Good to see that the new provision of a greenway in and near the River Arts District includes widening of walkways. It is essential that the needs of people vulnerable in the context of greenways may be met this time around. I’m speaking of people who are deaf or significantly hard of hearing.
I contacted Buncombe County two or three years ago, when many greenways or extensions of greenways were being proposed, to express concerns at the description of them I was seeing. There was concern to get bikers and cars separated better. Yes, essential, but what about the need to separate walkers from cyclists, runners and others using greenways at speeds or with devices which can do damage when collisions occur? I was told it would be prohibitively expensive to separate pedestrians from others. Nothing they could do, they said. Sorry!
I walk a dog quite often on Reed Creek Greenway. Many people are very accommodating to the needs of others when these are obvious. But deafness and hearing loss are not obvious. Cyclists come by and look at me as if to say, “Are you deaf? I was shouting out I would be passing on your left?” Well, actually, I am not deaf. I am moderately hard of hearing. And I did not hear you, was not aware of you till you were right behind me. And there are many whose hearing problem is far worse than mine. Many of those, especially those who indeed are deaf, would be putting life and limb in danger to try walking on most greenways. So they don’t. How sad!
Sorry isn’t enough. The Americans with Disabilities Act is supposed to give disabled people access to community venues and events. This is not being honored in regard to greenways. I’ve wondered about a compromise where segments would be made accessible by separating pedestrians from cyclists. So I’m excited to see that, in effect, this is being planned for that one segment in the RAD. Those with hearing problems, take note.
But cyclists and runners, please also take note. If someone doesn’t seem to be hearing you, they probably can’t. The onus is on you, not them, to avoid the accident that could put one of you in the hospital with severe injury or worse.
And Buncombe County, take note. Isn’t it less expensive to plan a solution from the beginning than to be forced to respond to the lawsuit someone may bring one day? The ADA is the law.
— Ann Karson