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Neighbors question curb cuts not connected to sidewalks

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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) Neighbors in the Westchester area question why the city of Bakersfield spent money to install curb cuts on several residential streets.

The sloping access includes the yellow warning bumps, but the curving cement areas do not connect to any sidewalks.

An Eyewitness News viewer spotted these curb cuts on 22nd Street at Myrtle, Beech and Spruce. Each intersection has four curb cuts, but no sidewalks.

"They look nice," Christian Clark said Monday. "I'm not really sure of the purpose."

Mike Clark, no relation to Christian, lives right at one corner. He's also baffled, and sees more problems.

"They're actually detrimental," he said. "I tripped on one in the dark because there's no street lights here a couple weeks ago walking the dog after the sun went down." Mike Clark and another neighbor on 22nd said the curb cuts went in when the city put in new storm drains a couple years ago.

"Whenever we have a construction project, we'll go in and update the handicapped ramps," acting Bakersfield Public Works Director Nick Fidler said. He said it's the city's policy to add curb cuts as a first step in meeting rules for handicapped access.

And, he maintains that even without linking to a sidewalk, the short curve of pavement serves a purpose. "It acts as a refuge area for people that are crossing multiple legs of the intersection," Fidler said.

Mike Clark thinks the curb cuts have limited use. "If you were confined, say in a device like a wheelchair or whatever, what are you going to do when you get up there," he asks. "You can't motor across the grass."

Fidler concedes it's "not handy," but says it is possible.

And, he says while the short curb cuts are a start, the eventual plan is to link them to sidewalks. Fidler says the city's now working on a "transition plan" to put sidewalks in all areas of the city.

It's not clear how long that will take. Fidler says that plan is now being designed, starting with a look at areas that don't have sidewalks, and then evaluating the funding needed to put sidewalks in.

Fidler told Eyewitness News the city has curb and gutter projects underway now in several parts of town.

As for 22nd Street, he says there is currently no specific plan for adding sidewalks yet.

Neighbors say then they got notices about the storm drain project there was no mention of sidewalk construction, and some wonder how that would be carried out.

At these three areas, some of the homes have flower beds, walkways or even short walls going all the way to the curb. Linking a sidewalk from the curb cut would mean cutting into those structures.

"It does make a challenge for the 'transition plan' when we to have these fixtures in the way of the path," Fidler says about building sidewalks in those circumstances. He says the city does have the right-of-way for eight to ten feet behind a curb line, and can remove "fixtures," if necessary.

But, Fidler says in these situations, the city could opt to put in a sidewalk on only one side of a street.

In the case of the curb cuts on 22nd Street, Fidler said the city used sewer enterprise funds because the project was part of new storm drain construction. He also said curb cuts can typically run from $2,500 to $3,000 each.

Christian Clark is unconvinced of the need for the curb cuts that "go nowhere."

"Just a couple blocks over we've got issues," Clark said. He can point to other nearby spots which he thinks have a real need for that access, and thinks the city should have put the money and curb cuts in those areas.

"Definitely take a look around and see where we could actually benefit from these entries," he urges. "Because they don't (have a)benefit here."
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