activate pedestrian signals are derisively called “beg buttons.”

These buttons have long been decried and criticized by advocates for walking, anyway. The buttons’ purpose is less to keep people safe than to reinforce the primacy of cars on the street by forcing people who want to cross a street to “beg” for a walk signal. (California Streetsblog)

In the City of St. Louis many buttons don’t do anything, a walk signal is displayed even if you don’t press it. In June I encountered an intersection in St. Louis County where it was mandatory to press a button to get a walk signal across one street, but not the perpendicular street from the same corner.

On June 3rd I was at the southeast corner of Hanley & Dale Ave, wanting to cross Hanley — but using a wheelchair I couldn’t get to the button.
Looking west across Hanley.

Crossing Dale Ave doesn’t require pressing the beg button, it activates the walk signal in conjunction with the traffic lights. However, if you don’t press the button you’ll never get a walk signal to cross Hanley. Even when Dale traffic gets a green light you’ve got a don’t walk unless you pressed the beg button. Without a walk signal westbound Dale motorists turning left onto southbound Hanley wouldn’t expect to see any pedestrians crossing the street. On June 3rd I had to cross, in my power wheelchair, even though I didn’t have a walk signal.

Thankfully left-turning motorists yielded to me.  I later shared my frustration on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

A friend & reader suggested I call St. Louis County. Though this is in the municipality of Richmond Heights, Hanley is maintained by St. Louis County — a fact she knew. I’m not a fan of making voice calls but I did find a compliant form on their Department of Transportation website. A day or 2 later I got a phone call from a county engineer. I emailed him the photos I took rather than call him back. A few weeks later I got an email saying it had been moved.

Yesterday I went out to the nearby  Trader Joe’s  and another store so I went to this intersection to see the change. I’d suggested the button(s) not be used, just switch to a walk signal timed with the light. So I figured the beg button would still be mandatory, I just wanted to see if I could reach it.

A pole was added to hold the two beg buttons — one mandatory and the other completely useless.
Now looking west across Hanley.

No telling how many years this was like this. It amazes me how often I see situations where someone wasn’t thinking about disabled pedestrians. There are likely many more examples out there.

— Steve Patterson

 

Checking Out New Pedestrian Bridge Over I-70 Connecting Old North St. Louis and Near North Riverfront Neighborhoods

August 6, 2020 Accessibility, Featured, North City, Walkability Comments Off on Checking Out New Pedestrian Bridge Over I-70 Connecting Old North St. Louis and Near North Riverfront Neighborhoods

In December 2018 MoDOT temporarily closed I-70 to remove an old pedestrian bridge at North Market Street. A similar pedestrian bridge was removed from over I-44 at Marconi Ave, and at other locations.  Yesterday I checked out the new ADA-compliant replacement over I-70.

The East side of the new pedestrian bridge, along Northbound 10th Street, has a switchback ramp.

Before getting into the new bridge we should look at what it replaced. Interstate 70 was built decades before the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, so the old pedestrian bridge had stairs on each side.

This 2010 photo is from the West side along 11th Street. The stairs on each end went  down in opposite directions.

Stairs make such a bridge impossible for those of us who use wheelchairs, but also difficult for people who walk using a cane or walker. They’re also a challenge to a parent pushing a stroller, cyclists, etc.

In April 2019 I snapped this image of construction on the new bridge as I was driving by. Yes, I drive too!

Yesterday’s weather was so nice I decided to check out the completed bridge. It was 1.2 miles just getting there from our apartment near 7th & Cass Ave. I did encounter missing curb ramps in a few places — often missing sidewalks. But I made it.

The access point on the East side of I-70 is at North Market Street. There is no painted crosswalk, no signs warning drivers to yield to pedestrians. No curb bulbs to narrow the crossing distance. Nothing. 10th Street traffic is one-way northbound — and it is fast.
Once safely across 10th Street you see trash has accumulated. The city has equipment to clean streets but tight spots like this don’t get cleaned.
From the base looking up the ramp to the landing. I use a power chair which had no problem with the incline. Being ADA-compliant means the maximum level should be acceptable to person using a manual wheelchair. Every so often there are level spots to give someone s rest.
From the landing, looking back down.
Looking South from the landing
From the very top looking back at the landing
Looking East at North Market Street from the top.
Looking West across the level top of the bridge.
Looking North at Northbound I-70.
Looking South at Northbound I-70. The switchback ramp can be seen on the left.
Looking South at Southbound I-70. The straight ramp on the West side (11th Street) can be seen on the right.
From the West end of the bridge you get an excellent view of Jackson Place Park. This was the center of three circles in the original plan of the separate Village of North St. Louis.
Looking South down the straight ramp on the West side (11th Street).
Looking back up from the bottom.
At the bottom you look across 11th Street at Monroe Street. A new curb ramp was built across the street. Like the other side, 11th is one-way and there is no crosswalk markings, signs, etc.
Back up toward Jackson Place Park you can get an overview of the West side.

It is nothing fancy, but it gets the job done. Highways divided many neighborhoods, many previously connected streets permanently severed. I have no idea how much this cost, but it was worth every penny. The highway is still an at-grade divider at this point, but the bridge makes it possible for everyone to safely to cross over it.

Once the current pandemic is over I’ll take the bus to other new pedestrian highway bridges so I can compare.  Yesterday I explored in Old North, got takeout from Crown Candy, and returned home 3.5 hours after leaving. Roundtrip was about 3 miles.

— Steve Patterson

 

Eads Bridge Pedestrian Path Finally Accessible Again After 4+ Years Inaccessible

May 14, 2020 Accessibility, Featured, Planning & Design, Walkability Comments Off on Eads Bridge Pedestrian Path Finally Accessible Again After 4+ Years Inaccessible

The renovation of the Arch grounds a few years back greatly improved accessibility for the public. Going from the top of the steps down to the riverfront used to be a major challenge if you were pushing a stroller, or using a wheelchair. New ramps now make it very easy.

But the project accidentally cut off access to the pedestrian walkway on the Eads Bridge, as early as May 2015. This month it was finally rectified, though the solution created another problem.

Looking west heading into St. Louis from the Eads Bridge. May 13, 2020

Let’s do a quick recap of the problem caused when a contractor busted through into the light rail tunnel below.

The earliest I can find the issue on Google Street View is from May 2015, how much earlier it began is uncertain.

May 7, 2017 is my oldest photo of the problem. This is when I began conversations with various officials about being able to access the pedestrian walkway in my wheelchair.
By March 16, 2019 the broken concrete had been removed but the height from steel plate to bridge sidewalk was too much for 99.9% of wheelchairs.

In January of this year I posted about the problem, see Eads Bridge Remains Inaccessible Years After Arch Project “Completed”. I was told a fix was in the works, but I’d been hearing excuses since 2017.

A week ago a friend sent a pic to me showing work happening. Yay, finally! Yesterday I went by to see the result, approaching from the North.

Approaching from Laclede’s Landing. I’m happy to see a smooth transition to the bridge, but the width of the crosswalk markings have no relationship to the width of the ramps on either end. 

I’m happy to report the accessibility is better than it ever was. The slopes, cross-slopes, ramps, etc. are all improved. I was very relived to be able to access the bridge. I then went to head West toward downtown.

Approaching the corner from the Arch grounds. At left is the point to cross the street to head into downtown proper.
Here’s a more direct view. Like before, the crosswalk is much wider than the ramp, but that’s not the main problem.
The stupid “beg button” for a walk signal is set back too far from the curb — only by leaning and stretching could I reach it.

Walkable areas shouldn’t have buttons to get a walk signal — they should always come up in the cycle. But if you’re going to make us press these damn buttons at least place them where they can be reached! I can see bottlenecks here post-covid with lots of tourists coming and going.

— Steve Patterson

 

GreenLeaf Market Knowingly Blocking ADA Accessible Route

April 8, 2020 Accessibility, Featured, North City Comments Off on GreenLeaf Market Knowingly Blocking ADA Accessible Route

Yesterday morning I had minor outpatient surgery (post surgery photo) at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. Last evening, after my husband left for work as a Home Health Aide, I decided to take advantage of the nice weather and get a few things we needed from the nearby GreenLeaf Market — he’d called earlier to confirm they were open until 8pm. I had my mask on, hand sanitized, and canvas shopping bag on the back of the headrest on my power wheelchair.

Before I continue the story of last night I want to discuss their ADA accessible route — the route for pedestrians off of the Tucker public sidewalk.

During construction I was excited to see the inclusion of an accessible route, though the light post was in the path I could see the striped around it, to the East/right.
GreenLeaf Market opened on April 1, 2019 — just over a year ago.
A parking stop protected the accessible route going around the light base and provided a parking space for a compact car.

It didn’t take long, however, for a change to be made. The parking stop was removed and a cart carousel was put there instead — but it was initially kept back from the light base to keep the accessible route clear. Over the last year I arrived and found the cart carousel pushed up against the light base numerous times. I always extended my right foot and used my power wheelchair to put the carousel back into place for them, then went inside and did my shopping — leaving through the cleared accessible route.

Last night I arrived just before 7pm to find it pushed against the light base yet again. This time a staff member was retrieving carts from the carousel so I asked him to please move it back from the light base.  He said, “go around.” I mentioned the route was an ADA route, that this was a civil rights issue. Unfazed, he continued with the carts.

In hindsight I could’ve handled this differently, but it had been a very long day.

I said I can push it. To I quickly pushed one side away from the light base, it came close to him. He was upset, I was upset. He yelled at the security guard to not allow me into the store — he was blocking the doorway as I arrived. I headed back out but stopped to take the following photograph.

The cart carousel was right where I’d left it.

The security guard came out to tell me to leave the premises immediately, which I did. I went out to the public sidewalk to tweet about the experience. While sitting there tweeting (1/2) I noticed numerous people walking past me, and using the accessible route to enter the store. I also noticed the staff, however, had pushed the cart carousel back up against the light base!

Here a man is using the accessible route to reach the store from the public sidewalk.
When he gets to the blockage he is forced to go around.

Again, I own a big part of this. I had numerous times throughout the last year to point this out to management, but I didn’t. And last night rather than get upset with a guy just doing his job I should’ve just gone around and then mentioned the problem to the manager while leaving with my purchase.

And yes JZ, it can get designed & built correctly and the end user can screw it up. Hopefully I can speak to the manager today. The solution is simple, some pins to prevent the cart carousel from getting pushed up against the light base.

— Steve Patterson

 

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