Editor’s note: A few years back, I was coming out of a restaurant after a nice birthday dinner, heading down the street to start the second half of my celebration. As I passed a pit where at tree had been planted in the sidewalk, my rear wheel fell into the hole. I fell into the tree, breaking my shoulder. The following story has a better ending.(TB)
Here is a heads up, and sticks down, for people trying to get around with canes and dog guides. In some locations around town, trees have been planted in the middle of the sidewalk.
Sections of pavement have been removed to accommodate some of these trees. In some cases, this creates a predicament where there are open pits around the trees. As a result, the dirt levels are not always level with the sidewalk.
Specifically, this happened just off the corner of 50th and Bryant Avenue South in Minneapolis. On Sunday, May 27, a blind woman from Richfield fell into one of these pits where the dirt was four to five inches below the sidewalk. She skinned her elbows, but thankfully, was not seriously injured!
She remarked, “Adding trees to our urban forest has many benefits. However, creating traps in sidewalks seems to go beyond common sense, not to mention potential for personal injury liability claims, and it also crosses a line with regards to trust in public safety.”
As a result of this incident, a report was e-mailed to the appropriate City Council Member, along with a request to have these pits covered with grates that would be even with the sidewalk. This request was then forwarded to the “sidewalk people” for the City who have taken measures towards resolving this issue.
The response was quick. Within two days of receiving the complaint, dirt was filled in around these trees to a height apparently even with the sidewalk.
Now, the pit that Colleen fell into appears to be level with the sidewalk, but the surface of the dirt is bumpy and uneven, and there is still potential for injury.
According to a City representative, property owners along that section of sidewalk are responsible for those pits. The City will be notifying them that metal grates need to be purchased and installed in order to be compliant with City Code.
The up side to this issue is that the initial response from the City to this report was very quick. A half-dozen people gathered forces to take care of providing safety measures within a day of hearing of the incident.
Minneapolis is known to have a government that takes pride in keeping the City a nice place to live, and public safety is at the top of their list of priorities.
Going forward, keep in mind that this was one instance of trees planted along the curb in a sidewalk where pitfalls were discovered and remedied. There may be others like it out there as well. So, please do not hesitate to report safety issues. Beware—and take good care!