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“Those fences are putting lives in danger”: Blocked sidewalks raise concerns about pedestrian safety

Published: Apr. 27, 2021 at 12:06 AM EDT
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) -Multiple photos from Saturday night show multiple people just a couple of feet away from traffic traveling down University Avenue in downtown Gainesville. The images show people trying to squeeze by removable barriers outside of the business Jolie. However, these barriers aren’t legal.

“To be able to put things on the public sidewalk, you have to get a permit from the city. There was no permit issued for that,” explained Gainesville Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos.

A man who said he is an employee of Jolie told TV20 off-camera the police required the barriers for crowd control. Police responded by saying they don’t necessarily need barriers to do so.

Barb Page, a Senior Advocate Investigator with Disability Rights Florida, said from the photos, it appears as if there was only about 24 inches of space. According to Page, that is not nearly enough space for people using a mobility device.

“If it was a tight squeeze for someone who was ambulatory and able to walk through that tight space. I can tell you it is almost impossible for someone who is using a device,” explained Page.

She believes if the business had just used the permanent barriers, there probably would have been enough space for a mobility device.

“It looked to me like the width from the barriers to the edge of the sidewalk was a good four or five feet wide,” said Page.

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One of her main concerns is if people using a mobility device couldn’t get by, they might resort to using the street. Commissioner Hayes-Santos believes by putting these barriers out, lives are at risk.

“This makes it dangerous, and those owners that are putting out those fences are putting lives in danger,” explained Commissioner Hayes-Santos.

Gainesville resident Cyrus Maradiajam said he thinks these types of actions could be the cause of recent pedestrian deaths.

“I don’t really think it is fair that they think they are allowed to do that whenever it is obvious that no one else can use the sidewalk. Let alone it is making, so people are walking in the street,” said Maradiajam.

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Commissioner Hayes-Santos wants people to know this is an issue city leaders will be focusing on.

“I’ve talked to the city manager, and we are going to be sending out city staff, and we are going to be enforcing this to make sure it doesn’t happen anymore,” explained Commissioner Hayes-Santos.

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TV20 reached out to the owners of Jolie through the email and phone number listed on their website but have been unable to reach anyone for comment at the time of publishing.

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