Dangerous by Design stories: Jackson, MS

We want to see how safety takes a backseat to speed where you live.

Advocates Dr. Scott M. Crawford and Gladys Bunzy give a ground-level perspective on what it’s like to rely on transit, walk and get around using a motorized wheelchair and other assistive devices in Jackson, MS, the #7 most dangerous large metro area in this year’s Dangerous by Design report.

A transcript of the video can be found below.

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Transcript of Scott Crawford and Gladys Bunzy video:

Scott Crawford 0:01 My name is Scott Crawford. I’m retired clinical neuropsychologist. I came down with multiple sclerosis in 1999. And had to retire and now use a power wheelchair for mobility. Since my retirement, I have rededicated my life towards ending this disease—multiple sclerosis—and also creating a more welcoming society for people of all abilities, advocating for the needs of people with disabilities.

Gladys Bunzy 0:37 My name is Gladys Bunzy. I am the president for the fixed route committee for JATRAN in Jackson, Mississippi. I’ve been the committee president for over five years now. I’ve been trying to get the transportation department JATRAN to become a better service for the city of Jackson.

Scott Crawford 0:59 The assumption is that everybody has their own car. And everybody can use their own car for all their trips. And that’s just not so—we know this.

Gladys Bunzy 1:12 I rely on what is called ‘Medicaid waiver,’ which, since I’ve become disabled, one of the services that they offer to me is transportation. But to have that transportation, I have to call like maybe two or three days ahead of time to schedule a ride, to get to where I’m going, and I’m only limited to hours per per day. And you know, as many days… five days a week or three days a week that I can get the service to, you know, go around, pay bills, make groceries, etc, and take care of my own personal business.

Scott Crawford 1:51 Before Jackson saw the light and started turning more complete streets, it was horrible. It was incredibly stressful. I would have to ride my wheelchair in the street against traffic, knowing that I could lose my life at any time. That’s incredibly stressful. Whenever I left the house, it was making a decision: ‘Is this worth risking my life?’ It’s like playing Russian roulette. And so leaving the house means a decision: is this trip really worth my life? That’s how it feels.

Gladys Bunzy 2:37 It is extremely hard. But there are no sidewalks where I’m at now or where I’m trying to move to. There are no sidewalks. There are none! And I don’t know what they were thinking when they built the city not to put sidewalks down. But there are no sidewalks. People, if you’re walking down the street where I live now, you have to walk in the ditch or on the grass to keep away from traffic. It’s quite dangerous either way.

Scott Crawford 3:12 Most streets in Jackson remain inaccessible and unsafe for pedestrians of any kind. And especially people with disabilities. Most of the streets we have don’t have sidewalks at all. The sidewalks we do have are extremely narrow, often obstructed by utility poles. They lack curb ramps and are in ill repair. So they’re not safe for anyone. So a lot of folks have to walk in the street or they walk into dirt and mud next to the street, if that’s possible. Basically, what that communicates to us is that your life doesn’t matter. pedestrians don’t exist at all. You know, it feels like society is saying ‘you don’t belong. Get off the street. You’re in the way.’ Or at best, ‘your life is expendable.’

Gladys Bunzy 4:23 It sends a message that ‘I got a car, if you don’t have a car, oh well!’ I mean that is, I feel like they just don’t care.

Scott Crawford 4:31 I-55 frontage roads along, you know, along 55 North here in Jackson. They have something like six lanes going one direction, no sidewalks whatsoever. And the few sidewalks that we have that go under the overpasses, they don’t even have curb ramps. They’re not usable by anyone with a disability and those motorists are flying. It’s meant to advantage people in their automobiles getting somewhere as fast as possible. And there is no consideration for the safety of pedestrians or people that use transit.

Gladys Bunzy 5:18 When I was riding the bus before the pandemic slowed the service down, you get put off—depending on where the bus stop is—you get put off in the grass, you get put off on a corner. And most of the time, sometimes get the sidewalk or the street is busted up for whatever reason. And if you have to step over, busted up concrete and things of that nature to, you know, in order just to get to a safe spot, so you can safely walk down the street where you got to go.

Scott Crawford 5:51 In my neighborhood, they had to put the road on a road diet. They had to get rid of a lane, one lane of traffic, so that they can add a multi-use path and sidewalks, bus stops that are acceptable. Through a lot of hard work, some very dedicated people at the city Jackson applied and won a very competitive TIGER grant for that funding, thankfully we won. And that gave us some of the funding that we needed to make this happen. Now, as we have done better, and developed some accessible sidewalks on some of our streets, at least in my neighborhood, it’s a pleasure to go out. I feel like other pedestrians, I can enjoy the scenery. It’s low stress. You know the quality and independence I have now is massively better.

Gladys Bunzy 6:55 From from my apartment complex, there’s a convenience store up the street. There’s also Dollar General, etc. You know, in a little shopping area up the street, but on either side is great room for some sidewalks so people can walk.

Scott Crawford 7:14 I’ve noticed that when I have to ride my wheelchair in the street, being a white male. I get most mostly left alone by the police. Mostly. One time I was trying to go to church, and I was on Meadowbrook and there was one of those sidewalks that is completely useless. I mean, no curb ramps, utility poles. This is not a sidewalk. Okay. But the police officer stops like 100 yards away and blares over the intercom. ‘Why aren’t you on the sidewalk? Why aren’t you using that sidewalk? people fought hard for that sidewalk?’ I was like, ‘Sir, I can’t use that sidewalk doesn’t have any curb ramps. utility poles are right in the way. I can’t use that.’ My black friends who do the same thing because they get harassed a lot more often. So there’s the white privilege in action. I know it’s 10 times worse for everybody else. People of color.

Gladys Bunzy 8:33 If we were a priority, if that was their main course, their main focus, their main goal, it would have been done years ago. We’re in 2021! And we’re struggling with these same street problems. I mean, you have to have a car here in Jackson to get around to be on the safe side. Put it put it bluntly.

Scott Crawford 8:55 Well you know, over the years, I’ve sent many complaints to the city, to the Federal Highway Administration, to Mississippi Department of Transportation, Office of Civil Rights. Noting that, you know, I had to wait in the street, or the dirt, in the grass for a bus. The buses weren’t accessible. We had to win that fight. I think hearts and minds here in the city of Jackson have changed. And they want to do the right thing. We need about $2 billion—two with B—billion dollars here in Jackson to fix all fix our streets, fix our sewers, fix our water infrastructure so that people have safe water to drink. We need help. That’s what we need most.

Gladys Bunzy 9:50 It’s very hard. I mean, but we if you got to go somewhere and you can’t pay somebody to get in their car to take you where you need to go. It’s very hard. I walk with a cane now. And by me having a stroke 10 or 11 years ago, this is the thing, my balance is severely off. They need to be level for a person like me because now, since I had the stroke, I have to be walking on a level, flat surface to walk on for me to feel safe walking.

Scott Crawford 10:27 Well, we’re still fighting that uphill battle that sidewalks, so-called sidewalks are just a nice luxury, not a necessity. And that’s really the attitude that we have to change.

Dangerous by Design 2021 was made possible by the support of Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention under cooperative agreement OT18-1802 supporting the Active People, Healthy NationSM Initiative. 

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