Wheelchair Users to City Council: We Need Sidewalks to Live Life

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Pedestrians who use wheelchairs testified at the City Council’s sidewalk subcommittee. Photo: David Sachs

Stewart Tucker Lundy uses a wheelchair to travel Denver’s streets. On Wednesday, he wanted the City Council to understand how shoddy, slippery, and altogether nonexistent sidewalks affect him and others who can’t walk, so he described his plight from a windshield perspective. He asked council members to recall last week, when a rockslide closed part of I-70 in Glenwood Canyon.

“When the boulders fell in the mountains, people lost their damn minds. They really did, because they could not get up there,” Lundy said. “These are our boulders. If the sidewalk is obstructed, that is me not going to my  job. If that sidewalk is nonexistent, I’m the kind of person that isn’t contributing to society.”

Lundy, a member of the Denver Commission for People with Disabilities, testified with other residents at City Hall in front of a committee tasked with fixing the many, many cracks in Denver’s sidewalk network.

About 250 miles of city streets simply don’t have sidewalks. Of the sidewalks that do exist, no one knows how many are wide enough for wheelchairs or how many are too dilapidated to use. On top of the poor infrastructure, the city barely enforces its own policies for repairing damaged sidewalks and shoveling them after snowstorms. Nevertheless, the city claims it has met its obligations under the Americans With Disabilities Act.

That’s a whole lot of boulders.

Jackie King, another DCPD commissioner, said that when it snows she has to choose between getting to the bus stop along a busy street with no sidewalks and taking three separate buses, or paying a cab driver $100 round-trip — to see her doctor.

Said Capitol Hill resident Randy Kilbourn: “Uneven and cracked sidewalks are sometimes impassible altogether, but always cause pain or discomfort. For me a trip to the market, when I get home I’m in so much pain I can’t even put my groceries away. It’s like riding on a roller coaster because of the gyrations.”

The point of the committee on sidewalks is to find a way for every Denver neighborhood to have legitimate sidewalks so that every Denver resident can get around, even if they don’t drive. Wednesday’s meeting was the second ever for the group of council members, which hasn’t floated a solution yet.

  • neroden

    The city is not meeting its obligations with respect to the ADA — the city lawyer is bullshitting — and it would be good to see the city getting slammed with major lawsuit losses. A class action suit would probably claim hundreds of millions of dollars in compensatory damages alone.

    But it would be better if the city just started *maintaining the sidewalks* like a real city. It’s just a matter of
    (a) changing the city ordinances so that sidewalks are the city responsibility
    (b) raising a property tax or fee for sidewalk maintenance (“sidewalk benefit districts” are a good way to go)
    (c) buying suitable equipment and hiring people,
    (d) maintaining the sidewalks.

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