Two wheelchairs being videotaped on broken sidewalk

Getting to the Green Line: Seen through the Lens of a Wheelchair User

No, I’m not in a wheelchair, but I’ve spent time walking alongside people who are, as we tested out walking and rolling routes to a couple of the Green Line stations. For me, and others who walk every day, the wheelchair user’s view offers a new lens that focuses on the challenges facing people who must navigate the walking terrain on wheels to get to the light rail station, or to any other destination.

Rice Walk - Margot Imdieke CrossIMG_1084

Top: Margot Imdieke Cross navigates a sloping ramp on the way to the Rice Street station. Photo by Harry Kent                                                                                                              Bottom: Two cars block the ramp as Rick Cardenas makes his way to the sidewalk. Photo by Carol Swenson  

Now the District Councils Collaborative of Saint Paul and Minneapolis (DCC) is preparing to release a new report on a 2014 Accessibility Survey that shines a light on a number of access issues that were not addressed in planning for the Green Line. Equally important, the report identifies improvements that can still be made, after the fact, for the Green Line. And it highlights issues that need to be considered as additional light rail lines are being planned.

Woman with walker crossing tracks

A woman confronts the challenge of getting across the light rail tracks with her walker. Photo by Harry Kent

The DCC report and documentary video – Making Strides: Last Mile to the Green Line 2014 Accessibility Survey — will be presented on Wednesday, March 11th, 6:00-7:30 pm, at the Rondo Library in Saint Paul. One of the conclusions drawn by the report is that “mobility barriers are widespread and pernicious.”

The presentation will be followed by a discussion of ways to take action and move the findings of the report forward. Some of the questions to be addressed include:

  • How does looking at the pedestrian realm through the lens of a wheelchair user change how we see streetscapes?
  • Why is it particularly important to focus on improving access to transit?
  • What can community members, organizations, and government do to address issues of accessibility?

Broken sidewalk

How would you manage this sidewalk in a wheelchair or with a walker? Photo by Carol Swenson

For me, the experience of walking and rolling together has been profound. Now, whenever I walk, I notice things I had never seen before. For example, on Saturday, as I walked up Fairview Avenue from south of the I-94 freeway to Episcopal Homes and the light rail station on University Avenue, I found:

Icy sidewalk Fairview s of FeroniaNo direct crossing from Episcopal Homes

Top: A drainpipe turns the sidewalk into a sheet of ice.                                                       Bottom: The Green Line station is directly across from Episcopal Homes, but there’s no crossing here.

View of station from Episcopal HomesEpiscopal Homes view toward Fairview

Residents of Episcopal Homes have to walk a long block east or west to get to the station. Photos by Anne White

So I invite you to come join the discussion at the Rondo Library on Wednesday, March 11th.

In the meantime, here are a few simple things you can do:

Take a look at the 2 ½ minute video —

Thabiso Rowan and Rick Cardenas

Thabiso Rowan and Rick Cardenas make their way to the Green Line. Photo by Carol Swenson

Share this post with your friends and networks.

Take a walk with a friend in a wheelchair and ask them to point out the challenges; then, whenever you walk, make notes and take photos of situations that would be challenging for less mobile walkers and wheelchair users.

Finally, I invite you to add your notes and photos to comments on this post. This will help the DCC  identify locations that should be prioritized for future improvements.*


*Disclaimer: I am the Vice-Chair of the DCC and one of the leaders of the Last Mile to the Green Line projects which began in 2012 with a walkability survey of walking routes to 16 of the Green Line stations — see summary report, Steps to Better Transportation Choices, here:

Anne White

About Anne White

Anne White lives in the Merriam Park neighborhood of Saint Paul. She is currently the Land Use Chair for the Union Park District Council (District 13) and serves on the Governing Council of the District Councils Collaborative of Saint Paul and Minneapolis (DCC). After moving to the Twin Cities in 2003, she retired from her work as a professional photographer and began working to ensure that community concerns were fully considered in planning for the Green Line LRT. Now that the line is up and running, including stations at Hamline, Victoria and Western, her main focus is on walkability, making sure that people of all ages and levels of mobility have safe, pleasant walking routes to LRT and other destinations. She was recently appointed to the St Paul Transportation Committee of the Planning Commission as the Active Living community representative.