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I Don’t Understand Some Wheelchair Users

The other day I was at the bus shelter on the NE corner of 18th & Washington waiting on the #97 bus when I see a man heading eastbound in a wheelchair.  No big deal, I see other wheelchair users daily. But this man wasn’t using the wide sidewalk — he was in the roadway!

The next day I’m at the same bus shelter to catch the #97 again and the same man passes by in the road again — this time heading westbound.

ABOVE: Wheelchair user on Washington Ave roadway heading WB toward 18th

I watched as he went past diagonally-parked cars west of 18th. I was shocked to see him stay in the roadway rather than on the sidewalk.

Yes, there have been times where I’m forced to travel in the roadway due to lack of a sidewalk. On those rare occasions I’m on a low traffic side road, not a major road like Washington Ave. The Schlafly Tap Room is only four blocks directly west of my place but due to numerous places without curb cuts I have to go up to Washington Ave rather than Locust.  If I go to 21st I will end up on the road from St. Charles St to Locust (one short block).  When I remember, I use 20th to head south to Locust then west to 21st to avoid being in the road.  Either way I have to cross 21st in the middle of the block between Locust & Olive since the SW corner of Locust & 21st doesn’t have a curb cut.

I know I’m safer staying on the sidewalks — crossing roads only at crosswalks. Obviously not all wheelchair users feel the same. My assumption is some users face so many obstacles trying to use sidewalks they just give up and use the road.  Or maybe they used to walk in the road rather than on the sidewalk and do the same now that they use a wheelchair?

I should try to talk to this guy to find out.

– Steve Patterson


The Average St. Louis Street is an Unfriendly Environment for Pedestrians

Just going about my life I encounter so many obstacles to making St. Louis a great city for pedestrians, and by extension, transit users and cyclists. Basically anyone other than motorists.

ABOVE: Light pole in the middle of the 39th St sidewalk @ I-44 says pedestrians don't matter to St. Louis

Yes, I own a car so I am, at times, also a motorist.  But I cover far more area as a transit using pedestrian and the design of our city makes being a pedestrian a challenge. Sure, we have a select few areas where being a pedestrian is a pleasant experience, but the other 98% is downright hostile. Place matters and the design of our place discourages walking and encourages driving. We need a balance.

ABOVE: When the new housing replaced the old west of 39th at McRee a curb cut wasn't built on the other side.

Yes, I use a power chair but these issues affect all potential pedestrians. We want middle-class families right? But they walk too, including with baby strollers. We must examine all our streets and improve the walkability.

I’ve not yet examined the Great Streets legislation adopted by the city but I doubt it will ever reach this two block stretch of 39th between Shaw & McRee. It will improve a few sections getting major reconstruction but the bulk of the city will remain unfriendly to most pedestrians.

– Steve Patterson


Reaching the St. Louis County Library

I was thinking of attending a meeting being held tonight (7pm-9pm) at the headquarters of the St. Louis County Library located at 1640 South Lindbergh Blvd. The meeting is a St. Louis Aerotropolis Forum sponsored by the Citizens Alliance for Missouri Patriots (a closed Facebook group) that I’m NOT a member of:

Alliance of Tea Party and Patriot Group leaders and organizers in the State of Missouri who wish to combine forces in working together for our state’s sovereignty, who adhere to and believe in our founding fathers’ constitutional principles, government fiscal responsibility, individual unalienable rights, and a free market system. CAMP does NOT represent any one political party, but only the People of Missouri.

Here is the description of the Facebook event:

Concerned about the China Hub issue to be brought before our state legislators in the upcoming special session? For those in the local St. Louis metro area or across the state, you are invited to join us in hearing our panel of speakers who will be discussing and debating this topic which will affect every citizen in Missouri.

Scheduled panelists are Audrey Spalding from Show Me Institute, and David Roland from Missouri Freedom Center.

We are currently awaiting confirmation on panel speakers from the St. Louis Regional Chamber & Growth Association who are working to bring the China Hub to St. Louis.

The forum will be held in the library auditorium starting at 7pm and ending promptly at 9pm.

Scheduled Host is Mr. Rodney White, retired businessman, local author and speaker.

Please invite your neighbors, family, and friends who are wanting to know more about this new government tax credit.

I’d like to hear this perspective,  I have three choices on how to get to the meeting:

  1. Drive my car
  2. Ask for a ride with someone else.
  3. Take public transit

Let’s look at each option.

1) Drive my car

This is the option 99% of those attending will use. But I try to use my car as little as possible, plus I have a narrow window between 6pm-9pm when I can drive to get the best insurance discount. I’d have to leave the event early if I drove to be home by 9pm.  And yes, Progressive knows exactly when I drive  because of the device I voluntarily plugged into my diagnostic port. Google Maps says the drive is 12.6 miles long and would take 18 minutes if I use I-64 or 13.7-14.2 miles (& 29-33 minutes) if I use surface streets.

2) Ask for a ride with someone else

This is a good option, one I wish more people would use rather than driving themselves. I know only one person on the attending list, but I know Ed Martin online only and I’m not sure I want to ask him or be at his mercy.

3) Take public transit

Finally my favorite option! I have two choices to reach the library via transit. The option that gets me there closest to the start time takes the longest (59 minutes) and would involve using MetroLink and two buses. The other option takes 50-56 minutes depending upon when I leave.  This is twice as long as if I drove but from my view this is time I can read, check email, observe the city, etc.

Since I’ve never been there in my power chair before I need to investigate the route in detail. The option that includes only one bus is more appealing than having to transfer from one bus to another so I looked at taking the #58 bus from the Clayton MetroLink/MetroBus station.

Seems simple enough, “walking” 3/10th of a mile is no big deal in my chair.

But when I looked at the aerial image and the street view is when problems became clear.

On the left it's not clear a sidewalk exists.

The street view shows curbs on both sides of the driveway, which means no deal.  In looking back up at the aerial it seems the near side may have been fixed, but the far sides of the drive is unknown. This route is too uncertain.

The other option is to take the #58X Express Bus to Big Bend & Kirkwood Rd then transfer to the #48 northbound on Kirkwood/Lindbergh.

I’m pretty sure the stops are not as shown, but still the area has good sidewalks, ramps and crosswalks. I just need to figure out where to board the 48. Oh, just a bit to the north.

And here we see a common problem. A large pad is provided as well as a shelter but the pad isn’t connected to the sidewalk. Suburban sidewalks are often just for show, not actual use, so having the sidewalk actually connect to points pedestrians would actually use is just radical thinking I suppose.  My chair can deal with the grade change and grass but someone using a manual chair, walker or cane might have difficulty.

The great thing is the #48 stops right in front of the library. I should be good from this point, right? Wrong!

Where the bus stops there is no pedestrian route to the entrance. Perhaps a proper pedestrian access route exists somewhere in either direction?

No pedestrian route at the north vehicle drive
And no pedestrian route at the south vehicle drive

If I were to risk my life trying either vehicle drive I still have no clue where to find a ramp to reach and accessible entrance. Even the able-bodied would take a chance if they walked in one of the driveways. Walking to the library seems as American as apple pie, but not in St. Louis County apparently.

I checked out their accessibility page:

Buildings and Bookmobiles

What physical accommodations exist for persons with physical limitations?

  • Handicapped-accessible parking
  • Ramp entrances
  • Power doors
  • Elevators
  • Accessible aisles and routes inside the buildings
  • Accessible restrooms, water fountains, and public telephones
  • Low service desks
  • Specially-designed school bookmobile with wheelchair lift

No thought is given to pedestrians at all. My example is extreme in that I’m coming from a long distance. What about someone, like a senior or a child, in Kirkwood? What is the reverse route?  Public buildings like libraries should demonstrate to others what is expected. Oh, I guess it does, they don’t expect pedestrians. But people do use these bus routes and stops and every transit rider is a pedestrian on at least one end of their trip.

St. Louis County and municipalities continue to spend money on sidewalks and ADA ramps but they fail to connect the dots! These new & improved sidewalks are mere roadside decoration  to give the appearance of walkability & accessibility.

I contacted the St. Louis County Library on the 26th about their lack of a pedestrian access route and they are tagged on the tweet of this post.

– Steve Patterson


We’d Never Have Roads As Incomplete As Our Sidewalks

Wednesday I was out photographing along Jefferson for future posts, the hottest day of the week. I had taken the #94 (Page) bus to Jefferson & Dr. Martin Luther King.  I was going to up to the signal at Stoddard St. to cross Jefferson to the east.  I get to Mills St. and see there is no curb cut on the other side, I can’t go any further. For new readers, I use a power wheelchair to go further than a block from my house.

ABOVE: Jefferson @ Mills St with a curb cut only on the near side.

Not that I would dare cross Jefferson without traffic stopped but I turned that direction. After all, the curb ramp was placed to serve two directions.

ABOVE: why does this ramp point across Jefferson?

Of course, the two-direction corner curb ramp is installed without thought as to logical use. It has been a default. If a person in a wheelchair were to cross Jefferson at this point and be hit by a car the city would attempt to argue the person shouldn’t have done so. I’d argue the city, through the placement of the curb ramp, is implying that crossing Mills or Jefferson from this point is equally accessible. In fact, the ramp faces Jefferson more than Mills.

Even if I got to Stoddard St. I would have been stuck, I just noticed on Google Streetview that neither of the two crosswalks at the  signalized intersection have curb cuts on the east side of Jefferson.

If our road network was designed like our sidewalks, nobody could drive anywhere except a few select places. Pedestrian networks need to be as connected as the road they adjoin.

– Steve Patterson


Pedestrian Access Route Completed at Schlafly Bottleworks

Last October I posted about the lack of a pedestrian route to reach the Schlafly Bottleworks in Maplewood.  Pedestrians were forced to walk in spaces designed for cars, not people.  Pedestrians deserve their own route separate from crossing through automobile parking lots.  Furthermore, American’s with Disabilities Act guidelines requires such:

4.3.2 Location.

(1) At least one accessible route within the boundary of the site shall be provided from public transportation stops, accessible parking, and accessible passenger loading zones, and public streets or sidewalks to the accessible building entrance they serve. The accessible route shall, to the maximum extent feasible, coincide with the route for the general public.

Failure to provide this route is a civil rights violation, as well as being very anti-pedestrian.

I’m happy to report Schlafly has just completed constructing an access route!

ABOVE: new paving leads the pedestrian from sidewalk toward the building entrance.

Schalfly knows good  food & beer, not pedestrian access.  Responsibility to plan for pedestrian access falls to the architects & engineers hired by business owners. Unfortunately too many of these professionals fail their clients and the public by not considering how the pedestrian on the sidewalk will reach the front door.

ABOVE: Bottleworks in October 2010

I’m convinced that if design professionals actually informed their clients of the need to provide a route for pedestrians we’d see buildings get placed closer to the public sidewalk to reduce the expense of the concrete.  My preference, of course, would be for the buildings to abut the sidewalk — with no parking in between. Building codes must get caught up so this becomes something plan reviewers and building inspectors will check for.

In the meantime I’ve got thousands of business & property owners to persuade to do as Schlafly has done. I’ll probably start with Schlafly’s original location, The Tap Room, located in west downtown.

– Steve Patterson