This past July, we celebrated the 20 year anniversary of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) which among other things prohibited discrimination on the basis of disability. A major component of the ADA mandated paratransit service to help mobility-impaired and disabled Americans get from one place to another. The ADA act is focused on inclusion - adopting standard practices in urban design that make our buildings, streets, and transit more universally designed to accommodate all. A component of the ADA act requires sidewalks to be at least 3 feet wide to accommodate wheelchairs.
Naturally, I was shocked when I came across the following site a few weeks ago when I was near Merrick Park in Coral Gables.
This is the site of a recent FDOT project aimed at resurfacing Bird Road from 57th Avenue to 38th Avenue. In this image I’m standing at the Southeast corner of Ponce De Leon and Bird Road, looking north. I didn’t have the time to measure the distance between the curb and the concrete electric pole, but in person the distance certainly appeared to be less than 3 feet wide. Here is how the FDOT describes this improvement:
This project is repaving and restriping the roadway. Work also includes widening the bridge and road shoulder; building a new sidewalk on the north side of Bird Road; upgrading sidewalks and curb ramps; installing drainage materials to alleviate water build-up in the swale area; performing root pruning and trimming; removing landscaping; upgrading the lighting and installing new traffic and pedestrian signs and signals; removing existing guardrail and installing new guardrail at various locations and installing a pedestrian bridge.
Miami’s walkability level, already fairly dismal because of our autocentric growth, only deteriorates further when we litter and obstruct sidewalks with other urban clutter. Electric poles, bus stops, lights, trees, benches, and trash receptacles all have a place and a role in our urban environments; sidewalks shouldn’t sacrifice their limited alloted space within the right-of-ways to accommodate these fixtures.
We’re going to reach out to our friends at FDOT and the City of Coral Gables to see what can be done to enhance the pedestrian realm rather than simply “beautifying” and accentuating existing barriers. And, while its probably too late to have any significant impact on this project as it was slated for completion in October 2010 - we hope we can help affect change on any future improvements to the pedestrian environment throughout South Florida.
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