Bartlett Jr boots Riverside sidewalks

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It has been the City of Tulsa's policy for at least 15 years to build sidewalks when rebuilding arterial streets. During the recent reconstruction of Yale Avenue between 21st and 31st Streets, utilities were moved and sidewalks were built on both sides of the street, allowing safe passage for pedestrians and those in motorized wheelchairs. Even the historic brick columns that once marked the entrance to the Lortondale farm and the Meadowbrook Country Club were demolished to make room for the sidewalks, which were built within the city's right-of-way.

Even the east side of Peoria between 21st and 31st, through the well-to-do Terwilliger Heights neighborhood near Philbrook Museum, has a sidewalk, although it twists and turns around utility poles.

My very first column for Urban Tulsa Weekly, back in September 2005, was about the value of a walkable environment to people with disabilities, as well as other Tulsans who don't drive:

For tens of thousands of our fellow Tulsans, walkability isn't about rows of trendy cafes and quirky consignment shops, or about sidewalks to nowhere; it's about independence. For them, driving simply isn't an option. I'm not talking just about those who can't afford to operate a car.

There are those who are physically unable to drive. Many senior citizens, troubled by glare at night or uncertain of their reflexes, prefer to drive only during daylight or not at all. Teenagers are old enough to get around on their own, but either can't drive yet or shouldn't. For those who can't drive, urban design makes the difference between freedom and frustrating dependence.

Danny, a friend from church, has cerebral palsy and suffers from seizures. He can't drive, and he can only walk short distances with a cane, but he can get around with his electric scooter. Unfortunately, he lives on South Lewis, and he's been pulled over by the police more than once trying to go to the supermarket on his scooter. There aren't any sidewalks, and the only way to get to the store is on the street. Using Tulsa Transit's LIFT paratransit service requires booking a day in advance, waiting outside up to an hour for a ride, and leaving early enough to pick up and drop off other passengers on the way to his destination. LIFT isn't available on Sundays. If the next errand isn't reachable from the first by foot or scooter, it means another bus ride and another long wait. Because of the shape of our city, Danny doesn't have the freedom to go where he wants to go when he wants to go, and it makes Tulsa a frustrating place to live.

So sidewalks matter to Tulsans, and it's right and smart for the city to build them in the city's right-of-way, along with rebuilding the water and sewer lines when rebuilding the streets.

Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr evidently doesn't agree with the wisdom of this long-standing policy, because he has asked the Public Works Department to delete the sidewalk along the east side of Riverside Drive from plans for rebuilding that road around The Gathering Place. Dewey Jr seems to think it would be safer for pedestrians from nearby neighborhoods to cross four lanes of high-speed traffic on Riverside Drive, walk along the River Parks trail, and then cross Riverside again.

I wish I could say I was disappointed, but I can't say that I'm surprised. At least the neighborhood will be safe from muggers on Hoverounds.

MORE: No, they can't use the Midland Valley Trail to get to the Gathering Place; it's closed for three years.

STILL MORE: Good for Public Works director Paul Zachary for refusing to remove the sidewalk from the plans. Boo to Bartlett Jr. for forcing the removal, apparently at the behest of a campaign donor who is also his oil company's landlord.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on October 22, 2014 4:06 PM.

Will Holland Hall's "Unfriendly Philosopher" keep Republicans from winning the Senate? was the previous entry in this blog.

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