Tidbits from our Focus Group
We have made it through January and February into March without heavy snow. But this is New England and we never know what Mother Nature will throw our way.
I have been thinking about the information I received from a focus group we did in December with participants who were in wheelchairs and scooters. We discussed everything from the state of the streets, to the materials used, to the cost involved.
The focus group participants started the discussion by giving their opinions of the state of the sidewalks they use. Many sidewalks have holes in them – either bricks missing or the concrete pitting turns into holes. Also, tree roots lift the concrete and loosen the bricks which make it difficult to traverse the streets.
The group did not have a preference for materials as long as the sidewalks are level and smooth.
The group also seemed okay with concrete but noted that it is pitted, the spaces are too wide and it heaves more than bricks. After some discussion they agreed it was not the material but that the material be smooth. According to one of the participants, there is a stretch of brick in Central Square is a pleasure to ride over. If more brick sidewalks were like that, brick would be very acceptable. So the City is capable of laying good brick sidewalks which are pleasant for all pedestrians. We would like to see more of this.
I asked if the participants were open to using different materials for ramps if they could accomplish the same purpose – ease of getting into the street safely. One of the participants said the ramps at the apex were not safe. They are too big and when taken to get into the street, there is a danger of being hit by passing car. The size of the apron was not important to the group. They did mention that there is a jolt where the ramp ends in the street no matter what material is used and it can hurt your back.
This discussion was followed by one woman’s account of her wheelchair falling over going down a ramp. I asked if it was a brick or concrete ramp and was told it was a concrete ramp. They did not know if this was caused by a poor design or installation of the ramp. Considering that wheelchairs may weigh 500+ pounds this is very dangerous.
I will address more of their comments and concerns as the year goes on. I hope to meet and hear from others so that we may do better in the future.
Walk and ride safely.