Former Traffic Court Judge Serving New York and New Jersey

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New obstacles for blind pedestrians in NYC

There's no question that New York City can be a mixed bag for blind residents trying to get around. On the one hand, the city, with its extensive public transit system, is far more accessible than many other places. On the other hand, with its speeding cars and bumpy sidewalks, the city presents a variety of obstacles and dangers to the visually impaired.

Unfortunately, recent changes in the cityscape have caused blind pedestrians even more problems.

Many blind New Yorkers navigate the city by using mental maps. Over time, they come to learn where nearly every obstacle lies along their usual paths. Their mental maps are based on their familiarity with the city, and work well only when the landscape of the city remains stable. In recent years, however, the city landscape has been anything but stable.

Specifically, extensive construction, new pedestrian plazas, quieter hybrid cars and an increase in bicycle riders have all contributed to creating difficulties for blind pedestrians.

"I've gone my whole life without getting hit by a car," said former governor David Paterson, who is legally blind. "I can't say what's going to happen with me and a bicycle one day."

When the city's bike-share program begins, it will put 10,000 more bicycles onto the streets, perhaps introducing even more chaos for blind pedestrians.

"They're New Yorkers; they're going to push the envelope," said Paterson. "But I don't want to be the envelope."

Advocacy groups understandably want the city to increase the number of audible pedestrian signals at intersections. While a new law requires these signals to be added to 25 intersections per year -- consider that the city has 12,000 intersections.

Does the city need to be doing more to help blind pedestrians?

Stay tuned for more from our New York traffic law blog ...

If you or a loved one has received a speeding ticket or traffic citation, don't just dismiss it.

Instead, consider contacting an attorney who understands New York's confusing legal system, and who can help you evaluate your options and make the right decisions.

This post was provided for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.


The New York Times, "With changes in New York's streets, more hurdles for the city's blind pedestrians," Matt Flegenheimer, July 29, 2012

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