Sidewalk for pedestrians in downtown Memphis needs repairs

A paralyzed Memphis man said getting around downtown was difficult because sidewalks were in dire need of repairs.

Memphis, Tennessee — Memphis continues to attract people from all over the world. However, the city’s pedestrian transport links remain lacking, leaving some community members feeling left behind.

For someone like Fletcher Cleaves who is paralyzed in a car accident due to distracted drivers, moving around the city, especially in downtown areas, can be difficult.

Struggling to get around broken sidewalks every day, he said he would like to see the city do more.

Cleaves lived in the city center for seven years. He has been paralyzed for 13 years and is in a wheelchair.

According to Fletcher, the sidewalks are not wheelchair accessible and he has difficulty getting around the city.

“I had to turn around and go back, so I found the nearest curb and went back to the curb, so it was an unnecessary risk, you know, in the middle of the road or even in the curb is something that doesn’t need to happen,” Cliff said.

He said he had called the city, but he had yet to see anything happening.

“The terrain was out of control, tree trunks on the sidewalk, any missing piece you could think of,” Cliffs said.

He said one of the biggest issues he saw was the fire hydrant in the middle of the Carolina Street curb cut. He said he couldn’t get around it without falling. He now wants the city to pay more attention to people with disabilities.

“We’re trying to attract tourists and people from all walks of life…just understand that the bare minimum isn’t going to cut it,” Cleves said. “Don’t just do something to check a box. In fact, do you think it’s good for someone in the disability community?”

The Memphis Downtown Board is working to address the issue.

“The Memphis Downtown Board is always looking for ways to enhance mobile connectivity in our transportation network. So, that means, how do we open up options in a city that’s very car-dependent,” said the board’s Lauren Bermudez .

They started one-to-one matching grants, up to $5,000, to help businesses repair sidewalks.

“We’ve been walking around, looking at the sidewalks, taking pictures, contacting the owners, and we’ve found that the sidewalks are damaged or maybe missing,” Bermudez said.

In Memphis, it’s the owner’s responsibility to fix sidewalks, but Bermudez said she knows it can be expensive, especially for small business owners. That’s why grants are available. They just need more people to know it exists.

“Our vision is to create a downtown for everyone,” Bermudez said.

Grants are for a limited time only. Currently, they have 15 potential projects in the works, she said. Once a project begins, they say, it only takes a few weeks to repair sidewalks.

Cleaves is pleased to see some action being taken. He said he had been to other major cities and that it was easier for him to get around. He hopes to get the same convenience in his own city.

“All parts of life should be accessible,” Cleaves said. “Memphis has a major international airport, so why do I need to maneuver in different situations instead of taking the same walkable route.”

MLGW is responsible for moving the hydrants. ABC24 contacted the company. They say they are finishing the design. The design is then sent to construction crews to move.

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