A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.
Often I write about walking, so it may come as a surprise to some that while my aim remains to find ways of alternative transportation when it comes to shifting this bulk from place to place, ultimately I’m bound by auto-centrism just as much as the next surly curmudgeon.
It is a fact, and I thoroughly detest it. Cars don’t define my humanity; they constrain and warp it. I firmly believe that future generations will look back and ask: “What were they thinking?”
The answer is easy. We weren’t.
Earlier this week I was driving my mother back to her apartment at Silvercrest from an appointment. Nearing the eastbound I-64 ramp from I-265 W, the rear view mirror displayed a very fast-moving red pickup truck, closing rapidly at the very moment I was deaccelerating for the on-ramp.
Interstate on-ramps generally compel a driver to merge to the left, into the lane with ostensibly slower traffic. This isn’t the case at the I-64 E ramp from I-265 W. One must merge to the right, joining faster traffic as it thunders from the highlands down the “cut” toward the bridge.
For those planning to exit at New Albany, as was my intent, it requires first merging into the fastest lane, then cutting across traffic through the center lane, all the way to the right.
The red pickup already was tailgating me as we came down the sloping grade. There was daylight to the west in both left and center lanes, and as soon as I could, I merged and began easing toward the center lane, one eye on the rear view mirror, where the way would have been clear – except the red pickup jerked hard to the right, trying to make it past me in the center lane.
But I was already there, and the far right lane had a semi rig in it. The pickup’s driver slammed the breaks, veered left, and rushed around me in a flash. I had barely enough time to see two noteworthy objects: A blue municipal license plate, and a Floyd County Highway Department insignia on the passenger door.
Within seconds, the pickup easily topped 80 mph, racing toward the New Albany exit. I gave my horse the whip, but a Ford Fusion has only so much energy to give; besides, my mother was in the car with me. No rage at all, ma'am, and there simply wasn’t any chance to get close enough to record the license plate number.
County government’s red pickup truck kept going gangbusters down the ramp, rolled quickly through the stop sign on Spring Street, and instead of turning left on Market – surely the driver's speed and recklessness indicated an urgent need to get to the emergency room – it proceeded straight, toward Main.
Perhaps it was a Chick fil-A delivery to the Pine View Government Center?
At last Thursday’s city council meeting, according to these minutes, at-large councilman Al Knable briefly quizzed street department chief Mickey Thompson.
Dr. Knable stated that he met with a constituent at his request and walked the Coyle site and they had some concerns about ADA and some of the sidewalks not being wheelchair accessible. He said that with the construction going on the south side of Spring Street, he didn’t know if the corner project at 5th Street could be accelerated so that some ramps could be put in. He added that right now there is no continuous way for someone on a rascal or wheelchair to go east to west or vice versa. He thought maybe our attorney and the builder’s attorney could look at it to make sure we are in compliance.
Mr. Thompson stated that he could look into it.
Note that Mr. Thompson sits on New Albany's somnolent Board of Works, which has met roughly eight times since the access issue first was reported on November 29 at NA Confidential. We've been waiting on the newspaper to notice the Coyle site sidewalk failure. Unfortunately, it's been down a reporter for the NA beat,
Since September. But I digress.
(Mr. Thompson) also stated he told them that they could put up their fence but they had to keep one side open so if they closed the sidewalk on one side, the other side had to be accessible. He added that we also have the sidewalk project going on at 5th Street so that may have caused the problem.
Dr. Knable stated that there are a couple of areas where the ramps are accessible but there’s clearly one gap about midway through the site that you can’t get through.
Mr. Thompson stated that he is in contact with the manager of the project so he can get with him and look at it.
Dr. Knable recommended that it be treated like if it were downtown Indianapolis and everything done with wayfaring signs and access.
Kudos to the councilman for mentioning Indianapolis, where efforts are made in the vast majority of cases to clearly delineate interruptions to sidewalk access, under the presumption that even if city officials don't see a problem during their trips back and forth by car, sidewalk users nonetheless exist -- and some of them are handicapped.
Let's be clear. It is the city of New Albany’s responsibility to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), but in this instance, those city officials who might reasonably be expected to ensure compliance meekly stepped aside, fingers crossed, and turned matters over to a contractor – and we're to believe that not a soul noticed when the handicapped ramps were blocked by temporary fencing.
If none of them noticed, and I suspect they did, it wouldn't be surprising. If institutional walkability consciousness can be measured in negative numbers, that's where you'll find Team Gahan's marks: Less than zero.
Two blocks away from the Break Wind construction site, on the east side of 3rd Street between Main and Market, the sidewalk has been blocked for years by cars allowed to park atop it.
Nothing is said, nothing is done.
The same has been true for months on the southeastern corner of 15th and Spring, where automobiles parked at the business there routinely block the public's right of way, forcing rascals and wheelchairs to detour on the street itself.
Nothing is said, nothing is done.
When it snows, municipal and private contractors alike push mounds of snow away from precious parking places, squarely into the path of pedestrians.
Nothing is said ... that's right: And nothing is done.
Did I mention the city’s obligation to comply with the ADA?
Perhaps the able-bodied are the only ones who matter in our brave new Gahanian pretend-world, where voters drive cars, and wheelchair users have only themselves to blame when their ramps disappear. It's as much of a human rights issue as any other, but I'll be surprised if there is any mention of it at the quarterly meeting of Southern Indiana Equality later tonight.
There are points to be made here, both great and small, though I’ll confine myself to just one.
Is it really asking too much to expect local government employees, and by extension local government itself, to serve as examples of the importance of enforcing law, rather than ease in evading it?
January 21: ON THE AVENUES: When I grow up, I'd like to be alive.
January 14: ON THE AVENUES: Should the Queen fail to rescue us, there's always H. L. Mencken.
January 7: ON THE AVENUES: You know, that time when Roger interviewed himself.
December 31: ON THE AVENUES: My 2015 in books and reading.
December 24: ON THE AVENUES: Fairytale of New Albania (2015 mashup).