As part of an ongoing attempt to address the state of local sidewalks, the City of Decatur has announced its plans to smooth out tripping hazards over the next 3-4 years, starting with West Ponce De Leon Avenue. This project, while badly needed, will focus solely on tripping hazards that are under 2” in height and can be corrected by sawing down the protruding edges. Larger hazards that require full sidewalk replacement will be left for a later project, though a particular timeline for such a project has not been given.
Decatur’s Sidewalks Should Never Have Been Allowed to Get This Bad
Sidewalk construction and renovation has been a consistent presence in Decatur for over a decade. Given the emphasis that pedestrian access and safety have received in recent years, in both the city’s promises to its residents and its actual budget, one would expect local sidewalks to be in decent condition by now. The accomplishments and works-in-progress listed in the city’s annual Capital Projects reports paint Decatur as a haven of healthy living, low emissions, and easy access in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Decatur locals who use the sidewalks on a daily basis know the reality isn’t so rosy just yet.
The problem of unsafe sidewalks is still not under control, mainly because it was allowed to get so thoroughly out of hand in the first place. The missing and deteriorated sidewalks of Decatur are so widespread that, even after all this time, there’s still a minefield’s worth of obstacles and threats to pedestrian safety left to address.
Glenwood Road Is Essentially a Scale Model of a Citywide Struggle
Like many areas of Decatur, Glenwood Road is in the process of receiving a new sidewalk. The project is currently behind schedule, leaving residents to wait an unspecified amount of time for safe walking routes.
Sometimes completion delays are unavoidable. Contractors working on Glenwood Road in particular attribute the slowdown to a higher than expected number of underground utility lines. What’s less understandable is why the road’s (and the city’s) dangerously unwalkable conditions were allowed to exist for so long before the project ever started.
Tripping hazards are often underestimated and can lead to serious injury and death, but Glenwood Road’s hazards went beyond tripping. Residents interviewed at the beginning of the project reported having attended multiple funerals caused by their neighbors having nowhere to stand or walk except in traffic. One of the victims was a 12-year-old girl walking to school. There was no change for 25 years after her death.
Safe Sidewalks Are the City’s Responsibility
In spite of Decatur’s recent good intentions and efforts, residents have a right to enjoy safe public spaces at all times, free of needless hazards and discriminatory obstacles — even unintentional ones. The bottom line is that Decatur has not met this obligation either now or in recent memory of preventing sidewalk injuries.
If you’ve noticed unsafe sidewalk conditions near you in Decatur, report them to the city here. Or, if you’ve already been injured or lost someone as a result of these conditions, reach out to the Stoddard Firm to learn how we can help.