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‘It’s a major safety issue’: Kelowna resident on uneven sidewalks

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If you go for walks, you may have spotted them: Orange markings on Kelowna city sidewalks. They indicate what spots need to be fixed to make the sidewalk smoother and safer. But some residents say the repairs are taking far too long and causing major safety hazards in the meantime. Klaudia Van Emmerik reports – Aug 9, 2019

Marijke Henkemans lives with a progressive muscle disease and uses a wheelchair as her main mode of transportation.

But the Kelowna woman said getting around on the sidewalks in her neighborhood can be challenging.

“There’s a lot of bumps caused by a variety of reasons that have been marked, but are not being repaired,” she told Global News.

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Henkemans lives on Gordon Drive, near KLO Road, where there are numerous trouble spots.

She said the uneven sidewalks pose a safety risk.

“My chair lifts off when I take this speed bump, cause that is what I call it,” Henkemans said. “I have had concerns about my chair tipping over.”

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She also said the bumps aren’t only taking a toll on her body, but her wheelchair too, which currently has a loose ball bearing in a front wheel.

“Because of all the jarring that happens, things start shaking loose,” she said.

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She’s not the only one complaining.

Joyce Turnpenny lives in the area, too, and said she’s tripped a number of times.

She’s also seen other people fall.

“It”s horrible,” Turnpenny told Global News. “I’ve seen people tipped over in wheelchairs, not on this sidewalk, but back there as you cross the street there, and people have gathered to pick them up.

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“This is not good, this is not caring for your community.”

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What’s especially upsetting, they said, is that the city marked the uneven spots months ago, but nothing has been done.

The City of Kelowna said repairing the trouble spots isn’t an overnight fix.

“Typically, it might take five to six months to get everything done,” said Steve Bryans, roadways operations supervisor for the city.

Bryans said the process starts after the spring thaw, when the city must first identify the areas that need repairs.

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“What we do is we inspect all the sidewalks first, and we inspect the with a bicycle, actually,” Bryans said.

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“We have a fellow who drives over them; he has different buttons on that bicycle that indicate the level of the hazard.”

The city then prioritizes which spots pose the most risk as it decides the order of repairs.

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Bryans said it’s a big job that this year is particularly challenging.

“This year is worst than others,” he said. “I’m told there are 20 to 25 per cent more heaves.”

The city is assuring residents that all marked sidewalk spots will be fixed this year.

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While that’s good news, Henkemans still thinks paving projects like the recent ones on Gordon Drive and KLO Road seem to take priority over badly needed sidewalk repairs.

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“Driving is still a priority in this city,” Henkemans said, “even though the mayor and councillors are saying that they really want to promote public transportation and pedestrians.”

The city is asking residents to call in any sidewalk hazards that may have been missed and not marked for repairs.

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