[UPDATEd: Dec. 6, with proper name of RCMP officer]
Yvonne Speichts just wants to be able go in town – to do some shopping, see some friends, to get out in the community.
Her home, Tideview Terrace sits at the bottom of Pleasant Street.
“There should be a nice sidewalk,” says Speichts as she drives up town.
She uses a motorized scooter to get around. And because there are no sidewalks connecting Tide View to town, she has to drive on the road surface.
On Tuesday, Nov. 27, she took a group of town and district officials for a walk to show them the challenges she faces just trying to get to the Dollar Store.
Digby mayor Ben Cleveland, deputy mayor Jean Brittain, CAO Tom Ossinger and warden of the Municipality of the District of Digby Linda Gregory came along for the walk.
The Tide View property itself has a nice sidewalk but it leads to a cul-de-sac at the bottom of Pleasant Street.
Speichts has a decision to make when she gets here—travel with traffic or cross the street and face the oncoming traffic.
RCMP Corporal Andrew Hamilton spoke at a recent scooter workshop in Digby and advised scooter users to face oncoming traffic, just as pedestrians do, so they can at least see vehicles coming.
Unlike pedestrians, Speichts can’t get off the road to make room for approaching traffic—by the time she has manoeuvred over the lip of asphalt onto the gravel shoulder, the car is long past.
In some places the road surface is damaged at the edge and Speichts has to move even further into the middle of the road.
At the bridge over Norton Creek the road narrows and the shoulder shrinks too.
“This could be the most expensive part of building any sidewalk,” said Ossinger.
Near the top of Pleasant Street, Yvonne switches back to the right hand side of the street.
She says car come ‘flying” round the corner from Victoria Street and she is afraid they won’t see her.
At the top of Pleasant Street, she has another choice to make: face traffic on Victoria Street but weave around the big trucks parked at the hardware store and avoid vehicles coming and going from the parking lot there; or ride with traffic at her back on the road surface.
If she’s headed to the lights, she has to ride between parked cars and traffic. If she goes through the mall parking lot, she is riding behind parked cars where drivers might not see her.
Occupational Therapist Jacqui Wilcox organized the walk. She says it isn’t just people in scooters but even residents at Tide View who can walk are leery of the traffic and lack of sidewalks.
“The lack of sidewalks isolates our residents from the community,” she says.
Warden Linda Gregory says she is impressed by the Tide View residents who make the trip.
“I take my hat off to them,” she said after the walk. “They are taking their life in their hands on that street. Council is going to have to discuss this and figure out what can be done. I’m not sure what we can afford to do at this point, that will have to be a part of our discussions.”
She says any proposed solution will have to involve the town as well.
Mayor Cleveland says the walk opened his eyes.
“Being there with Yvonne and seeing the challenges first hand, certainly brings it home,” he said afterwards. “It clearly demonstrated the difficulties with lack of sidewalks and uneven curbs and council is going to have discuss this and see what we can do to address their concerns.”
The mayor said other parts of town need work as well.
At a recent council meeting, when the Tideview walk and another sidewalk complaint first came up, the mayor and CAO Ossinger spoke about creating “a clear sidewalk maintenance plan”.
Ossinger says he is currently rewriting the job description for the head of public works to include responsibility for the creation of such a plan.
The two councils may talk about the Tideview sidewalk situation at the upcoming joint council meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 18.