Rolling on St. Louis sidewalks is like riding a bumpy obstacle course. People who use power wheelchairs or scooters often choose to ride their device in the street to keep from dealing with all of the dips, humps and holes on a sidewalk.
Riding on the sidewalk can damage your chair, not to mention be dangerous. Some people might say riding in the street is more dangerous, but trust me: a cracked, bumpy and uneven sidewalk can be just as dangerous.
Recently, I was riding with a few of my friends. We were on the sidewalk, and one of them hit an uneven bump in the sidewalk and fell out of her chair. She was behind us, so we didn’t see what happened; we just heard her scream. A police officer happened to be passing by, saw her and helped her back in her wheelchair.
We wanted her to go to the hospital, but she was upset and a little embarrassed. So we just followed her home.
You may be thinking at least she was safe, but you didn’t see the bruises on her head, knees and hands. If we had been riding in the street, we would have had a smoother ride and made it to our destination much quicker.
I have been riding my scooter in the streets for years and never had an issue, but there are a few rules I abide by:
- I only ride against traffic. I need to see what’s going on, and I don’t have eyes in the back of my head.
- I stay close to cars or the sidewalk. I don’t pretend to be a car, and I don’t act like I own the road.
- I don’t ride in busier roadways like Hampton Ave. or Kingshighway Blvd.
- I try not to ride in the dark. If I have to, I make sure I’m easily seen.
- Most importantly, I always pay attention to my surroundings.
For many people with a disability, a power wheelchair or scooter is their primary mode of transportation. They use it to go grocery shopping, to doctor’s appointments and to socialize with friends. Without it, some folks would be stuck in the house.
Unless you use a power device, it’s hard to understand what a person with a disability deals with when it comes to sidewalks. It’s akin to dodging potholes when driving to avoid damaging a car.
Hopefully the next time you see someone riding their power wheelchair or scooter in the street, you’ll pause to consider why.
Monica Williams is the Organizing Team Assistant at Paraquad. She can be reached at email@example.com.