No-Passing Wheelchair Zone In Downtown Naperville; Maybe

At the time they sounded like good ideas, a Senior Task Force and an Advisory Commission on Disabilities; who wouldn’t applaud that. Well now it’s possible that some members of the Naperville city council wish they wouldn’t have to consider the wishes of each group. It would be so much easier to approve more outdoor seating areas in front of downtown businesses if they didn’t have to be mindful to the needs of disabled or senior citizens.

Both groups requested council members to reconsider the ordinance and increase the minimum sidewalk clearance width to eight feet. The concern was that by reducing the width of usable sidewalk area, it would impede folks who use wheelchairs and walkers, etc.

Watch and listen to part of the lengthy discussion that would almost be comical if it weren’t true, about how much room is necessary if two wheelchairs were coming towards each other from opposite directions, how much room would be needed to accomplish the maneuver and how the use of hands could alter equation:

Then Naperville councilman Paul Hinterlong throws a stick into the conversation:

Which then begs the question about what about a guy in an iron-lung; what is he to do? This embed is NSFW, (Not Suitable For Workplace (strong language):

Council members seem to be forgetting that the word ‘sidewalk’ is defined as a paved path for pedestrians also known as a walkway. Nowhere in the definition is the idea of how many tables and chairs can be squeezed into a limited space in order to increase business revenues and tax dollars. Simply stated, it appears the Naperville city council is determined to achieve gridlock on the streets and sidewalks of downtown Naperville.

The discussion lead to a side-topic near and dear to city officials; how much can they jack-up the permit fee for sidewalk seating. Watch and listen as Naperville councilman John Krummen uses some high-tech numerology to determine the fee should be raised from $500 to $1000:

He knows it’s “arbitrary with no math behind it”, but that’s good enough for Krummen. Suggestion: keep that in mind, when Krummen decides to run for office again. His decisions on money maters could be ‘arbitrary with no math behind it’, not exactly what tax payers, rate payers, and residents want to hear from an elected official.

Fortunately, the voice of reason (councilman Benny White) countered with some common sense:

Credit councilman Benny White with a nice defensive move that even the Loyola basketball team would be proud of.

Show 3 Comments


  1. Jim Haselhorst

    Most of the people I have talked to about the increase in sidewalk “cafe” space are not ever aware the city council is considering this. Once the conversation turns toward discussing the general response is lukewarm at best, most simply do not like the idea.

    On the summer weekends when I go walking in downtown the sidewalks are already being used at overcapacity (people stepping into street from time to time to get around), this reduction in available space would only make the situation worse.

    City Council needs to remember that a significant number of downtown visitors are from outside our community. If the downtown sidewalks get to crowded, people will get frustrated and simply stop going downtown. I have already had phone conversations with people that have called our office and when they find out we are in the downtown area suddenly loose interest because of the parking problem. It is only after I reassure them with the fact that we have our own parking large parking lot that they finally schedule an appointment. Does city council really want to add another negative to the downtown experience?

    Generally about the only thing thew Watchdog and I agree on is that we disagree, but this is one of the rare situation were I agree. Sidewalk are by definition for pedestrians not “cafes”.

    It is in fact this argument that was used by city council to ban bikes, skateboards, roller-skates, etc from the side walks in the Riverwalk along with the safety concerns they raise. Funny how when it comes to these “cafes” that will provide increase revenue these concerns no longer matter.

    In that case I propose a new city ordinance that allows bikes, skateboard, roller-skates etc on the Riverwalk sidewalks so long as they have paid a permit fee. This will provide the city with an additional revenue stream as well as allow those individuals and families that like to enjoy the Riverwalk on the roll to do so. Surely this is a win-win solutions, isn’t it?

  2. John

    Greed will prevail and we will have side walk cafes

  3. Gene Muratore

    Before commenting, I felt it prudent to go downtown, observe a number of pedestrians, and utilize a tape measure to accumulate facts. In many areas, the distance from building fronts to the curb is 8.5-9 feet. In other areas there is the same amount of space between the storefront and street light poles and/or pedestrian benches. I did observe a woman, walking beside an older friend or relative that was utilizing a walker. I measured the amount of “width” necessary for these pedestrians to safely negotiate the pedestrian walkway (sidewalk). This occurred on the south side of Jefferson, about 1/2 block west of Washington. The necessary width was slightly over 5 feet. This occurred in the early afternoon hours of a Wednesday when foot traffic was very light. An additional 2 or more feet of space was necessary for foot traffic to pass these pedestrians in the opposite direction. Later, I encountered a young mother walking her two young children in a double stroller. I politely asked if I could measure the distance from rear wheel to rear wheel (width). This measurement was 34 inches, nearly three feet. Perhaps it would be highly coincidental for two wheelchairs to cross paths, or even coincidental for two strollers or one stroller and one wheelchair, however it certainly can and most likely does happen, Our first priority must be the safety and well being of our citizens. I see no necessity in granting variances, changing codes or relaxing known and accepted standards in the name of being more “business friendly”.

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