Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Dangerous Walking

Every year that there's significant snow in the winter (not last year), there are plows. And covered sidewalks. And steep snowbanks. This winter is starting out like usual, and very tragically for one person.

In Blackstone, a woman walking home with her groceries, unable to walk on the sidewalk due to snowbanks, was run down by a snowplow and killed.

Several years ago, we in the disability community in Salem lost one of our best people, Tiffany Park, when she and her scooter were run down in Lynn, when she was on the way to church services. She was also forced to use the street.

For the most part, I accept winter and the compromises one has to make. I accept that I might have more problems getting around.

But I am perennially dismayed and frustrated at the great number of unplowed sidewalks in and around Salem. City ordinance requires sidewalks to be shoveled after a storm. But that's not the biggest problem.

The way in which streets are plowed after storms is even worse. Imagine a street with a T intersection, crossed by another street or, most commonly, a driveway. Usually, one plow driver from the DPW will take care of the street. A private operator with another truck or a Bobcat will do the driveway that might go back into a parking lot. The two plows will work and move the snow.

The snow ends up on the sidewalk. The natural action of the plows pushes snow to the sides, and when a plow crosses a street to do a driveway, the snow builds up in huge pillars at the corners.

Even if sidewalks are plowed in front of any one building, one often cannot go on the sidewalk; it may be blocked by a pillar, or black ice at a driveway, etc.

For walking any distance, I am forced in the street. This is downright scary.

My neighborhood, the street grid around St. Peter & Federal is one example that proves my point, with its many driveways into 10 Federal, St. John's and St. Peter's Church. Even when an individual building is plowed, the driveways make it very treacherous to walk. The Museum Place lot has no plowed sidewalks at all.

As well, many commercial establishments will plow their parking lots but not the public sidewalks that front them. The most dangerous place in Salem, I'm convinced, is the bus stop outside Market Basket (northbound Highland Ave.) Jersey barriers are more forgiving than the frozen snowbanks that cover the sidewalk there. It is not possible for even an able-bodied person (and I am NOT mobility-impaired!) to mount the snowbanks to wait for a bus.

Snow plowing and its responsiblities (and fines!) have been very contentious in Salem in past winters. This has been discussed at our commission meetings; unfortunately, too many feel that people complaining about sidewalks should move to Florida or stay homebound in the winter. I'm certainly not thrilled about bringing this issue up every year.

Source: WHDH-TV - New England News - Police seek snow plow driver after hit-and-run death

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