Safety and Accessibility!
Here in the HRM, road and sidewalk work is regularly performed with – or without – a “Sidewalk Closed. Use Other Side!” sign.
Far too many times have I seen people forced to contend with these sidewalk closures – parents with strollers, elderly who don’t walk as sprightly as when they were younger, people with injuries or in wheelchairs, any type of person.
Often, if not most of the time, there is no way to safely cross the road at the beginning of the construction zone, and returning, crossing the street, walking the full length again, crossing the street again is not reasonable to expect of people with any sort of mobility challenge. Many people of all sorts choose to sneak along near the construction zone.
Several years ago, I walked the length of the Bedford Highway from the Hammonds Plains Road into Halifax. That day, I had the bad luck of encountering extensive sidewalk and road repairs for nearly a kilometre in length. There was NO safe way to cross 4 lanes of traffic. There was NO practical way to return to a safe crossing, cross, and return the length of the highway to another point where I would have to re-cross the road. There was not one person as safety crew holding a sign to help any pedestrian cross either the road or the construction zone safely. As I crossed the construction zone, there were moving machines with no look-out as a team member. This was a bizarre and surreal experience for me. I could hardly believe that this negligence regarding pedestrian safety could be allowed.
I have experienced a better way – both safer and more accessible – of implementing sidewalk construction than what we have here now with our: “CLOSED. USE OTHER SIDE!” sign technique.
Just like vehicle road construction when new lanes are set out by pylons, or when only one lane is usable and sign holders are required to safely direct the flow of traffic through the construction zone, I propose that we make certain that construction which closes sidewalks should also make certain to provide tools for the safe flow of pedestrian traffic along the sidewalk.
- Pylons or cement road blocks – Many times, our roads are wide enough to allow for a demarcated temporary sidewalk along the edge of the construction zone. On certain faster flowing roads, concrete blocks would likely be preferred for safety.
- Sign Holders – I always try to say hello or wave thanks to sign holders. It is a tough job, but very important for everyone’s safety. In the fewer cases where safety cannot be mitigated by simple demarcation of a “detour path”, sign holders should be a mandatory safety requirement. In the Bedford Highway construction episode I described above, the extra cost for safety would have been insignificant when considering the cost of the project as a whole.
We cannot put a cost on the safety of our residents!
We can easily make construction zones safer and more accessible, without undue added costs.