Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Road Construction Hazards

By GDB alumnus Ernest Jones

This is an article Ernest wrote in his local newspaper pointing out some pedestrian hazards in a road construction zone in his town.

For several hours, I puzzled over the noise rolling across the valley. It didn't sound like any farm machinery, and that was all I could think of. It was only after my wife told me there was road construction going on outside that I could put a picture to the noise. As the county workers came down our road that morning, I thought of the great improvements that could be made to the roads.

Starting on our walk the next morning, I never considered that this walk with my Guide Dog would be different than any other day. After all, the roads were still in the same place, so why should this walk be any different from all the others?

But very soon I discovered there was a problem: where was the edge of the pavement? My feet told me I was walking on gravel, so where I was standing should be the road's shoulder. Turns out I was actually well out toward the center of the road. Not only did I have trouble, but so did my guide for everything was different for him too. Still, I figured it couldn't be too bad so we continued on our way.

When I gave the cue for my guide to move to the edge of the road, he seemed very hesitant to move over to the left. Many times when he had me right on the pavement's edge where I needed to walk, my foot would find that the shoulder was anywhere between one inch to several inches below the level of the pavement. More than once I twisted my ankle as my foot slipped off the pavement.

I decided to cut our walk short and we headed home. At that point, I knew very soon we had to round a ninety degree corner, one my guide liked to cut across. Once we passed that corner, however, we would find a nice wide, rather smooth shoulder - one where we could walk fast with little worry of tripping or stumbling.

But I found that this corner and even the nice wide shoulder had been greatly changed. In rounding the corner I tried to get my guide clear over to the left side but he kept crowding me onto the road. Finally insisting he move off the pavement I found him many inches below me and found a steep gravel bank sloping way down; there was no way my guide nor I could walk safely off the pavement here. Worse yet, I found that even the area where we had never had a problem now had a sharp drop-off of at least two inches below the pavement.

Nearing the next 90 degree corner I relaxed for again, we would have a wide shoulder to walk on. But as we made the left turn, the normally wide shoulder was covered with paving and gravel; I guess this was to make it easier for cars to make the sharp right turn.

I know road repairs will usually cause a few problems: there will be traffic delays and people will have to slow down or even stop. It seems road improvement always comes with some cost, but this is the price we pay for better roads.

I don't mean to complain for I understand construction, but for safety sake I could not walk these roads alone for several days. It is not just working with my Guide Dog either; if I used the long white cane I would find traversing these roads even harder.

Thus my guide and I didn't take our normal morning walk for several days. I eventually took the walk by following my wife and our neighbor; after another week or so of learning the changes, I knew my guide and I could try the route alone. Still, for a while, everyone walking or jogging these roads will need to be more alert and careful of rocks being thrown by a passing car.

I am trying to point out one of the difficulties a person may have when it comes to construction work. Being blind I notice this, but for a few days even sighted folk will need to be just a little more careful. I know that in time this will be an even better road.

Have a great day and remember sometimes road work, though maybe a big pain, should be worth it in the long run.


  1. This article is super timely for me, as my city is under huge amounts of construction every day. You never know whether a given segment of a route is even navigable. I think of this construction kind of like working in snow conditions, except not nearly as bloody cold. *grin*. Follow your dog has never been a wiser phrase with this mess.

  2. I remember this road trip from last year. So nice to see a post on Pappy's adventures.