By: Connor Lenahan
Earlier today I was poking around Facebook when I saw a link to a Boston Herald article in my timeline. In the headline were the words “Marty Walsh,” “sidewalk,” and “mends.”
I was immediately sold before reading a letter of the body of the article. The ideas coming to mind were enough to make me fall in love with Boston all over again. For those that are unfamiliar with the sidewalk situation in the city, allow me to quickly get you up to speed.
That’s reality for residents of Boston. Universally these streets are fairly unsafe. There are cracks in the sidewalk at every turn. Planters that create tripping hazards. Bricks that cause sidewalks to resemble roller coasters as opposed to functioning walkways. Cobblestones that, while visually appealing, are more than outdated in 2014. That’s just speaking generally. Now factor in wheelchair users like myself. That’s entirely unacceptable.
It’s no secret that I’m only a part-time user of my chair, as I walk indoors but not out, however that doesn’t magically cancel out the time I spend in the chair – the majority of my day in reality. I might be able to hop out with ease, but this is far from the standard. There’s essentially no one else with my set up. The streets have to be flat – entirely or as close as humanly possible – to accommodate those in need. It’s frightening that I could be rolling down the street only to have an askew brick catch one of my smaller wheels and potentially dislodge me from the chair. This happened to me yesterday. It wasn’t all that concerning as I was going slow while walking into a store, but the possibility I could be launched like a bottle rocket is genuinely discomforting. I’m not easily rattled but this is one of, if not my biggest, fear on a daily basis.
Speaking solely from personal experience, my biggest negative to date with the city of Boston, my home for the past 10 months, has been the sidewalks. That’s why I was sold on the headline alone.
“You can’t have a city that is not accessible to people with disabilities. It’s not fair. I think that there are a lot people who have problems getting around our city and they shouldn’t. If we are to promote ourselves as a walkable city, we need to make sure we are walkable to everyone.”
There’s saying the right things, and then there’s what Marty Walsh said above. Quickest way to gain my eternal respect? Make my life easier. Take away the possibility for me to get hurt by something dumb. Remove one of the only things I actively dislike about Boston. Walsh did it all. This is a man I will stand behind.
When you think about it, especially in the political construct of 2014 America, sidewalks are far from a pressing concern. But they’re still a concern. They’re also more important than one might realize. I can promise you this is true. Further, it’s a goal that can absolutely be achieved. It’s not as if we’re asking the world of the city. We aren’t shooting for a utopia that won’t happen. It’s a mutually agreed upon good idea. We could use more of that.
This story hit me at a more personal level than I figured it could. When I was reading this story this morning in my office I could feel a sense of pride and happiness wash over me. Things like this and people like Marty Walsh are what make me love this city. A reminder that they care. They’ve got my back. It’s sweeter than anything.
Connor Lenahan (@ConnorLenahan) is a sophomore at Boston University, majoring in journalism.