Should wheelchairs drive the road too?Oct 03 07:21
There seems to be a growing trend among power wheelchair-users saying goodbye to using sidewalks, and hello to zooming on the street. They’ll drive alonside traffic right next to the lane, using bike lanes, and going near 10mph.
While I am a baby and am not one of these individuals, there are several folks who prefer driving the streets over sidewalks with no fear. As a driver of an actual vehicle as well, I know all too well most drivers are simply way too preoccupied to risk partaking in this crazy trend.
Naturally, there is a divide on this issue. While I’m too scared to do it, it doesn’t mean I think wheelchairs shouldn’t be allowed to drive on the streets. Sometimes there or no sidewalks, the sidewalks are inaccessible or snow may be blocking them. Using the streets should be an enter at your own risk kind of thing. Right? Or am I wrong?
Drivers having to watch out for the wheelchairs see it differently. They say wheelchair-users taking it to the streets are a road hazard and an insurance liability - hit one wheelchair and your premiums skyrocket. But what does the actual law state on this issue?
City laws govern wheelchair street rules and they vary city to city. Some cities treat wheelchairs as a bicycle, requiring them to adhere reflectors so they can be seen at night. Others outlaw them completely from going on the street. In my hometown of Minneapolis, wheelchairs drive on the streets all the time and on multiple occasions I’ve almost hit one of them while driving my van. Man oh man did I feel bad. To hit one of my own?! Gee gads!
These wheelchair-users taking over the streets are silent, rolling protestors. They’re trying to change the way the world views wheelchairs, from a piece of vulnerable medical equipment to a capable motorized personal vehicle. To fully allow wheelchairs on the streets like a car? This would only be safe if they required the wheelchair to meet certain size and reflector requirements. Then only then would I see no problem with it.
What say you?
Read a disabled blogger’s take in St. Louis: I Don’t Understand Some Wheelchair Users
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1. ex-Gooserider | Oct 04 09:37
I was told by the officials in MA that under the ADA, we are legally equivalent to pedestrians / joggers / pedal bike riders, etc. at least as long as we act like one (i.e. similar speeds, etc) and are supposed to be subject to the same rules about behavior, where we go and so forth... My general rule is to use the sidewalk if it exists and is reasonably passable (Think the streets are rough? Try the sidewalk!) but if there is no usable sidewalk I will use the street... At the same time, I think it is important to be reasonably intelligent about it - stay as close to the edge of the road as possible. I also put reflective tape all over my chair, and have fitted some truly obnoxious flashing LED bicycle lights - no excuse for not seeing me...
2. Tiffiny | Oct 20 02:01
@ex-gooserider: really good tips! if i have to get on the road, i stick to as close to the edge of the road as possible too. and reflective tape is smart. every wheelchair should have some on it.
3. Judy | Nov 01 07:54
I use th ebike lane all of the time due to the conditions of the sidewalks where I live ans also because people in California don't seem to know how to stop behind the white line when coming out of driveways and because of this I have almost been hit on several occassions. I wear a reflective vest or jacket when I am out so that I am visable and I also have a backpack that is reflective like my jacket on the back of my chair and there is also a lot of reflective tape on the back of my chair as well. I actually spoke with the police department where I live to find out if this was okay and they told me that as long as I am not out in traffic and obey all of the traffic signs that I am okay. The other thing that I do is I also go against traffic so that the cars can see me and I can see them.
4. KING-J | Nov 03 05:20
I'm not certain that the above statement is true. Or at least in my case it's not. I use the street because often times the sidewalk, if there is one, is so unleveled and trashed that it makes traversing the terrain more dangerous than joining the vehicles on the road. Non-disabled persons using sidewalks that appear to be leveled can not truly appreciate the subtle pitches, tilts, and cracks that make using a dangerous proposition for us. If the city wants us all to use the sidewalks, then the city should make ALL sidewalks available to ALL of it's citizens. I have already sacrificed air-filled tires for tires using solid foam inserts because of glass riddled walkways. I've come to realize that my wheelchair is the first thing that gets noticed about me and so I try my best keep it presentable. So, putting tape all over it isn't an option for me. But being seen and safe is very important. I use the products by "see and be safe" http://www.seeandbesafe.com/products/
5. KING-J | Nov 03 05:42
@ex-Gooserider The company See And Be Safe is offering a free reflective sticker to wheelchair users for answering a ten question survey. It's a safety survey and is about wheelchair visibility. Here is the link if anyone wants it. http://www.seeandbesafe.com/surveys/
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Tiffiny Carlson is freelance writer and writes the “SCI Life” column for New Mobility. She's also a C6 quad from a diving accident that occurred when she was 14 years old. A lifelong resident of Minneapolis, Tiffiny has been a writer in the disability community for over 10 years and writes for several publications and blogs, as well as her personal blog BeautyAbility. Her work has also appeared in mainstream publications such as Nerve.com and Playgirl.