October 22, 2002
I want to speak strongly in favor of accessible pedestrian signals, detectable
warnings and clear barriers between roadways and pedestrian routes called for
within the recommendations of the Public Right of Way Advisory Committee to the
U.S. Access Board.
I write as a person with significant vision problems, as a frequent pedestrian
and user of mass transit, as someone with a strong interest in pedestrian
safety, as the former partner of a blind person killed at a location where, I
believe several other pedestrians had also been killed, and as the aunt of a
two-year-old. Two-year-olds and their multiply distracted parents need all the
help they can get to stay within bounds of places like crosswalks; measures that
will help blind people will almost certainly also help my nephew, his mother,
and many people like them.
I do not feel competent to evaluate some of the engineering issues raised in
many of the comments I read while preparing to write my comments. I generally
prefer strong articulartion of targets with a menu of options for how to meet
those targets over broad sweeping mandates, but I think creation of standards is
vital for discussion of how to create a built environment that meets the needs
of many different people.
I use the word "people" here specifically because I am very skeptical of group
pronouncements ostensibly on behalf of people who might or might not share
characteristics with me.
I have experience with some low-budget alternatives to sidewalks in my
neighborhood in Seattle based on elevated asphalt strips along roadways. This
approach is better than no sidewalks, which is another too common occurrence. I
cannot speak for how well the elevation break works for blind people. However,
Too me it seems like the particular method in use there does not offer clear
enough break w ith the roadway to allow drivers reduced risk of hitting
pedestrians, be they blind sighted, purple or green-haired, toddlers, schoolkids,
the elderly or presumably able-bodied.
As to unintended consequences, I absolutely think unintended consequences must
be embraced. We can build all the accessible bus stops we want, but they will do
no good at all if, for example, one cannot get safely from the bus stop to one's
final destination. In my experience, often the most dangerous part of a trip is
the last 1/4 mile or so from a bus stop to the door of my destination. I realize
that articulating ways to address this point is probably beyond the scope of
this particular report, but I do not believe unintended consequences are
necessarily a valid reason to reject all the work done so far.
Thank you very much for noting my comments.