Corners without curb cuts Broken sidewalks Ficus tree sidewalk upheaval Poorly signaled traffic lights Cars in driveways blocking sidewalk Fallen trees across sidewalk Sidewalks closed indefinitely for construction Mysterious deep puddles (it hasn’t rained in months) City parking lot without elevator or pedestrian ramp Sprinklers watering sidewalk Drivers turning right without yielding to pedestrians Lack… Read more »
Corners without curb cuts
Ficus tree sidewalk upheaval
Poorly signaled traffic lights
Cars in driveways blocking sidewalk
Fallen trees across sidewalk
Sidewalks closed indefinitely for construction
Mysterious deep puddles (it hasn’t rained in months)
City parking lot without elevator or pedestrian ramp
Sprinklers watering sidewalk
Drivers turning right without yielding to pedestrians
Lack of crosswalks
Crosswalks only on one side of street
Crosswalks riddled with potholes
When I was on maternity leave this year, I became a serious walker. Walking was the best way to soothe the baby and also to give me some time to think and relax: A win-win situation for both of us—except for the above list of impediments we faced on a regular basis in my Los Angeles neighborhood alone. Often it was easiest to walk up and down my own street, a monotonous journey, just to keep moving. The thing is, my neighborhood is supposedly pretty walkable: According to walkscore.com, Carthay Circle merits a Walk Score of 86.
That got me thinking. If walking with a stroller is such a pain, how much more difficult must it be for people in wheelchairs, the elderly with walkers, and so on. I am very much in favor of making Los Angeles a more “walkable” city, but perhaps we should be broadening the terms. The word “pedestrian,” after all, means “on foot” which and doesn’t cover those who are neither traveling by foot nor by vehicle. Public conversations about “walkability” seem to be separate from conversations about ADA accessibility, and that is a problem. Walking websites, for example, advertise appealing advocacy events that do not appear to be accessible to those with disabilities. A recent post on the LA Walks website promotes a guerilla-style walk to Dodger Stadium during which the LA Walks staff will “help document the points of improvement along the way so that we can build a better plan to change our streets.” This sounds like a fantastic event, but the very people who could contribute the most to this conversation, those with physical disabilities, probably imagine (correctly) that this event is impossible for them.
In my own perusal of the web, the dialog around walkability is vibrant, fun, and grassroots, while the dialog around ADA accessibility issues can come off as dry, practical, and legalistic. Perhaps this is in part due to the fact that many people lack a personal connection to viewing the world through the lens of the disabled. I am in no way comparing pushing a stroller to being disabled, but pushing a stroller has given me a glimpse of life on wheels. A huge percentage of people will be new parents at some point in their lives. And while we may only temporarily feel outrage at the streetscape failings that plague the disabled on a daily basis, maybe we can harness that outrage and use it toward the greater good.