Here’s something weird: We don’t really know where sidewalks do or do not exist in Washington State. We have some ideas, but no comprehensive dataset. Our bad data is even worse if you need to know which sidewalks and curb cuts are accessible.
It is also difficult to know how much money the public needs to invest in filling sidewalk gaps or where those investments are most needed.
Disability Rights Washington and Front and Centered are hosting a rally in Olympia today calling on the legislature to fully fund the sidewalk assessment. Here’s the text of their press release:
Mapping how to get somewhere is something drivers take for granted. Punch in your destination and Google Maps, and you’re good to go. That is just not available to people who are walking and rolling to destinations, including the 25-30 percent of people in our state who are nondrivers.
Unlike roads and highways, there simply is no comprehensive data on sidewalks and safe routes to walk or roll. We need our state to make investments in this year’s transportation budget to map where pedestrian infrastructure exists and understand whether it’s accessible.
This is not simply a planning exercise. As a result of collecting this invaluable data, people all over Washington will be able to use this data to route safer paths to walk or roll. And eventually, this data will also be crucial to closing the enormous backlog of missing and broken sidewalks all over the state.
As The Seattle Times detailed last year, (WA Faces an Epidemic of Inaccessible Sidewalks, Oct 3, 2022) Washington State faces a crisis of broken and missing sidewalks; according to their investigation, zero Washington cities can claim to meet at least 50% ADA accessibility. At the same time, we are in the midst of a 20-year record in serious injuries and deaths of pedestrians and bicyclists on our roads, an epidemic that disproportionately affects communities of color.
For about what it costs to pave three miles of rural road with no shoulders, we can make a transformative investment that will have an immediate positive impact on the lives of people all over the state.