New parking policy proves abelist

Staff Editorial

Driving in certain parts of Pittsburgh can be a little like trying to push a buggy through a crowded aisle in the grocery store — if everyone else in that aisle had never pushed a cart before. But one of the most challenging aspects of car ownership in the Steel City — and on Duquesne’s campus — is finding a place to park. New legislation from Mayor Bill Peduto is only going to make matters worse.

On March 9, the mayor introduced a bill that would change the city’s zoning rules, which currently require rowhouses and single-family dwellings to have parking spaces. According to the news release, the parking requirement forces housing developers and homeowners to make curb cuts — small ramps built into the curb of a sidewalk — in order to create off-street parking spaces or driveways. The bill alleges that cutting into the curbs this way makes it more difficult for pedestrians to navigate neighborhoods by foot.

The legislation aims to fix that issue, while also preserving and enhancing Pittsburgh’s historic neighborhoods, according to Peduto.
But in a city where parking is already scarce and pricey, it seems like further limiting the amount of spaces available might not be the best idea.

Duquesne students living on the South Side, for example, are hardly strangers to the peril of Pittsburgh parking. With narrow streets, permit-only areas and more residents with cars than there are spaces to put them, it’s fairly common to have no choice but to park streets away from one’s apartment. Carrying groceries six blocks — at night and in the middle of a snowstorm — is something someone only has to do once before they start to wonder if the city just might have a parking problem.

While this is a mild annoyance for most, residents with disabilities who cannot walk long distances or for long periods of time may rely on their vehicles — and on having a place close to their homes where they can park. The main goals of the legislation are to improve pedestrian safety, enhance neighborhood walkability and promote non-vehicular mobility, but this seems to ignore the fact that there are relatively large groups of people for whom “walkability” is not a primary concern.

For an immunocompromised cancer survivor in need of transportation to doctor’s appointments, public transit could pose a health risk and walking might be made difficult by energy-draining treatments. An aged amputee who lives alone might need a way to get to the grocery store. A single mother with young children may need a way to take her kids to school. Insinuating that they all ought to walk to reduce carbon emissions and keep historic Pittsburgh pretty would be insensitive at best and, at worst, deeply ableist.

Yes, these are very specific instances, but the city is full of very specific people with very specific experiences, and the legislation seems to assume a uniformity of needs in our society that doesn’t actually exist.

The bottom line is that a lot of Pittsburgh residents may find it cumbersome or even impossible to get to and from their homes without the use of vehicles, and spaces outside of houses ensure that they have a place closeby to park.

Even healthy young folks with a broken leg or athletic injury could find “non-vehicular mobility” to be a bit of a challenge. While it’s true that for some people, having a car is a privilege, for others, it’s a necessary component in ensuring and enhancing their quality of life.