Home » Accessibility » Recent Articles:

New Nonprofit Formed Focusing On “(re)Connecting Cities” Through Pedestrian Networks

Metropolitan areas were once designed for pedestrians — compact with businesses accessed right off the public sidewalk. People lived and worked their entire lives in a very small area, there was no alternative. Streetcars and subways provided mobility allowing cities to expand in area, but people remained pedestrians when going to or leaving transit.

The private automobile changed things, requiring more and more space as more and more cars hit to the roads. As the car took hold land-use and buildings reflected this change. Tight grids of streets gave way to larger blocks without on-street parking in an effort to keep the cars moving.

ABOVE: Southtown Famous-Barr at Kingshhway & Chippewa 1951-1992/3

Even then the street corner was still an important place. New department stores, such as the Southtown Famous-Barr, were built up to the sidewalk making the journey easy for pedestrians and motorists had plenty of parking as well. In the 1950s many still didn’t drive but since then new development began to forget about the pedestrian, making car ownership a necessity for the first time.

A Walgreens now sits on the same corner as the old Famous-Barr, its relationship with Kingshighway and Chippewa is radically different.

ABOVE: An elderly woman leaving the Walgreens had to walk through the parking lot and step up a curb while carrying her shopping bag.
ABOVE: Yes she walks with a cane through the mulched area to reach the bus stop

Despite what you may think, not everyone in society drives. I don’t know this elderly woman’s history — she may have driven in her younger days but she’s not walking now for the fun of it. She walks though planted areas, parking lots, etc because we’ve designed our built environment in such a way this is the reality for many to buy the necessities.

This is a long way of introducing my new nonprofit:  (re)Connecting Cities. My idea is to advocate for all pedestrians, to work to make walking from the bus to the store and back not the undignified chore it is now.

(re)Connecting Cities will work to educate everyone on the benefits to society to connecting our buildings via sidewalks as well as we do for cars. Imagine if you had to drive through a muddy creek to get to the grocery store or over a pile of rocks — making a 4WD with high ground clearance a necessity? If you want milk & eggs you need a monster truck to do that.

We just expect roads, driveways and parking lots to be connected. Zoning makes sure there is an abundance of places to store vehicles yet in most cities/states nothing about being able to arrive on foot. Very unbalanced and unsustainable!

I don’t want to ban cars or have pedestrian-only streets, based on my research those rarely work in North America. I do want pedestrians to be given equal consideration when enacting zoning & building codes. I want architects, civil engineers and their clients to think about pedestrian arrival points, routes, and circulation, along with vehicular circulation. Communities often demand expensive traffic studies when a developer proposes a new project and nearby residents fear traffic congestion, yet a pedestrian access plan is never mentioned.

You’ll be hearing more about (re)Connecting Cities in the coming months and years.

— Steve Patterson


ADA Access Into Historic Buildings Is Often Relatively Easy

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law just over 22 years ago by President George H. W. Bush. Retrofitting older building for accessibility  isn’t always easy but surprisingly some of the monumental buildings from late 19th and early 20th centuries aren’t bad.

So many of these buildings have very grand entrances with multiple series of steps, but the main floor is often enough above grade the basement isn’t excavated at all or very little. Here are some examples.

ABOVE: Main St. Louis City Hall entrance
ABOVE: The gate is open during the day for the basement entrance to city hall, this entry is often used by elected officials in addition to the disabled.

Going in the back way isn’t glamorous but neither would ramps out front. We wouldn’t build this today but it works. But not all basement entrances are around back.

ABOVE: Main entry to Scottish Rite on Lindell.
ABOVE: ADA entrance to Scottish Rite to the west of the main entrance

Another example is the building I posted about yesterday — the vacant German House on Lafayette Ave:

ABOVE: The late 1920s German House on Lafayette awaits renovations and occupancy.
ABOVE: When the building is renovated ADA access will be aided by the basement entrance to the left of the main stairs.

These buildings were built with elevators so going from level to level is also easy, the elevators are generally replaced or modernized during renovation. At times I get to ride in an old elevator though, such as at Scottish Rite, which is fun.

— Steve Patterson


Seating For All

September 22, 2012 Accessibility, Downtown, Featured 4 Comments

For many years the establishment Flannery’s Pub at 1324 Washington Ave has had sidewalk seating. Unfortunately, those seats have been tall seats & tables.

ABOVE: High outdoor seating at Flannery’s

When I started this post it was going to be to thank them for adding regular height tables so the rest of us could eat alfresco.

ABOVE: Additional tables just added that are at regular height

But thursday night I passed by and these tables I photographed a few days earlier were gone already. What’s the big deal? With help I can get into a high stool but for many that’s not an option. Restaurants need to offer some regular height seating indoors and out.

— Steve Patterson


Update: Park Ave Sidewalk Now Passable

In March I blogged about an ADA issue I spotted from a MetroBus (see: New Driveway Makes Sidewalk Non-ADA Compliant (Updated)). Curbs for the driveway prevented passage in a wheelchair.

ABOVE: New driveway to Park bisects the public sidewalk without ADA ramps. March 2012.

The update to that post was this:

This will get fixed as part of a project titled 8496 BROADWAY & 7TH STREET IMPROVEMENTS (PARK AVENUE TO I-55 OVERPASS),FEDERAL PROJECT STP-5422(612), ST. LOUIS, MO : that will have a pre-construction conference on March 7th. Still, this shows clear lack of oversight on the part of inspectors to allow something like this to get built in the first place.

As the city told me, the began right away. I still haven’t visited since the work is just wrapping up, but I’ve been watching as I pass by on the bus.

ABOVE: Extensive work has been done in the 7th/Park/Broadway area, still ongoing in September 2012. Click image to view in Google Maps.

Once construction has finished I’ll visit the area and take a critical look at the finished product.

— Steve Patterson


Pedestrian Signal Activation Button At Chouteau & Compton Now Reachable

Last month riding on the bus I noticed a pedestrian problem and managed to get a good picture. I emailed the pic to Director of Streets Todd Waeltermann and Board of Public Service (BPS) President Rich Bradley to show them the problem. They quickly saw the problem but told me this was MoDOT, not the city’s doing.  Thankfully they contacted the appropriate person at MoDOT and got it fixed within a week.

ABOVE: Picture of impossible to reach pedestrian signal buttons taken on a passing MetroBus on August 6th, 2012. Click the image to view Compton & Chouteau in Google Maps.
ABOVE: The two buttons can now be reached easily. The second arrow shows the previous location.

At the end of August I was in the area so I stopped by and checked it out. Yes, I’m now able to reach the buttons to cross both Compton & Chouteau. Thanks Todd & Rich for alerting MoDOT about their error!

At some point I need to devote a whole post to how these islands are being designed now. Used to be a ramp got you up to the curb-high surface,  you crossed, then down another ramp. These had flaws and the new way creates a nice level surface. It hasn’t happened to me yet but I can see problems when I encounter someone else in a wheelchair/scooter or even just pushing a baby stroller. Despite having room, there’s never a place for one to move out of the way for another to pass.

Before you dismiss this concern know that I often see other users of mobility devices when I’m out and about. As Baby Boomers age I’ll see more and more.  Food for thought.

— Steve Patterson