www.pedbikeimages.org / Jan Moser
This new post from Strong Towns offers a helpful take on creating streets that are universally accessible. Written from the perspective of someone who both implements streets for people with disabilities and uses a wheelchair herself, the post from author Heidi Johnson-Wright highlights some of the key elements that make a street "work" for someone in a wheelchair (not to mention those of us who push strollers, etc.). Here are some
Build wide sidewalks
For me, the ideal accessible pedestrian path of travel is as wide as the sidewalks lining the great avenues of New York City. Plenty of room for walkers, wheelers, babies in strollers and then some. Lots of space for me to safely pass around slow walkers when I'm in a hurry.
Keep paving in travel ways smooth
...smooth concrete with narrow stress joints works for me. I also love wide, flat flagstones like the ones used throughout Barcelona. I dislike even the smoothest of pavers and despise brickwork. What looks like tiny seams to walkers means major up-and-down bumping for wheelers.
Avoid "cookie-cutter" curb ramps
...differences in terrain and limitations of space require different ramp designs in order to be compliant and safe. Level landings at top and bottom are essential...And please: TWO curb ramps per corner instead of a single diagonal ramp.
Keep sidewalks clear of obstructions, even temporary ones
Coordination between local public works, transit, utilities, and state DOT is essential to preventing obstructions caused by landscaping, light poles, street signs, signal boxes, bus shelters, bus benches, newspaper boxes, bike racks, etc. Just as bad are sidewalks suddenly blocked off with little or no warning...I mean many months of torn up or obstructed rights of way due to long-term construction projects which provide no alternative, accessible, safe pathway.
If you take a look at the street from last week's post, you'll see it follows the bulk of the these rules. The sidewalk could be wider, but paving along travel ways is smooth, two curb ramps are in place, and obstructions are pushed to the edge of the sidewalk in the "street furniture zone."