Saturday, October 20, 2007
Not Your Average Traffic Jam
The traffic is always bad when I leave work. I travel on a major artery into the city, and it's usually bumper-to-bumper for about 1 kilometer. Since traffic is always bad in Moscow, I didn't really think anything of it... That is, until I realized why the traffic is usually bad at that precise spot at around 4 p.m.
There's a man in a wheelchair who travels right up the middle of the road, sometimes on his own, sometimes pushed by a woman. (That's not him in the above picture; I couldn't safely take one. This man is much more haggard and his wheelchair is NOT state-of-the-art). The first time I saw him, I thought he must be drunk. Why on earth would he venture into such dangerous traffic, literally bringing it to a standstill???
I then saw him there on many other occasions, and I realized that he risks his life in the middle of the road because it's the only way he can get anywhere. His neighborhood is in a beautiful, historic area of town--but like most of the city, it isn't wheelchair accessible in the least. The sidewalks are cracked and bumpy, and there are no ramps so he can cross the street. Even with assistance, he wouldn't be able to get up and down from the curbs.
I've asked around, and there is a transportation service for wheelchair-bound Muscovites; it obviously is inadequate, however. The handicapped in Russia are in such a desperate situation that I think they should qualify for refugee status; they cannot live a normal life in this country. Many cannot even leave their apartments! Schools, public spaces and transportation all alienate those who need wheelchairs. (That's also why it's so hard for moms with strollers).
Sure makes you appreciate life in the US, where at least people try to make things accessible.