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Scooter users ask for warning signs on Williams Ave. bridge

February 26, 2014
By MEL TOADVINE ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

When Sharon Shaffer leaves her apartment in the Heron Pond community, she uses a scooter chair which runs on a battery. It's her only means of transportation.

But a fall last week on the bridge on Williams Ave., over the Abel Canal, has left her scared that it could happen again. She said she was coming back on her scooter when a bicyclist came from behind her and as usual, people in scooters pull to the side to allow them to safely pass by.

The bicyclists went by her and she had pulled over to the curb of the bridge and one of the wheels of her scooter fell off the curb, bringing her into the roadway, with her in seatbelts.

Article Photos

Sharon Shaffer

"People drove their cars right around me. They were driving fast and I was scared to death. Nobody stopped to help me.

"It was horrible and I am scared to death to even cross the bridge now because this is the third time my scooter has fallen, only this time in fell with me in it right into the roadway. I ended up on my side with the scooter almost on top of me. Nobody, nobody stopped to help," she said.

Shaffer, 65, lives alone and is suffering from several disabilities including osteoporosis "from the neck to the toes," painful arthritis, and post trauma distress syndrome.

"I can get around my small apartment here at Heron Pond, but when I go out, I have to use the scooter. I go down to the CVS store and get most of the things I need and I enjoy going down to the Barbara Farrell Park and to the area where my grandson plays ball," she said.

"But I don't go much past there. I have gone as far as my doctor next to LRMC, but I can't go any more out there and the scooter is slow. When I come back, I have to plug it in to charge," she said.

Sometimes she takes her pet Chiwawa dog, Penny, and sometimes she takes a heavy oxygen tank with her.

But last week, she didn't take Penny and she didn't take her oxygen tank.

"If I had that heavy oxygen tank with me on my scooter, it probably would have killed me," Shaffer said.

The incident has so upset her that she now takes anxiety medication when she leaves to ride outside and the sight of the bridge, she says, scares her to death.

"I can't help it. It is a big scare for me."

Shaffer said she isn't the only person on a scooter who has fallen on the pavement going across the bridge.

"My friend Nadine, who also lives at Heron Pond, has fallen, too, and she is not comfortable having to ride a scooter on the sidewalk across the bridge."

Nicholson said she has fallen but someone did stop to help her. She said it was unbelievable that nobody stopped to help Shaffer who lay out on the road and could have been run over.

Shaffer was finally able to get her seatbelt off, she said, and pull the scooter up to the pavement and the scooter, she said is heavy and difficult to pull on.

What Shaffer and Nicholson believe should be done is have the county or the local water control district, whoever maintains the bridge, to erect signs on either side of the bridge warning those who use scooters to be especially careful when they pull over to allow a biker to pass by.

On regular sidewalks, they can pull over to the grassy area. But on the bridge, there is a wall which doesn't give them room to pull over.

A visual inspection of the bridge appears that the wide pavement narrows a few inches at the bridge, making it somewhat even more narrow. And with the bridge wall so close to the sidewalk, if someone falls, he or she will end up on the pavement or in the road.

"I didn't know who to call. My son, who lives in Lehigh doesn't even know what happened because I have not told him yet," she said. "I was afraid he might ground me riding on that bridge again," she said. Her son and his wife and their children live in a new home some miles away from Heron Pond. Another idea would be to instruct bikers to get off their bicycles and walk their bikes over which could be safer without have a person on a scooter pulling over to the side to allow someone riding a two-wheeler.

"I guess I cannot give up or I won't be able to get the things I need from CVS," she said. "But I am petrified, thinking about riding my scooter over that bridge again," Shaffer said. "The other day I went out on my scooter, but I had to take an anxiety pill just to do it.

Meanwhile, both women, are hoping something can be done and they both agree that signs may help.

"You know why people speed so fast across that bridge? I think it is because they race to make that right-hand turn on a green light and once they have made the turn they are going fast and are immediately on the bridge. They don't slow down. It's scary," she said.



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