Sarasota sidewalks not ADA compliant

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SARASOTA, Fla. - Walking was once thought to be one of the safest means of traveling. But some say a stretch of sidewalk in Sarasota maybe changing those beliefs, and one man is fighting to get area sidewalks up to the basic ADA compliance standards.

Sidewalks are something most people take for granted.  But for some, they are a vital part of everyday transportation.

"I haven't been able to drive for 20 years," says Jeff Redding who is visually impaired.

He says the stretch of sidewalk that spans Bee Ridge Road in Sarasota has become a major concern for him.  "They put the street lamp post in the middle of the sidewalk.  Some of them are on the north side, some are on the south side, but basically its an obstruction."

The  Americans with Disabilities Act recommends that sidewalks be 5-6 feet wide.  But the street lamps along Bee Ridge Road are positioned closer to the center of the sidewalk, reducing walking space to just over 3 feet in some areas -- way off the recommended numbers.

"I was trying to go around one of those street lamp posts and my handlebar clipped the rim of the lamp post and I ended crashing.  I got 2 broken ribs, I broke my glasses, and that's probably about the 3rd time I got hurt because of the stupid lamp post," said Redding.

So we reached out to the Department of Transportation to find out why the sidewalks don't meet the current ADA regulations.

"In 2009, when these light polls were installed, they were all ADA compliant.  And once we've met those requirements, it is our belief that we are grandfathered into those requirements," said Robin Stublen with the Florida Department of Transportation.

In addition to being exempted from the current ADA standards, Stublen says there are other barriers preventing the street lamps from being moved.  "Right now we are right up against the edge of the right of way.  We have no more room.  Literally millions would be required to purchase any additional right away we would need if we were to relocated the street lamp," said Stublen.

Most of the sidewalks on Bee Ridge would be in compliance if it weren't for this street lamps.   And since they aren't going anywhere anytime soon, those who are visually impaired or in a wheelchair have no choice but travel a little closer to the road. 

But Redding says he isn't giving up his fight to move the lamp post.  He's started a petition and is asking for signatures.