Friday, July 21, 2017

Walk This Way

MCIL part of the Memphis Pedestrian Panel 

By Allison Donald
For the community of people with disabilities who walk or rely on public transit to get around Memphis it is important that we know and understand the rules that govern our travel.   As a community it is also imperative that we are a part of the process of creating safer a more inclusive communities.

Allison Donald

I was a part of a panel which included Scott Fleming, Memphis architect and Nick Oyler, Bikeway and Pedestrian Program Manager for the City of Memphis.  The panel focused on how Memphis can reduce traffic violence. The City also needs to catch up on $1.1 billion in sidewalk repairs, and help local businesses maintain walkable, safe streets.  Community engagement, education, engineering, and enforcement steered the conversation. 

Nick Oyler, concedes that there has been a lack of community engagement, education, and enforcement on behalf of the city.  Memphis is working to combat that by supporting strategies like the Vision Zero campaign to make the Memphis Medical district more livable and safe.  
The BE AWARE initiative which supports medical district pedestrians is a call for mutual respect and safer interactions between people walking and driving through the medical district.  

If you want to pledge your commitment to a safer district you can visit for more information.  Mr. Oyler also suggested posting signs that clearly displayed the penalty for not abiding by the rules of the road for pedestrians and motorists. 

The conditions of the sidewalks in the city was another issue discussed at length.  Sidewalk safety is crucial for people with disabilities, because that is how we walk and roll through this city.   However, navigating sidewalks safely has proven to be problematic for people with disabilities due to poor sidewalk maintenance which often times forces people with mobility devices into the street.  

Once the city installs a sidewalk it is up to the property owner to maintain the sidewalk. If you want to make a complaint about a broken sidewalk you can call the 311service or use the 311 app. 

Wheelchair with no curb ramp

Memphis officials have also made plans to assist homeowners with fixing cracked and broken sidewalks   Homeowners (not renters or owners of multiple properties) are offered financial assistance.  Residents who make less than $25,000 per year, are 65 or older, or are 100-percent disabled veterans. The assistance is also be offered to households that fall below the federal poverty line. The program would cost $200,000 this fiscal year to help address the sidewalks of the 400 properties that now have outstanding citations.  

If you would like more information on this program go to and click on the city engineering tab. 
Scott Fleming also added that sidewalk repair was not the only way Memphis could become a more pedestrian friendly city.  He suggested incorporating different architectural elements that would lend some spaces to being walkable to mixed use retail complexes to everything in between.  His point of view not only is it aesthetically pleasing it will create more employment opportunities.  

I wanted to let my fellow panelist know as well as the city planners who were also in attendance that accessibility is a must, but it does not mean that creativity and forethought must go out of the window to achieve that goal Memphis. 

For example, audible street crossings would do wonders for people with low to no vision.   It is not just about having a curb ramp, but whether or not the curb ramp is too steep for a person with a disability to roll up on.  It is not just about the access aisle being at the front of the store which does me no good if someone’s car is blocking it.  

Memphis can thrive if neighborhoods are safe, accessible to all, and walkable become the norm in our city, where it is easy to reach restaurants, stores, transit stops, schools, and parks on foot and by mobility device.