Pedestrians of Philadelphia highlights people and how they experience the world through their own personal mobility. Casey Buckley shares her experiences and perspective as a wheelchair user in Philadelphia.
What is your experience as a pedestrian? How long do you walk/roll? Why did you decide to walk/roll as your commute?
I both walk and roll. I am considered semi able-bodied. Due to a medical condition there are days that I have to use a wheelchair as my method of mobility. On average, given that I work outside as a dog trainer, I walk/roll up to 8-10 miles a day actually. My experience both walking and rolling has been mixed and frustrating. When I am walking the sidewalks are precarious and pedestrian safety crossing the street is often very difficult. In addition, when I am walking, I see all the places that the wheelchair cutouts are blocked by cars, delivery trucks and by construction. When I am in my wheelchair my experience is that I feel my safety is at risk daily having to navigate in the bike lane because sidewalks are not accessible due to construction/blockage and/or they are riddled with potholes, uneven difficult or impossible to navigate in a manual chair.
What is your average commute? Where do you start and finish? Do you make stops along the way?
My average commute varies as I work outside. I work 8-9 hours a day outside in public training dogs, and 30 min between clients. I start at my home and walk/roll all over west and south west philly. I also take public transportation (trolley (with service dog), BSL, Bus, and EL) to south philly and center city regularly with that commute being approximately 25-30 minutes. My average day has multiple start and stops via walking, rolling, or public transport.
Have you ever experienced a dangerous or problematic intersection?
Yes chronically. I videotaped one of my attempts to get from 40th and Baltimore to 40th and Locust with various intersections blocked off due to construction forcing me to use my wheelchair in the street in oncoming traffic. In addition, a traditionally dangerous intersection has been 43rd and Chester where people blow through the stop signs and there have been multiple car accidents, bike accidents and pedestrian accidents. In addition, the intersection at 46th and Baltimore has traffic lights, but the timing of the lights is difficult to manage, cross the street, and it is a very confusing intersection where people are not sure of who has the right of way. This corner is one that I often avoid especially in my wheelchair as I am often afraid that I will not make it across the intersection safely and while training dogs it is also a very dangerous area where we could easily be hit by cars.
What would you suggest making walking in Philly safer?
I would first suggest researching Vancouver Canada, it is known for being the most ADA accessible city in the world. So, from the viewpoint of someone who is disabled the laws, legislation, and policies put in place there have made pedestrian and ADA accessible areas much safer. Second, holding focus groups, and hands on experiential learning/training exercises for policy makers and those in the position to make changes in order to gain first-hand experience of the differing challenges for people who are not able-bodied. This is not to set something up to make individuals feel as though they would be mocking those who are disabled, but to offer a different frame of reference which you cannot get even from watching videos or talking to people who have these experiences. I also think that having a system of filing reports of individuals/cars/ etc. that block handicap cutouts where calling the police has failed would be beneficial such as a photo of the car/car license plate and a location showing the blockage of such a an area would result in a ticket/fine similar to red-light cameras that are designed to snap photos of license plates of cars going through red lights and tickets sent to those individuals. Continued training for construction workers on flow of pedestrian traffic that may be detoured due to construction to include a framework and alternate pathways to be inclusive of wheelchairs/power chair users. This need to also include the installment of temporary wheelchair ramps where cutouts may be blocked or not accessible due to construction work (like in. my video that I submitted) there were multiple areas where temporary ramps wood or metal could be installed to make those areas still accessible.
Why do you think walking/rolling is important?
Because it is the main function of quality of life. Accessibility for all is a requirement not a privilege not just for work, but to be able to move around and be a functioning member of society. Limiting that safety and that option is just that…. not an option. Advocacy for pedestrian safety, bike safety, and vehicle safety should be equal across the board in both legislation and policy. No life is less than another nor dispensable.