Environment featured Inclusion

Dangerous sidewalk closure on Young Street: Halifax hostility to sidewalk users must end

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – A sidewalk closure on Young Street requires pedestrians, wheelchair and mobility scooter users to take a detour of more than 500 metres to access essential services. 

The serious accessibility issue is flagged in a post on twitter by Jeff Blair with the accompanying above map showing the detour, and photos. It is caused by the construction at 6189 Young Street of a mixed use tower

Walk n Roll Halifax reported:@hfxplanning was told of the disruption this created, in particular for blind and partially sighted persons, over a week ago. Apparently no corrective action yet.

The Halifax Municipality website provides only the following briefest of information about the closure, with nothing additional on any suggested detour or how long it will remain closed:

“Sidewalk encroachment to facilitate construction at 6189 Young Street.”

The Municipality often posts information on social media about road closures affecting motorists, but no information was provided on this significant sidewalk closure along a route used extensively by pedestrians, cyclists and disabled vulnerable road users. The Halifax planning team provided a response today today on twitter stating that their team are “working with the developer to remedy the issue”.

Twitter users commented how in other cities a detour is provided along the road itself, using simple safety barriers. Given the significant detour and dangerous width of this road, that would certainly be the required option here.

Regional Council recently approved an Accessibility Strategy which included this welcome Vision:

“Making Halifax a truly accessible and welcoming community to persons with disabilities requires changes in key areas, such as the representation of individuals with disabilities within our organization. This may also take the form of adapting our current transportation, infrastructure, and recreational facilities to be open and inclusive to all persons regardless of ability.” 

The goals include the undertaking of an infrastructure audit (Goal 1, page 27). This is a significant and urgently needed undertaking which must be led by feedback from those most compromised by unsafe and unrealistic sidewalk detours, also by crosswalks that in no way accommodate all age and ability safety requirements.

It has been interesting to see the Municipality act almost immediately following a fire in a crisis shelter used by homeless persons to remove the shelters, citing liability concerns

This situation is no different – an impossibly lengthy detour for the elderly and disabled detours can only result in endangerment and significant risk to users. This kind of issue is not an aspirational long term aim. It is a short term and essential requirement needing immediate redress, within hours.

A lack of consideration to anyone outside of a vehicle does not belong in a city where a very significant number of road users may at any time be either rolling or on foot, and a proportion of those will be physically unable to undertake a detour of half a kilometre to access shops and services, therefore being required to cross the road at a very dangerous location.

The Municipality claims to be evolving by accommodating the needs of all road users. However that process must take place in far more than specific “flagship” road redesign projects: Vulnerable road users in urban and suburban communities need to access all areas, at all times.

Staff and leadership must dig deeper and look further to ensure their policies and approach to access and infrastructure includes everyone and prioritizes the least able in much more than words and aspirations.

Furthermore, they should not rely on social media users volunteering their time to warn vulnerable road users on issues caused by dangerous sidewalk closures and crosswalks, nor assume they do it for the public reaction.  

If the Municipality considers approving a very significant detour to be reasonable and within the remit of any policy that requires them to consider disability and age related disadvantages, then post details of it publicly. Explain how they have considered the unique requirements of seniors, children and disabled people. Then both acknowledge and address any issues flagged by users. 

Simply, the Municipality must assess and consider the full range of road user requirements and abilities. It is time to significantly step up the efforts to address the age-old and embedded attitude that vehicular traffic flow is a more important priority than vulnerable road user safety and accessibility, and review the infrastructure requirements and policies that are essential for their mobility.

See also: Sidewalk closures must address the needs and abilities of all pedestrians.

If you walk, cycle or use a wheelchair and are affected by road safety issues, please join HRM Safe Streets for Everyone. If your local crosswalk needs a crosswalk flag, please contact the Crosswalk Safety Society. Please remember to report issues affecting your safety to our municipal authorities using the 311 service.

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