Alan Chartock | I, Publius: Raised platforms pose unnecessary hazard in Great Barrington

GREAT BARRINGTON — So, there's a dangerous thing happening on the streets of Great Barrington.

If you look at the photograph accompanying this column you will see that a portion of the sidewalk is raised. I am sure that some engineering or artistic genius had a good reason for this platform being where it is, raised up several inches above the ground.

But people, often of some advanced age, can trip fall. We know of at least two such cases. We also know that such a fall could result in a broken hip and that could lead to a long stay in a nursing home or even the death of an older person.

Put another way, as a society we have sensible laws to protect human lives. We do not allow people to kill or maim one another so why would we install elevated concrete sidewalk abutments that present life-threatening hazards to the people of our town? This is the opposite of handicapped accessibility.

Some people have complained to the proper authorities that having these raised portions of the sidewalk is a big mistake. In at least one of those reported conversations, an authority suggested to the complainant that the proper time to complain would have been before the plans were implemented. That, said the authority, was the right time to complain.

Well, dear reader, I am sure that you are way ahead of me on this. Most people don't go to read the detailed plans that would show a raised cement platform that will trip old ladies and send them to the hospital. Our lives are pretty busy and here come capital letters meant to add emphasis: WE ARE NOT PROFESSIONAL ENGINEERS OR PLANNERS. We leave the planning to the pros, right? We want THEM to get it right. They went to school for this stuff.

Also, this will not be the first time that engineers have ever made a mistake. When I leave Albany every day, in order to stay on the "Freebie 90" (the one that you take to get to the airport) you have to cross over two lanes of traffic that are going somewhere else. I call this cross over "The Avenue of Death." I can't tell you how many police cars and accidents I have seen there where Henry Johnson Boulevard meets I-90.

If you take Route 684 into New York there comes a point where that road meets the Hutchinson River Parkway and you are forced over to the right where people are coming in from somewhere else. I keep thinking that someone blew that one big time. It's as if the two or original transcontinental railroads didn't quite meet where they were supposed to. Don't you see? Engineers make mistakes all the time. If we are lucky, they correct them. They don't say, "You should have gone to the Town Hall and looked at the plans." That's absurd.

Then, too, there is the matter of the fix. Look, the authorities know that there is a problem. They made a big mistake. Not only is it very dangerous but there is legal liability. Certainly someone will sue the town for a lot of money. The authorities know they are at risk because they came up with a fix. Instead of just taking the thing down, they painted a yellow line around the offending monster! Can you believe that?

You don't have to be Einstein to figure out that there are sightless people and people with reduced vision who can't see the yellow lines that they painted. Also, people with perfectly good vision aren't always looking down. Sometimes they are looking ahead, not sideways. Sometimes they are talking with a companion.

OK, professionals. We pay a LOT of money in taxes. Do your jobs. I join with Ronald Reagan when I say, "Tear down this wall!"

Alan Chartock, a Great Barrington resident, is president and CEO of WAMC Northeast Public Radio and a professor emeritus of communications at SUNY-Albany. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of The Berkshire Eagle.


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