The Ramblings of 4WheelBob
America's premier wheelchair hiker speaks.
Not Good Enough For Walnut Creek, CA

As a result of a divorce, my daughter grew up with her mother in Walnut Creek, CA, while I lived 25 miles from there. When she was a Junior at Las Lomas High in her city, I attended her school's Open House, part of which was to show off a brand new, two story classroom building. Since 3 of Amanda's classes were on the 2nd floor, I rolled to the brand spankin' new elevator only to find it was off. I asked a maintenence man if he could turn it on, but the principal, he said, had ordered him to leave it off lest it be misused.

Somewhat upset, I made my way to the Principal, Pat Lickliss's office in another building. As he stood in the backgroud, the school secretary (I forget her name, but am quite sure she would have melted had I tossed a little water on her), advised me that the elevator would remain off and that I could come back after scheduling conferences with my kid's teachers!

I found this incredulous. I questioned her about it and she said "we only built it because the State made us. We don't have THOSE kinds of people at Las Lomas." I almost came over the counter after her and the Principal - Mr. Lickiss refused to even speak to me about it. But each time I go out and about in Walnut Creek I remember those words:

"We don't have THOSE kinds of people here..."

I've worked in Walnut Creek for 8 years now. I get out almost daily to get some exercise, go for a roll around the neighborhood or just to put in a few lunchtime miles. A year ago, as they worked a fender - bender accident across from a large hospital, two Walnut Creek motorcycle officers parked their massive bikes on the sidewalk, blocking it. One of the officers waved me to go around the accident in the STREET! This would have placed me into oncoming traffic around a blind corner in which fender benders are common. I refused, and ended up pushing his bike almost on its side to get by. We had words, but it didn't go any farther. I called the Watch Commander at Walnut Creek PD - I'm still waiting for a response. After all, in Walnut Creek they don't have THOSE kinds of people....

Flash to last Friday, which is what brought all these memories back. I took my lunch to roll down to a local outdoors shop, Sports Basement, which I thoroughly enjoy. Crossing the very first street I found that city engineers, as in San Francisco and many other cities, created almost useless ramps for street crossings. Most were sloped at the right angle, but as you get to the street a 1" - 2" upwards jerk is required or the small front wheels on my chair get stuck and I get launched. This engineering feat was almost universal as I rolled across some of the city's most used streets. I'm quite sure they failed to consider that anyone except bicyclists would be using these ramps, because...

they just don't have people like me in Walnut Creek. Nope, no sirree.

Add to the they've placed the buttons for activating the crossing signs mostly off limits to anyone who can't negotiate a concrete island or a dirt encirclement with a grade on it in a wheelchair. Not a problem in Walnut Creek, you see, because they don't have people like that there....

To be fair, a lot of cities and towns take such short cuts in their civil engineering. Not a single city in the Bay Area has a wheelchair bound consultant for these matters, although they DO hire consultants.

What galls me about Walnut Creek's civic arrogance is just how pervasive it is in even the most traveled commercial neighborhoods. At the local Safeway, a large food chain store, they had one of their trucks block all available disabled parking spots, and refused to move it to the unloading area. Walnut Creek police refused to respond, the dispatcher stating they had no jurisdiction (although the signs indicated they would write tickets based on a Calif. Vehicle Code violation if an unauthorized party parked in the handicap spaces).

But it apparently isn't a problem, because (all together now!) Walnut Creek doesn't have THIOSE kinds of people there. I guess I'll be doing no more shopping in wonderful, suburban Walnut Creek. I'll simply take my money elsewhere, to places where even I can get by on my good looks and shiny wheelchair....  

2008-08-11 05:01:02 GMT
Comments (1 total)
A perspective most of us miss.

I did a blog today on Mark Wellman - a paraplegic who climbed Half Dome and El Cap years ago.

Rick Deutsch -Mr. Half Dome
Author: "One Best Hike: Yosemite’s Half Dome"
--Rick D
2008-08-13 15:21:59 GMT
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