Tag Archives: mobility

We all benefit from the Americans With Disabilities Act

Shadow selfie in walking castSix weeks ago, I traded in my hiking boots for a walking cast when I fractured my right ankle. A glorious hiking season came to an abrupt end with one quick fall on a hiking trail.

Thankfully, the fracture wasn’t severe. I’m now in the process of transitioning out of the walking cast and set to begin physical therapy soon.

Two summers ago, I wasn’t as lucky. I heard a bone break when I took a fall on a forest path. My left ankle had fractured in several places and I had to have surgery to pin it back together. I spent eight weeks in a walking cast, followed by several months of physical therapy to regain strength and range of motion.

Both ankle injuries impacted my daily life. Two years ago, I had to rely on crutches to help me get around. This time I was able to get around with the aid of a cane. Stairs, hills and unpaved terrain were challenging, and sometimes impossible. Biking was out and so was working in the garden.

My temporary mobility impairment has given me a renewed appreciation for the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA prohibits discrimination and ensures equal opportunity for people with disabilities in employment, government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities, and transportation. It’s because of the ADA, that many (but not all) of our street corners have curb ramps, elevators and ramps are installed in our public facilities, and much more.

Skateboarder-curb-cut-400x305My neighborhood is a walkable one and I live within five blocks of grocery stores, banks, pharmacies, a hardware store, numerous restaurants and coffee shops, the farmers market, and the transit center. I can walk to almost any service in about five minutes—until I broke my ankle. With the cane, my travel time is now about ten minutes. When I had to rely on crutches it took even longer. Crutching was also taxing on my shoulders and arms.

But the point is I can still get around. Those curb ramps make it easier for me to cross streets in a walking cast and crutches/cane. For someone in a wheelchair, curb ramps make it POSSIBLE to cross a street on their own. Likewise for kneeling transit buses. They greatly improve bus access for people with limited mobility.

Who else benefits from these ADA accessibility improvements? Everyone. Delivery people with hand trucks, teens on skateboards and parents with strollers use curb ramps at street intersections all the time. People with rolling luggage and shoppers with rolling carts take advantage of the kneeling buses. Wheelchair users need ramps and elevators to access train stations, overhead walkways and multi-story buildings. But plenty of other folks use elevators and ramps for convenience.

ADA improvements make our neighborhoods and communities friendlier for everyone. From wheelchair users and people with limited vision to parents with toddlers to the elderly, we all benefit.

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Taking a spin with Spin

After running a few errands on foot yesterday afternoon, I wandered my way through the neighborhood on my return trip home. I was making my way past a popular playground park when I spotted this:

Spin bike at park

This, my friends, is a Spin bike.

Spin is one of two private bike share companies (the other is LimeBike) that launched services in Seattle this month. They’re easy to identify: Spin bikes are bright orange and LimeBikes are bright green/yellow. Both bikes are equipped with front baskets, kickstands and locking devices.

You need a smart phone to download an app and a credit/debit card to use either bike share. The apps help you locate nearby bikes, unlock them and pay for your ride ($1 for thirty minutes). This screenshot shows the distribution of Spin bikes in West Seattle at this moment. As you can see, most of them are clustered along the waterfront.

Spin map

I had downloaded both apps earlier this week in anticipation of trying out these bikes, so I was ready to ride when I discovered the Spin bike at the park. I scanned the barcode to unlock the bike, paid for my ride and took off for a test ride. My ride lasted for about twenty minutes and here are my quick observations:

  • The bike is easy to use but the 3-speed gearing isn’t low enough for Seattle hills. Spin is aware of this and promises lower gears on its next round of bikes in the city.
  • I like the convenience of parking the bike almost anywhere at the end of my ride (public bike racks or on the sidewalk out of the way of pedestrian traffic).
  • With good citywide coverage, these bikes will make good options for spontaneous short trips.
  • Downside: Not everyone has smart phones or credit/debit cards in order to use the system.
  • Downside: Unless you travel with bike helmet in tow, you’ll probably violate our local helmet law when you ride of these bikes.

Will I take a spin with Spin again? You bet. I’m also looking forward to trying out a LimeBike soon.

spin bike 2

Bike up!

Fremont Bridge

In urban, traffic-gridlocked Seattle many folks (me included) often opt to move around the city by bike.

The Fremont Bridge, a drawbridge spanning the Lake Washington Ship Canal, is a bicycle thoroughfare. It links Fremont and other North Seattle neighborhoods to Queen Anne, South Lake Union and downtown. It connects the Burke-Gilman Trail, which parallels the waterway’s north shoreline, to the South Ship Canal and South Lake Union Trails on the other side.

Yesterday there were 4,525 bike trips across the Fremont Bridge. Yes, you read that number correctly. In 2016, people on bikes crossed this bridge 981,908 times. That’s nearly a million bike trips across this bridge!

Sharrow-Streetcar-Seattle

Are cyclist mishaps inevitable when streetcar tracks are present?

Clang! Clang! Clang!

I’m fortunate to live in a community that supports public transit. Thanks to biking, walking and transit, I don’t have to drive a car very often. And that’s a good thing since Seattle is plagued by traffic congestion. Continue reading