Central West End Forest Park Southeast Streets Urbanism

Sidewalk Failure

by Michael R. Allen

Have you ever tried to walk on Kingshighway through the I-64/US 40 interchange? It’s almost impossible. On both the east and west sides of the street, the sidewalks are almost nonexistent except of the actual bridge over the highway, where they are built into the bridge. Even there, the sidewalks are no wider than five feet. The other sidewalks between Oakland Avenue on the south and Barnes Hospital Plaza to the north are a travesty. The pedestrian literally has to cross busy on and off ramps with no marked pedestrian crossings — the sidewalks just end at the ramp lane, and continue directly across. There are no signs instructing motorists to behave well toward pedestrians — not even a basic sign stating to slow down and be alert for pedestrians.

Walking through here is dangerous, but safer than one alternative — the pedestrian walk behind the Central Institute for the Deaf. I have heard about muggings on this bridge, which is secluded and only visible to motorists below on the highway — they ain’t exactly in a position to help if they manage to see anything while shuttling by at 65 miles per hour.

The worst problem is that this sidewalk is totally, completely and utterly inaccessible to people using wheelchairs. The sidewalk is not continuous, for one thing. It’s also lacking adequate width even for walkers to pass each other comfortably, let alone someone in a wheelchair. Trying to wheel across an on-ramp lane is probably not the smartest thing someone could do, either.

Oh, and if the pedestrian manages to walk successfully through the intersection on the way to the MetroLink station on Euclid Avenue, it isn’t exactly easy to find or well-marked. The hospital looks like a fortress that starts at Kingshighway, and someone unfamiliar with the station may not assume it would be located where it is — the streets seem to be more private service drives back in the complex.

Perhaps the mammoth BJC Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine should think about this the next time they spend several million dollars on new streetlights, planter boxes and illuminated street signs. How about new safe (and ADA-compliant) sidewalks and illuminated MetroLink signs?

The we can start thinking about what to do with the growing spread of ugly huge parking structures for the complex located along Taylor Avenue.