Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Pedestrian concerns

There are pedestrian concerns, which are matters of little import, and there are pedestrian concerns, which are about real pedestrians, including those on wheels.

Every day I see news stories about people in wheelchairs, people who are blind, people who are deaf and those with other disabilities being hit by cars.   The stories are graphic - the photos real.  Remains of a power chair lie scattered on a city street.  A victim's shoes, bloodied, remain on a crosswalk.

Sometimes the story emphasizes that the pedestrian was violating the law- crossing in the wrong place, for example. It never says whether there was construction going on, or if other obstacles prevented the person from using a crosswalk or if there even was a crosswalk that was clearly delineated and accessible.

I've found as a wheelchair user that I can't assume there are curb cuts that lead to a crosswalk. I can't assume that sidewalks are passable so I sometimes find myself in the street when I don't care to be there at all. Once in a while, I am in a position that if I was hit by a car - and I could be - I would technically be in the wrong , but short of a helicopter descending from the sky and lifting my wheelchair over the obstacle, there is no other way for me to get around.

That's the story that's never written.  It may sound like a pedestrian concern, a trivial matter, to some. A lot of these folks have no other way to get around.  Why are they on unsafe roads at night? They don't have other transportation.  Why are they crossing busy, unsafe intersections? They have to get around and no one has made them safe - even when people have pointed out the issues.

The stories sometimes get told -- of the senior citizen trying to get to the food store which is on a highway, of the disabled person heading toward their medical appointment or social engagement and on and on. Many times, however, only the statistics remain in the story - the time of the accident, who hit who, and often the mistake made by the driver or the victim, which, I suppose, in the end, we all know doesn't change who is most likely to get maimed or killed.

If you asked their families and loved ones of these victims if winding up as road kill was their life plan, I bet they would say no.

If you asked if it was an accident waiting to happen, some would say yes, most of the time.

If you asked if there was any other way for these folks to get around, they would say no, almost all of the time.

Pedestrian concerns on a Wednesday morning, as usual. Lists of accidents, as usual.

Solutions to transportation issues? Not so forthcoming.

Today I will be tweeting stories of pedestrian accidents. As I can .  When I can.  Join me. Raise awareness.


JenniferThieme said...

Thank you for raising awareness, accidents like this happen too often. I recommend the Alert Light, a safety light and flag, for all wheelchairs and mobility scooters. It was created due to a request from James Wilcox, an employee of Valley Metro Transit System in Arizona who saw too many accidents.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Jennifer. Some people also use wheelchair lights or reflective triangles, like this one

Audacity Filmworks said...

I also recommend light-up casters, which you can get at SportAid. They are a great safety feature and also get noticed and commented on (even from other wheelchair users).

Having lived in countries with far less safe/competent/pedestrian-friendly driving (Asia, mostly), I have learned to be over-paranoid when on the roads. I find that some people from the US and Canada don't do things like look both ways before crossing or make eye contact with the driver. That can go a long way as well. Defensive walking/rolling, as I call it.

Ruth said...

Thanks for your suggestion.

As a wheelchair pedestrian, I agree it's a two way street safety wise and that there are other places that are far worse.

Nevertheless, I'm very cautious as a disability advocate about taking US drivers off the hook - I've personally experienced far too many who fail to acknowledge ANY pedestrians no matter what safety efforts the pedestrians make. The reality is that they're driving tons o' metal!

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