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A Small Pedestrian Victory

Friday night last week I was out later than usual.  After getting a veggie hot dog from Sam at Hot City Franks at 13th & Washington I started to head home.  At 16th I ran into a friend who was walking home to 10th Street.  It was around 11:45pm so I decided to escort her home.

On 10th Street at St. Charles Street I spotted this Chevy in front of a fire hydrant. While that is upsetting I was more upset by this car on St. Charles Street:

This Dodge was parked in the crosswalk and blocking the ADA curb cut.  I’ve blogged about cars blocking this ramp before.  It was now midnight and I call the police non-emergency number.  They had bigger issues to deal with on a Friday night.  As I sit there I realize that drivers may not realize the crosswalk exists.  The curb is faded yellow and the crosswalk is unmarked.

So from this spot at 12:05am I email the above photo to a trio of city officials to get some resolution.  I sent it to David Newburger, Commissioner on the Disabled, Todd Waeltermann, Director of Streets and Phyllis Young, Alderman for this ward (7th).  Newburger & Waeltermann both replied Saturday morning with Young replying on Monday morning.

Last night, less than a week later I pass by the same intersection and I’m pleased to see my requested crosswalk stripes.  Around the corner is a “no parking here to corner” sign as well.  So kudos to David Newburger, Phyllis Young and especially Todd Waeltermann for getting my requested solution completed.

Now I need to get this trio onto the problem one block West at 11th Street:

At this intersection a block away the crosswalk has two issues.  1) like the other it is not marked and 2) the near curb lacks a curb cut, eliminating the East side of 11th as a viable route for me.

I think to get action it is always a good idea to report a problem to more than one person.  In this case the three all knew the other two were aware of the same problem.  Many would have placed a phone call to the Alderman during the week but I think by going directly to the persons involved in a solution but making the elected representative aware helped speed up the fix.  Had I placed a phone call to Phyllis Young we probably would have played phone tag a few times, it would have been hard to verbalize the issue and then she would have had to turn around and do the same with others.  So before you pick up the telephone to contact your Alderman about a problem try contacting the department and/or Citizens Service Bureau by email, preferably with a picture of the problem.  Copy the appropriate Alderman on the correspondence so they are aware of the issue and request for service but the responsibility for action falls to a city staff person.

– Steve Patterson


Downtown Pedestrian Signals Dangerously Inadequate

The sidewalks in downtown St. Louis are as busy as I’ve seen them since my arrival in August 1990.  The sidewalks are increasingly busy with downtown residents, workers and visitors going about their lives and going to long-time favorites like the Arch and to newer destinations like City Museum & Citygarden. As time passes I expect we will see this upward trend continue.

But downtown’s crosswalks are a mixed bag.  Some are quite good with countdown timers in addition to push to cross buttons:

But the bulk of the intersections lack these.  In fact, throughout the City of St. Louis our pedestrian crossings are sub-standard.  I’m just focusing on downtown for this post.

If the signals don’t work or the intersection has changed it is common to simply covered over the pedestrian signals  (above &  below):

In other cases the crossing lacks a pedestrian signal all together, below:

9th & Market

We do not need another tragedy like the one on March 21, 2002:

ST. LOUIS — A Washington state woman who was one of the country’s top experts on bicycle and pedestrian safety was killed yesterday morning when she was struck by a tour bus while crossing a downtown intersection here.

Susie Stephens, 36, of Winthrop, Wash., was struck shortly after 8:30 a.m.  (Source)

In addition to consistent and improved signals we need to reduce the distances to cross many streets.  Reducing the crosswalk width to just the through lanes will help considerably.

I timed the pedestrian signal crossing 14th Street along the North side of Washington Ave.   Took 21 seconds until the walk sign began to flash to not walk.  Total time allowed was 36 seconds.  Different story crossing the considerably wider Tucker Blvd (aka 12th, map link).  There the walk sign went to flashing don’t walk in less than 4 seconds and you have 30 seconds total to cross.  Wider street but less time.

Now that we have more pedestrians we’ve got to work harder to ensure the street crossings work for people using them.

– Steve Patterson


Emergency Exit & ADA Entrance Blocked at a Tulsa QuikTrip

August 1, 2009 Accessibility, Travel 8 Comments

Yesterday morning I stopped at a QuikTrip location in Tulsa to use their restroom and get a snack for the road.  I did not park in the disabled parking spot because it was further away from the entrance (but close to the wheelchair ramp).  From my car I could see a problem at the entrance:

The extra space next to the door was packed full of merchandise.  Once through that door the problem was clear:

T0 comply with the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act you need 18″ clear to the handle side of a door you are pulling toward you and 12″ to the side of a door you are pushing away.  As I am realizing this is not just for those in wheelchairs but for all of us that have some physical challenges.  The store was designed fine but their placement of xtra stock has made the above entry non-compliant.

Heading back to the men’s room more stuff is stacked in the way.  A wheelchair would never pass through here and with a cane it is now too narrow.  It gets worse.  Around the wall to the left is an emergency exit:

And in front of the emergency exit is a power washer.

I didn’t buy anything nor did I say anything at the time – I was too angry.  A couple of hours later, at my brother’s house in Oklahoma City I look up the phone number for the QuikTrip at 15th & Denver in Tulsa.  I get a manager on the line and complain about the ADA access and the emergency exit.  He is not concerned.  I asked if it will still be cleared a week later when I pass through again.  He said, “probably not.”  I filed a complaint on the QuikTrip website.

Folks, the ADA guidelines exist for a reason.  Placing your crap in our way is very disrespectful.  Blocking emergency exits is criminal.

– Steve Patterson


Street Repaving Presents Accessibility Problem

In the short time span between the opening of Citygarden and the All-Star game the city repaved Chestnut street between Citygarden and AT&T.  Generally new paving is a good thing, except for those of us using wheelchairs.  Certainly during the time that old asphalt is removed and new installed streets can be difficult to cross.  But once the new asphalt is down it should be good, right?  Wrong.

The repaving changed the relationship with the ADA ramp at 10th & Chestnut.  As you can see in the above picture the footplate on my chair now hits the ramp on approach from the street.

Similarly, the footplate hits the asphalt when attempting to enter the crosswalk from the ramp.   I’m alerting the appropriate officials about this issue so the excess asphalt at the corner can be shaved off.

This is not the first time I’ve had to do so — it is a recurring problem.  It is hard to capture in a photo without a chair as I’ve done above but anyone with any sense should be able to see the problem.  The street paving crews must be reminded to pay attention as they are putting down new asphalt — now many other ramps out there have the same issues?  I can’t check each and every ramp in the entire city.

Thanks to my friend Marcia Behrendt for taking the above pictures.

– Steve Patterson


Accessing One Memorial Drive

The other day I had a meeting st the East-West Gateway Council of Governments, the St. Louis regional MPO. The building houses a number of firms as well as KMOV Channel 4 and KMOX radio.  I’ve been here numerous times before — including one in my wheelchair.

As you approach the building entry, above, you see the revolving door and individual doors to each side.  Obviously a wheelchair is not going through the revolving door.  So two choices remain.  Many buildings have door openers that can be activated by button — a nice feature.

There is the button just below the black square.  Interestingly they didn’t put the opener on the door on the left with the level sidewalk.  They opted for the door with the angled sidewalk.  In my power wheelchair this is not a major problem but anyone in a manual chair would have issues.  When walking with a cane I often use the openers to help with doors but I wouldn’t even think of walking near that button.

So often designers making decisions don’t realize how bad their choices are.  This door was probably selected over the left door because it is closer to the elevators.  The person that made the decision on which of the two doors would get the auto opener had a 50/50 chance of getting it right… or getting it wrong.

– Steve Patterson