Balancing Appearance and Access

As I was walking in Strathearn, Edmonton yesterday, I discovered an interesting protest. Outside of a small strip mall there were wheelchairs, walkers, canes, strollers, children’s tricycles, and crutches on display. There was also a tent on which I was invited to put my signature in support of the protest.

In order to understand how this display of aids to mobility came about, it helps to see the location from an aerial perspective.

Google Maps Aerial View

The strip mall stands at the intersection of 95 Avenue and 92 Street. Directly opposite is a large seniors’ housing facility, Montgomery Place. Between the two is a crosswalk. This is how the mall appeared to crosswalk users in June 2018:

Google Maps June 2018

Then work began on a new light rail line and that section of 95 Avenue, including the mall’s service road, was dug up.

Google Maps June 2019

After the construction work was completed the transportation company, TransEd, did not replace the service road. Instead they added a row of shrubs and a sidewalk next to 95 Avenue, and they put gravel in the space between it and the strip mall’s sidewalk. The plan, they said, was to put grass in there. As you can imagine, this did not go down well with either the seniors who live across the street or parents with small children who live in the neighbourhood.

Seniors and supporters protest on the northwest corner of 92nd Street and 95th Avenue on Wednesday, Aug. 18. The seniors are trying to prevent TransEd from planting grass between the two sidewalks because they say it is not very accessible for people who use wheelchairs and walkers. (Madeleine Cummings/CBC)

In August, their concerns came to the attention of local media and, in the CBC’s article a representative of TransEd, Dallas Lindskoog, said “the plan for the corner balances the need for accessibility and connectivity” with enhanced landscaping and urban design along the whole Valley Line route. Apparently, people who have problems with balance beg to differ.

Montgomery Place resident John Cromardy says he visits the corner about three times a day. (Madeleine Cummings/CBC)

I hope that the needs of the neighbourhood will ultimately outweigh the aesthetic perceptions of the TransEd urban designers. In the mean time, it continues to be inconvenient and sometimes treacherous.

9 Comments

  1. One wonders sometimes if some people have their brains in their backside! I was under the impression (mistaken, obviously) that before such work was given the green light some sort of feasibility study was undertaken.
    That such a protest was forced to take place is an indictment of just how thoughtless some people are.
    And I’ll venture the company probably has someone among their ranks or family member who is in a similar predicament.

  2. Great way to protest! Peacefull but gets the point across. So many places are like this. Designed by people who don’t know how to think further than what they themselves need. In my local store there’s a really nice handicap ramp. It’s perfect. Really. But the manager decided to design the store so the aisles are way to narrow for a wheelchair (for my limo too). It could be nice with a demonstration like this one. I hope it helps. I often wonder why they don’t ask children, disabled and old people what they think could be practical for them. They’re the real experts. They’re more than willing to help I’m sure.

    1. Ever since my husband was in a wheelchair I have been sensitized to accessibility. It is astounding how many places have aisles that are too narrow even though the washrooms at the back of the stores are wheelchair accessible!

    1. I actually haven’t seen a mistake as big as this one in Edmonton before, but perhaps I haven’t been paying attention. I did notice they took down a row of old trees to put in a bike path, but that’s another story!

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