All I need is a little Access to get around town

Rain or shine, I must go out into the great outdoors. Sometimes I guess the weather wrong, or listen to a weather forecaster on the radio and actually believe it. Then I find myself dripping wet due to an unanticipated downpour or, even more unexpected, a heat wave.

But, being a masochist, I walk on.

Walking through the neighborhood is always interesting as houses that were there yesterday are today a pile of rubble. New houses twice their size will appear almost overnight. Porches and new front yards spring up like weeds, and wheeled goods in front of houses go from strollers to two-wheel bikes virtually overnight.

But walking around the neighborhood doesn't get me to the dentist or a movie or the library. I like to walk, but I'm not given to attempting the impossible and walking downtown.

So then what?

I had fallen into a blue funk because I could no longer drive. I felt I was held captive inside Madison Park unless someone with wheels offered me a means of escape. Then I heard about Access, and the world brightened up.

I have since developed several escape routes - Access, buses, cabs. And, this morning, I discovered that Swedish has a van available to get me to First Hill for a physical-therapy appointment and home again.

My garage full of alternatives has taken me almost every place I care to go, day or night - from the opera to the airport. Using it takes a bit of getting used to, and I had to learn to play by their rules. But once I accepted that, there's nowhere I can't go in multiple counties.

Rules on Access consist of my calling one to three days before I want to go somewhere and bearing with the half-hour spread in time they pick you up. You may get where you're going early, but you'll never get there late.

The van accommodates all kinds of wheeled goods. There are a lift and tracks to belt down wheelchairs. Access allows companions to travel along, and the driver is usually pleasant and helpful. You can call 689-3113 and they will send info and brochures in abundance.

Since I've become more agile and I can't get enough reading done at home, I have learned to hop the bus.

The new ones are most accommodating. They kneel before me and send a ramp out to lift me up. Once downtown, I can go in any direction.

I catch it at Bert's Red Apple at three minutes before the hour and the half-hour, and usually I disembark at Sixth Avenue and Nordstrom or at Fourth Avenue and Macy's.

I also can continue on to the Seattle Art Museum or get off a block from Benaroya Hall.

Two weeks ago, I took a bus to the ferry for Bremerton. The same bus continues on and on to places I have yet to visit.

I like the bus because it has equipment to tie down wheelchairs, it has special seats for us old folks and the handicapped and I can read without guilt. Oh, and it costs the monstrous sum of 25 cents.

The downside of finding public means of transportation like this is that I no longer can assume a tragic air and sigh, "Woe is me. Oh, If I only could drive." I get no sympathy whatsoever.

Must go. The bus is due.

I decided I'd miss the bus and complete my report on our deadly sidewalks.

After talking with a Seattle Department of Transportation representative, I now know a sidewalk may never be fixed unless a landowner is full of the milk of human kindness... or afraid that he'll be sued by a person who broke her ankle in front of his house. In short, the sidewalk is the responsibility of the adjacent homeowner.

Inspecting the sidewalks comes under the department's jurisdiction, but there is no funding provided for it. Due to this lack of funding, the inspectors can't respond to reports of unsafe sidewalks unless they receive a report of an injury.

So an owner can gamble or go downtown and get a permit at no cost. Then the inspector will come out to inspect the sidewalk when the owner starts the repairs.

Roberta Cole can be reached via e-mail at

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