Part of a Whole

My name is Nicolas Steenhout.
I speak, train, and consult about inclusion, accessibility and disability.

Moving vans – an every day barrier

This morning, a moving truck was parked on the sidewalk, blocking nearly all of it. Pedestrians were forced to walk sideways like crabs to be able to get through. A mother pushing a stroller was unable to get passed. In a wheelchair, it was also impossible to get through.

Illegal situation

SwiftWay moving truck blocking the sidewalk
Moving truck blocking the corner.

I confirmed with the City of Montreal and the Police services that it is illegal for a vehicle to parked on the sidewalk and block the path. Only emergency vehicles (ambulance, police, fire service) in the course of their work are allowed to do so. In some cases, such as moving, it is apparently possible to get a temporary permit. But after several calls to the city, I still don’t know how one gets such a permit, nor how much it costs. If one blocks parking spaces on the street, it costs $35/space, plus $45 for the permit issuance.

This happens often

It isn’t the first time I see a moving truck blocking the sidewalk. I understand it’s not easy for them to do their job. But when they force pedestrians to either walk in the street and traffic, or to go around the block, it’s difficult for pedestrians as well. Not to mention dangerous.

Allied van blocking the sidewalk
Allied moving truck blocking the sidewalk.

In a previous case, I had complained to the parent company, Allied Van Lines. They responded that they’d address it with the local company that had blocked the sidewalk. A short time later, the manager of the local company contacted me to complain about my complaining to Allied!

Complaint

Another moving truck blocking the corner and both directions of the sidewalk
Déménagement La Capitale moving truck.

This morning, when I asked one of the movers if they had a permit to park there and block the sidewalk, the conversation went a bit like this:

Me: Do you have a permit to block the sidewalk?
Mover: No, why would I have a permit?
Me: Because it’s dangerous for pedestrians and illegal to block the path without a permit.
Mover: Stupidity is also illegal.

That last answer is a direct quote. That answer really took me aback.

I contacted the company to speak about their staff’s behaviour. Their automated phone system told me that the call could be recorded to “ensure a first rate customer service”. But nobody was able to speak to me. I had to leave a voicemail. And nobody called me back.

An acquaintance of mine, who worked as a mover for years, told me that moving companies often prefer to risk a fine rather than take permits every time. Fines should be more stringent. And the companies that block sidewalks must understand that they endanger pedestrians.

In the meantime, this remains a regular barrier to access for people with mobility impairments, for parents with prams, and for people in general.