The WWBPA is slowly making progress on improving the accessibility of sidewalks and crosswalks. Some work has already started or is in the capital budget and should be completed this fiscal year, so by June 30. Such improvements, particularly those affecting access between township properties, such as the Municipal Complex and parks, transportation and businesses, are not only obvious but in many cases are required under the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA. These improvements make a huge difference not only to people like Michael Ogg, a WWBPA trustee and a wheelchair user for several years, and other people with disabilities, but also to the general public: those pushing strollers, the elderly, young children on bicycles.
But what about a trail that goes nowhere? A trail whose purpose is simply to allow its users to enjoy the outdoors or to explore the woods? Yes, there are trails around Community Park and the Ron Rogers Arboretum, certainly the Trolley Line Trail, but not in the woods. West Windsor is fortunate to have so much open space, but shouldn’t people who use wheelchairs also be able to enjoy it? The WWBPA thinks so and is exploring with Friends of West Windsor Open Space the possibility of creating an accessible trail. A good candidate location is in the woods adjacent to the Ron Rogers Arboretum with a trailhead at the “hat” memorial.
A suitable surface is boardwalk or crushed stone: solid enough for wheels but still permeable and environmentally appropriate. Tell us what you think about this.
Township Council recently adopted the shared space concept as fundamental to the lawsuit settlement with InterCap over the new Princeton Junction Transit Village. Under this concept, motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians share the roadway as peers. But is it safe?
Overall, “reported accidents have decreased substantially.” In one location, however, minor injury collisions persisted, and “bicyclists were overrepresented”. Significantly, “police report only a (minor) part of the accidents. Particularly bicycle and pedestrian accidents are often not reported to the police. This means that reliable and valid conclusions regarding the safety of cyclists and pedestrians cannot be made.”
What makes shared space work? “At low speeds people have more time for communication and the interpretation of verbal and non-verbal utterances.”
What keeps it from working? “Children and people with a visual or mental handicap cannot be expected to comply. Also, the elderly are not always able to anticipate and react in time, especially not when it is crowded and many things happen in a short period. This group (in total 25% percent of the population!) runs a substantially raised risk.”
How do people feel about shared space? “Most respondents do not think the situations are safe. Both car drivers and bicyclists and pedestrians are critical about it. In Haren remarkably many people (90%) demand a clear choice regarding the position of the bicycle: either on a bicycle lane or on the carriageway. The experts prefer the bicyclist on the carriageway; the public prefers a separate recognizable lane.”
The WWBPA supports the shared space concept, but recognizes that to work, all roadway users must be provided with subtle guidance as to the preferred positioning within the space. Bicyclists must be encouraged to stay out of the way of opening car doors (the “door zone”), such as through the use of a special color or pattern of pavement to guide where they ride.
The current (pre-settlement) language in the redevelopment ordinance calls for buffered bike lanes to achieve this goal. This goal can be achieved in the shared space concept, but the language regarding bike lanes is proposed to be removed. Please contact our public officials with your questions or concerns regarding the safety of our proposed new shared space.
Join us as we take a videoed walk down Main Street in West Windsor, Rt 571, from the arboretum opposite the high school at Clarksville Road to the gateway to the Princeton Junction train station at Wallace Road. We’ll see just how close we are to having a sidewalk along the entire 0.7 mile stretch! It should be noted that we’re walking along the south side of 571, since the north side has almost no sidewalks. Only a few gaps exist, at:
a house just before the Professional Center
the Valero gas station
the Schlumberger building
Coldwell Banker building
Sovereign Bank building
A crosswalk and pedestrian signal is missing across Alexander Road between the Valero and Shell gas stations. The curb ramp is too steep at the Sunoco station, but they’re missing at:
the arboretum crossing 571 and Clarksville
Windsor Plaza (ex-Acme) shopping center, crossing 571 at Sherbrooke
Sidewalk repair is needed for broken or raised slabs at:
a house near Clarksville
Windsor Plaza (ex-Acme) shopping center
And that’s all! Please join the West Windsor Bicycle and Pedestrian Alliance in encouraging the township to work with the responsible parties to complete our Main Street, making us a more pedestrian friendly community.
The Americans with Disabilities Act, or simply ADA, turned 20 this past July. The ADA has had a huge impact on the lives not only of people living with a disability, but also on their families, friends and colleagues. However, the impact spreads wider still. An elderly person opening a heavy door by pushing a button, a passenger at the station pulling a heavy bag up a ramp, a parent with a stroller using a curb ramp at an intersection: all of these are examples of how changes mandated by the ADA benefit all of us, able-bodied and disabled alike.
But wait, there’s more! There are provisions in the ADA that require federal, state and local governments to provide “Accessible Routes” (as defined by the ADA Standards for Accessible Design) between government facilities, including parks, and transportation and commercial centers.
The sidewalk on North Post Road between the Municipal Complex and the station?
The sidewalk on 571 between Ron Rogers Arboretum and businesses on 571?
Curb ramps on the 571 and Clarksville Rd. Intersection?
These are all required by the ADA. This is why the WWBPA also advocates for the implementation of ADA requirements: issues of people with disabilities are also issues for pedestrians and vice versa.
For more information on the ADA and in particular the Standards for Accessible Design, visit ada.gov.
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The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston has released Professor Lex Frieden’s study (an online survey of disability leaders), Impact of the ADA on Communities, a report of the status of improvements for the disabled 20 years after adoption of the American with Disabilities Act in July 1990.
The report indicates that there have been significant improvements for the disabled population. As well, the report highlights areas where more work is needed to fully implement the ADA and to enable people with disabilities to reach their goals of independence, self determination, and full participation in society.
Highlights of the report:
Two-thirds of people with disabilities who were polled in the study believe that ADA has been the most significant social, cultural or legislative influence on their lives in the past 20 years.
The ADA’s greatest impact has been improvements in access to public accommodations.
Other areas of significant agreement regarding improvement are employment, transportation, and public awareness.
Overall, more than 90% of the survey respondents believe that quality of life for people with disabilities in communities across America has improved greatly since passage of the ADA.
Progress still needed:
The biggest disappointment of the disability leaders who were surveyed is the lack of progress by people with disabilities toward reaching goals of economic independence.
Respondents were also disappointed in the impact of the ADA on healthcare, housing, and employment.
Improvements in access to public accommodations, transportation and public awareness are consistently acknowledged, but the need for further compliance is evident.
Lex Frieden is Professor of Biomedical Informatics and of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) and Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Baylor College of Medicine. Frieden, who uses a wheelchair following a 1967 traffic accident in which his spinal cord was severed, helped craft the ADA, which was signed into law by President George H. W. Bush on July 26, 1990.
The WWBPA continues to advocate for ADA compliance in the township and issued a assessment of compliance in February 2010, concluding:
… with the notable exception of intersections and crosswalks, which have a large scope and must be addressed, despite a fairly long list, the work required to bring the Township’s facilities into ADA compliance is fairly modest. We suggest that by aggressively pursuing its statutory requirements, the Township could gain statewide prominence as a community friendly to the needs of its many disabled residents and visitors. Such action would certainly be recognized at least at the state level by government and the many organizations representing the disabled.
“The streets of our cities and towns are an important part of the livability of our communities. They ought to be for everyone, whether young or old, motorist or bicyclist, walker or wheelchair user, bus rider or shopkeeper. But too many of our streets are designed only for speeding cars, or worse, creeping traffic jams.
Now, in communities across the country, a movement is growing to complete the streets. States, cities and towns are asking their planners and engineers to build road networks that are safer, more livable, and welcoming to everyone.
Instituting a complete streets policy ensures that transportation planners and engineers consistently design and operate the entire roadway with all users in mind – including bicyclists, public transportation vehicles and riders, and pedestrians of all ages and abilities.”
The federal Department of Transportation recently adopted a policy to support “the development of fully integrated active transportation networks. The establishment of well-connected walking and bicycling networks is an important component for livable communities, and their design should be a part of Federal-aid project developments.”
RFB&D is the nation’s largest audio textbook and literature library, serving students with print and learning disabilities. Volunteers read and record its extensive collection, with thousands of new titles added each year in every subject and grade level. Road Biking New Jersey contains 35 rides of varying length, terrain, and difficulty; Hammell designed the routes for the average recreational rider.
The following letter was sent to Mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh and Township Council members:
This year on July 26th, we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Some time after passage of the ADA, on July 13, 1992, the Township of West Windsor adopted a resolution approving its ADA Transition Plan (the Plan), as required by federal law. The Plan documented the items of ADA non-compliance and undertook to rectify them all by January 26, 1995, also as required by federal law.
In the last month, some West Windsor residents did a partial audit to determine which items in the Plan had been rectified, which had not, and which items post-dating the Plan, and therefore also post-dating the passage of the ADA, were still not ADA-compliant. I present to you our report. I assume that you will not grant me time to go through the report item by item at this time, but I will summarize by saying that there are major violations with virtually all the sites inspected, including the very stepped platform upon which you are seated, and which the Township pledged to make wheelchair-accessible by January 26, 1995, over fifteen years ago.
I have the following questions:
When can we expect these and other non-compliant items to be rectified? Until they are rectified, the Township is in violation of federal law.
The Plan has never been updated. When does the Township intend to update its Plan, as required by the ADA? The law requires that “the plan should be updated periodically.” I suspect that 18 years is a rather greater interval than Congress had intended.
Will the Township create an independent Accessibility Committee, as several New Jersey Townships have done, to monitor its ADA compliance, ensure that such lapses do not reoccur, and promote the accessibility needs of its disabled residents and visitors? It would be appropriate for this committee to be formed and functioning well before the July 26th ADA anniversary date.
Will the Township and its officials, to show its commitment to the ADA, join with other local, state and federal government officials in celebrating the 20th anniversary of the signing of the ADA this July 26th, 2010?
I didn’t know Edward. I learned of his Tuesday death in East Windsor yesterday. Edward had Cerebral Palsy, CP. I don’t know the extent of his disability but he was riding a tricycle which is about halfway between a bicycle and a wheelchair. Cyclists probably relate to him as a fellow cyclist; I relate to him as a disabled person using a mobility device. Edward was riding his tricycle on Dutch Neck Road, a not especially busy suburban road, although there are some straight stretches where cars go quite fast. He was riding in the shoulder, or rather what was left of the shoulder after incomplete snow removal. He was struck from behind by a car and was thrown off his tricycle. He was taken to Robert Wood Johnson Hospital but was dead on arrival. The driver has since been charged with vehicular homicide; that’s little comfort to Edward.
I have Multiple Sclerosis, MS, and use a power wheelchair. Although MS and CP are very different diseases, there are many similarities in their symptomatologies. As with several acquaintances of mine with CP, I try to live life to the full despite my disability. I go everywhere in my wheelchair in all weather, even in the snows we’ve been having in the last few weeks. I haven’t been able to drive for a few years now so the wheelchair is all I’ve got. Very often I have to use the road: often there’s no sidewalk, or the sidewalk is too badly damaged by broken paving slabs or tree roots, or it’s impassable because residents haven’t cleared brush, or, as now, residents haven’t cleared snow or snow plows have used curb ramps as convenient dumping places for snow, or, also as now, I have decubitus ulcers and the jarring and bumping from even a passable sidewalk is too painful. If there’s a shoulder or bike lane I’ll use it. I have a fast wheelchair: not as fast as an average cyclist but faster than a slow cyclist or average runner, so if there’s no shoulder nor usable sidewalk I’ll use the road. I’m sure this sort of calculation was familiar to Edward.
Tomorrow I have to go to the Kessler Institute in West Orange for Occupational and Physical Therapy. I made my transportation arrangements on Tuesday. I have to take the train to Newark and then made a reservation with NJ Transit’s disability service, Access Link, to take me from Newark to West Orange. I don’t particularly like Access Link: apart from having to make arrangements at least 24 hours in advance, the pickup time is only within a 40 minute window, the driving time is very unpredictable (it could be 20 minutes or if there are other pickups as much as one and a half hours), and it is unusual to get exactly the times one needs. For this trip, either it was too early (I have a home assistant who comes at 6 a.m. to wash and dress me: I’m not ready until 7:30 a.m.) or it was too late and I’d miss half the appointment. I had no choice but to take the later time. I don’t know whether Edward used Access Link, but even if he did, I’m sure he preferred to cycle whenever possible, just as I prefer to use my wheelchair whenever possible.
There is a bus from Newark to West Orange that I’ve sometimes used when I couldn’t get a convenient Access Link pickup. However, the last half mile is on a busy four lane county road. When I was there on Monday, the shoulder was full of snow. I was about to cancel my Access Link reservation and take the bus instead. Then I thought of Edward. Dutch Neck Road is a much quieter road. I called Kessler to say I’d be late for my appointment. I’d keep my Access Link reservation but get there alive. Edward, I’m sorry I never knew you. I think we’d have both enjoyed sharing fish stories over a beer.