Council looking to improve accessibility downtown
Plans for new curb drops and accessible parking spaces throughout downtown Strathmore were viewed by members of the town council during their regular meeting on June 6. The council accepted the information, but so far plans have not yet been approved.
Council adopted the downtown accessibility plan for handicapped parking and wheelchair ramps. All future handicapped stalls will have a standardized look and feel and will include curb drops from the road to sidewalks as well as signs on posts.
“Curb drops are where you are able to get from the street to the sidewalk,” according to Mark Ruault, director of Infrastructure.
According to town staff, the town has an increasing ageing population and the changes provide an opportunity to make the downtown more accessible for all members of society.
Based on Google street view searches done in 2016, the town identified 17 out of 18 intersections had para ramps. A Google street view search done in 2016 showed there were 13 handicapped parking stalls, 20 private stalls and two handi-bus pick up drop off stalls.
The new plan proposes increasing the number of wheelchair on street parking from 33 to 43 stalls, or a 25 per cent increase. There are approximately 560 on street parking stalls in the downtown area.
Town staff also addressed issues like visibility of the handicapped stalls, for example during the winter months. Staff recommended three options, the third of them which includes a painted pavement logo, a sign, and curb ramps.
“We wanted to bring forward to council the overall look and feel of the downtown,” said Ruault.
Ruault revealed that as of now the town has no standard for handicapped stalls.
One option discussed by council is the width and location of stalls on streets. For example, some handicapped vehicles have doors that are equipped for electronic ramps. Being too close to other stalls, or the curb may make it difficult for users to get in and out of vehicles.
“I think it's a step in the right direction,” said councillor Melanie Corbiell. She also suggested making the stalls more visible, by maybe painting stalls, or curbs.
Staff revealed that parking within a handicapped stall without a placard falls under the community standard bylaw.
Councillor Lorraine Bauer explained that she liked the proposed changes that used painted logos and signs because, “eight months of out of the year we have snow. We are finding especially downtown this year, a lot of the snow was piled up onto the signs and we couldn't see them. I like the curb ramps because we also have scooters and other motorized units in Strathmore. I think the ramps will really help them get in and out.”
Councillor Denise Peterson said that the report exceeds her expectations. But she was concerned that the downtown will be losing 19 parking spots. She noted that Strathmore is now a community with 25 per cent of the population that are seniors and another 25 per cent of the population that are under 35-years- old.
Councillor Tari Cockx also brought forward the idea of installing courtesy stalls for parents with young children and handicapped people.