Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Asphalt for Parking, Sidewalks for Walking

Since I fell in December, I've been hobbling around with a little help. First with the aid of crutches; and since about January by the use of a hand-me-down cane that used to belong to my father.

Without health care my rehab and physical therapy has consisted mostly of walking around town. Our being blessed with such nice weather this season, has made it a no-brainer, except for when I developed a bit of arthritis in my good knee.

I'm not quite ready to put the cane back in the closet for the next time I wrench a knee. But, walking IS getting better with more and more mileage I add to my tally.

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There've been a couple of things that I've observed the more I walk around town.

First off, the number of other people walking around with a third leg of some sort. We're not just talking about elderly either.

Before starting to walk with a cane, the most I'd really notice were those walking with a four legged walker. Now it seems like there are people with canes everywhere I go.

In fact, on one trip to church on Sunday, I saw no less then three other people in a span of three blocks of downtown Oakland walking with canes. All were in the 30-40 year range.

I'm hoping I'll shortly be at a point where I won't have to use it. But, having done so now for going on six months has created a fuller appreciation for those who are afflicted with permanent disabilities.

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The other thing that I've noticed is the continued encroachment on sidewalks by parked vehicles, especially in residential areas.

Years ago, a family friend was visiting our house. One morning he came out to find a parking ticket on his front windshield for blocking the sidewalk.

Mind you this was probably 15 years before the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The driveway of my childhood home was pretty short by today's standards. However, it was also extra wide, with enough room for people to walk around the vehicle, with space to spare.

Flash forward to 2012.

Last year, Albany, CA's Planning & Zoning Commission took up a discussion about the narrow section of Washington Ave between Pierce Street and Gateview Avenue.

Not sure when it started. But, residents have taken to parking with the right wheels of their cars on top of the sidewalk.

The explanation given was that this was a narrow street, and if cars on both sides of the street parked legally, then there would barely be enough room for a vehicle to get through (especially a large SUV). People were basically concerned about their cars getting hit.

As I remember it, several options were to be studied. Making the block one way; keeping it two-way, but eliminating the parking on one side of the street; possibly others. I don't remember all of them off the top of my head.

That study must've went by the way side. Either that, or they've decided to continue to allow people to park illegally, because it seems like nothing has changed.

Being that this block of Washington is extremely steep the chances of someone using a wheel chair to go through are probably not great.

The same CANNOT be said for Pierce Street.

At least a couple of times a week I walk the full length of Pierce Street. For the most part people park legally. However, there's a narrowing of the street, north of Washington Avenue, right around Calhoun Street, where there are more than a handful of vehicles which seem to constantly park over the sidewalk.

Sometimes only a little. Sometimes taking up over half the sidewalk, leaving only enough space for a person to walk crabwise through. (Heaven help anyone who might be in a wheel chair. They would simply be out of luck!)

Big SUVs, vans and trucks, I might understand an owner's rationale. But, once there was a Mini Cooper which had more car on the sidewalk than in the street!

No matter how you try and rationalize it, illegal parking is…illegal.

The next time you pull your vehicle up over that curb ask yourself what it would be like if you, yourself, had a disability, and were forced to ride a wheel chair everywhere you go. (And also, check into Uninsured Driver coverage on your auto policy.)  

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In case anyone is wondering where I've been, I haven't given up blogging. I just decided to take the month of May off to recharge my batteries. Then I looked at a calendar today and realized I'm almost half way through June as well!

Hopefully, look for at least one new entry a week. More, if things come to mind.

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