Sunday, February 8, 2009

High Heel Shoe Wearers Must Still be Vigilant in Downtown Charlottesville

One of the many arguments for re-bricking the Historic Downtown Mall in Charlottesville was the problem of high heel shoe wearers having their heels break or at least get caught in the many areas of missing mortar between bricks. But, even if the entire mall is redone and no heel-sized openings remain, heel hazards will still exist in the downtown area. The photo here was taken on Fifth Street N.E. just off the mall. The metal grates allow drainage of water from the walkway and cover where a downspout from an adjacent building crosses the walkway and discharges into the street. Unfortunately, these grates are neither fixed in place nor are they restrained from moving in the channel. And, these grates seem to move under normal use. Several of these drainage grate locations are in the sidewalks on my normal path from home to the downtown mall and I routinely find gaps like the one shown in the photo. I can simply kick the grates back into place, but a few days later gaps appear.

On occasion the grates will be totally out of the channel. My guess is that an automobile tire pushes the end grate out of the channel when someone parallel parks and their tire hits the grate. Again, it is easy to put the grate back in place, a small separation between grates is clearly a problem for high heel shoe wearers, but a flipped grate is a hazard for pedestrians in general.

What can be done? Some of the grates are cast with openings for bolts that would fasten the grate to the channel in which it sits - but the channels do not have appropriate threading to hold a bolt. But, I am sure this can easily be remedied. I believe spending millions of dollars to re-brick the mall will solve part of this pedestrian problem, but I suggest the city put a few more dollars into making the side streets safer for pedestrians too.

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