Extended sidewalks intended for easier access to buses pose difficulty to those in wheelchairs

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There’s a new bus stop on 34th street and 5th avenue that critics say is an accident waiting to happen, especially for people using wheelchairs, canes, and walkers.  The New York City Department of Transportation built the new stop and calls it a “bus bulb”.  It is a concrete island built out from the sidewalk, intended to give people more room to get on and off the bus.

But if you take a close look you can see the problem. The new bus bulb, where people get off the bus, is not level  with the main sidewalk next to it. It’s at least a few inches higher than the sidewalk.  It’s difficult to see that the sidewalk is lower down and would require a step down from the black metal grating at the edge of the bulb to get onto the sidewalk.

When I asked Henry Goodgold, a man in a wheelchair getting off the bus, how he would get onto the sidewalk from here, he said , “I don’t know. I’d have to ask for help.” If Henry went straight, his wheelchair would most likely fall right off the edge of the grating.  A woman using a cane told me, “If you just look at it, you think it’s a black grating on the sidewalk. How would you know that it’s a step down? I would definitely fall there, definitely.”

Henry’s sister, Carolee  Goodgold, alerted me to the problem. To make matter worse, she showed me, there is only one way for someone in a wheelchair to get onto the bus bulb. There is a concrete ramp at the corner of 34th and 5th that leads on and off the bulb, but the bus doesn’t actually stop until halfway down the block. So the disabled have to travel at least half a block each way to safely get on and off the bus bulb.  Carolee  says “I think it’s an outrage. Granted it is personal for me because it’s my brother and I want him to be safe. But this is so dangerous for everyone.” She says “having the bus bulb not be level with the sidewalk, that’s the part I just don’t get.”

There is some good news. After being alerted to the potential danger of the unmarked step down from the bus bulb to the sidewalk, I called the NYC D.O.T.  The department sent someone out to take a look, and it wasn’t long before they took some corrective action. They installed an asphalt ramp next to the area where people get on and off the bus, eliminating that dangerous step down.  But it is only this one section that has been improved. The rest of the block still has that step down, which could be a hazard for anyone, especially when it snows.

A spokesperson for the D.O.T. told PIX11, “We are aware of this location and are working on addressing it with a series of treatments, including a combination of ramps and street furniture.”