By Janet Toliver
After disembarking from a bus, an older woman leans on her walker. She slowly makes her way down the street as others pass her. The other passengers slip around the scooter that fills the already narrow sidewalk. When she reaches the scooter, she is unable to fit her walker through the space. As she begins to turn around and look for another path, someone stops to push the scooter closer to the curb, giving her enough room to pass through. While a badly parked scooter is annoying to most people, they can quickly become dangerous to those who are unable to pass. The inherent randomness of being able to park a scooter anywhere makes it more likely to become a hazard.
Walking down the streets of Chicago can be rife with disaster, especially if you are using a wheelchair or walker or carrying luggage or a stroller. A walk becomes more than a walk. It can be an obstacle course with cracks that are surmountable for a normal walking gait becoming akin to a canyon for someone who cannot widen their stride. Many can and have learned to adjust their paths to avoid these larger cracks or streets whose lights tend to be out. However, the recent addition to scooters that can be parked anywhere means these avoidable spots are no longer stable. They can be introduced anywhere.
From pushing my father in a wheelchair to walking with seniors who relied on walkers to witnessing individuals who are blind or have low vision, I have experienced a wide range of difficulties navigating already cluttered and broken sidewalks. With these experiences in mind, I have gathered some common scooter instances that I have come across. When I come across many of these, I move and adjust the scooters so they are less likely to injure or disrupt someone’s path. Let’s continue to keep Buena Park safe for all individuals.
The safely parked scooter
If possible, the scooter should be along an already existing barrier, such as a building, tree, planter, or bike lock. It is best if it is on the side of the street or building that does not interfere with the open sidewalk. This keeps the sidewalk clear and open. In this case, a scooter is parked alongside the walkway from the street to the sidewalk. While it is in the path, it allows enough room for a wheelchair to be driven or pushed and keeps it out of the sidewalk where it can disrupt movement.
A scooter that points into a path can disrupt movement or become a tripping object. If you come across one of these scooters, you can move it closer to the object it is connected to, so the bed is not as dangerous. This also clears the path to make more space for wheelchairs and walkers in general.
Parking in corners
Corners require extra caution. As some people turn around the corner, they may require extra space to maneuver. By facing the scooter towards the straight part instead of the turn, you allow more space to navigate and give people more time to notice that there is something in the way. When I come across scooters shown in the picture (with the bed facing the turn), I will simply turn it around so the bed is parallel to the sidewalk instead of facing the turn.
Scooters in narrow spaces
Narrow spaces already make it difficult to maneuver. Taking an extra minute to place it where there is a bit more space helps make the sidewalks more accessible. In general, there should be enough clearence for a wheelchair. To imagine this for yourself, think of when you carry a heavy luggage bag. Is this a place you would want to carry the luggage through? Is there enough space to get your bag and yourself through? How much do you have to maneuver to get through this space?
These are just a few of the instances that I have come across in the last few months. By no means is it a comprehensive or elaborate list. I am sure as scooters continue to become a staple in our neighborhood, we will continue to have these discussions. In general, keep the scooter as close to other permanent objects as possible and put them in the least intrusive ways. Taking an extra few seconds to ensure they are well out of the way may be all it takes for someone else’s safety. The scooters no doubt make transportation easier while people are limiting their exposure to public transit, but let us also make sure we do not encumber others or make their lives more difficult while we are making ours easier.