New 28th St. sidewalks help people with disabilities

News sidewalk along 28th Street in metro Grand Rapids. (Oct. 22, 2015)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — For the first time, there are continuous sidewalks along a seven-mile stretch of 28th Street in metro Grand Rapids.

It took seven years and $2 million in federal, state and local dollars to lay the seven miles of sidewalks along 28th Street from US-131 east to I-96.

A map showing where new sidewalks have been laid along 28th Street.
(A map showing where the new sidewalks have been laid along 28th Street.)

They will make the street, which is perhaps one of the busiest business corridors in West Michigan, much safer for everyone from walkers to bicyclists to drivers.

But one group hopes the project is just beginning because, for them, not having a sidewalk can mean not getting where they need to go or risking life and limb to do it. That group: people who use wheelchairs.

Thursday, Clark Goodrich, who uses a wheelchair, showed 24 Hour News 8 one of the spots that’s still tough for him to navigate. After traveling along a sidewalk on Lake Eastbrook Boulevard off the East Beltline, he has to go into the street to keep on toward his destination. Every time he has to ride on the side of a street instead of on a sidewalk, he just hopes drivers are paying attention.

“It would be all over if one person was not watching,” he said. “It would pretty much be game over.”

And Karen DeLoof, who also uses a wheelchair, takes the bus to Woodland Mall, even though it’s practically across the street from her home. She said she worries about crossing the street in her chair because drivers may not see her.

Goodrich used new sidewalks on 28th between Kalamazoo and Patterson avenues to get from his apartment to meet with 24 Hour News 8, which made his journey much safer.

“I’m thinking this is awesome,” he said.

Dave Bulkowski of Disability Advocates of Kent County is also celebrating the newest addition along 28th Street.

“It’s people wanting to be part of life,” he said.

He pointed out where walkers and bikers have worn a clear path on Lake Eastbrook, where there is no sidewalk.

“That was one of our jokes on 28th Street,” Bulkowski said. “They knew exactly where to put the sidewalks ’cause all they had to do was follow the paths that people had worn in the grass along 28th Street.”

Bulkowski and other sidewalk advocates will now focus on new targets, including 28th Street west of US-131, which has sidewalks in some spots but not others.

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