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Bikeguy

Pedestrian Safety in Charlotte

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I'm a bit surprised that the pedestrian carnage that occurred on Monday has not been brought up on the board. There were four very sad incidents where pedestrian safety was an afterthought... East Blvd & Scott, Carolina Place Parkway, Sharon Amity & Milton Road, and on Ballantyne Commons Parkway, where the fatality occurred. An eyewitness described it as follows:

" I was there last evening and one of the only few that witnessed the sad event from the beginning to the end. The pedestrian was not intoxicated. He was staying at the Ballantyne Hotel as a guest. I know his name and he is a local. I will not release his name here�. His family has yet to be contacted. This gentleman who was mowed down by a worthless woman was simply going out for a nice dinner. I watched this man die in the street like an animal. His shoes were knocked loose from his body, his watch came loose from his wrist and his clothing was cut into pieced by the medical staff to try to save his life. His body was in a distorted position and this will haunt me for years "

A pedestrian in this city trying to cross four or five lanes of heavy traffic at 6:45 in the evening is taking a huge risk, throw in a drunk driver with a revoked license and a short walk to a restaurant is a death wish.

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Frankly, its a miracle that this sort of thing doesn't happen more frequently. I will give credit to Charlotte for doing a decent enough job compared to its southern peers, but there is obviously a long way to go. Even in areas near Center City (South End, Elizabeth, etc), pedestrian usability takes a back seat to getting cars through quickly. Distances between crosswalks is ridiculous in many cases, the pedestrian light-activation buttons are obnoxious (and a pet peeve of mine), and cars frequently fly into right and left turns without looking at sidewalks first.

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This type of story scares the crud out of me, as I am a pedestrian now 90% of my life, being car-free and trying hard to live a ped-based urban lifestyle. At least uptown and near the Lynx there is some level of expectation that pedestrians will be there, but people go horribly fast on some streets. The problem is especially bad on 6th St past the Teeter, where I've been nearly struck 5 or 6 times with the driver SPEEDING UP when I was in the crosswalk (despite bright yellow signs and flashing lights reminding them, and the human body they're staring at which happens to be mine). Twice, I've had SUVs come within 12 inches of me on 6th.

Before the Monday night football game last week, I was walking home from work crossing 3rd at Tryon. The light was flashing yellow for some reason. I entered the street because there was a car in the intersection heading down Tryon and he was blocking traffic on 3rd. No joke, when I was halfway across 3rd, an SUV went around behind the car on Tryon and accelerated right at me! I ended up being close enough where I slammed the side view mirror against the window, which felt vaguely satisfying even though it was impotent. (I should add that after being shaken up by that, farther up on Tryon when I was standing on the curb waiting for the crosswalk light to change, I nearly got smacked in the face by a bus side view mirror.)

I have also had a lot of problems walking to Midtown on the newly rebuilt Stonewall street, on which they spent tens of millions to make it more accessible for pedestrians. I don't walk this way anymore, but twice, I had people rip around the corner, even with me in the crosswalk and come within a foot or two. One of those times it was a minivan and I was able to smack my hand on the last side window.

So here is a trend I have noticed, and I have no clue how scientific it is. It is almost always people with SUVs or minivans. For me, these circumstances have almost never happened with drivers of regular cars. My theory is that they are closer to the ground and don't have the sense of disconnection and authority that goes with the drivers of the larger vehicles. The second part is inexplicable to me, is that they have mostly been women, although that is not as high a percentage as the numbers of SUVs/vans. This part baffles me as I tend to think of women as being more sympathetic to strangers and nurturing and so on.

My favorite is that after nearly being maimed despite being fully and legally in the right, half the time they are laying in their horn after they pass pissed that I slowed them down to the speed limit.

I smugly put most of this on the shoulders of the American suburban experiment. People program their lives around long commutes in their car, minimize their own pedestrian experiences, and buy bigger cars to satisfy them on these long arduous commutes. The result is that they develop an indifference to pedestrians because they rarely act as one, they develop a habit of trying to reduce their commute by speeding and driving more recklessly rather that by living closer to work, and as I stated above their large cars seem to further separate themselves from the human scale world.

I am certain that after they have struck someone and certain if they kill someone, most of these people (Bob Novak not included) feel horrible and extremely affected. But the fact is, there is something about our culture that causes our drivers to take such a level of disregard for our pedestrians. I have lived around the world in cities much smaller than here and cities much larger than here. I have also traveled to a significant number of places. Accidents happen everywhere of course, but culturally, you can genuinely rely on drivers to stop and grant right of way to pedestrians in crosswalks, even to the point of excess (where you were waiting by the side of the road for them to pass, but they screech to a halt for). In the US, certainly many drivers stop and act responsibly, but it is extremely reliable there will constantly be some jackass (again, usually a woman in an SUV) that doesn't even think about stopping even with you directly in front, or often even speeding up to show you up.

All this is is my experience downtown. To imagine being a pedestrian or bicyclist in Ballantyne, Carolina Place, and places like that just horrifies me. It is very sad that all that happened, but sadder still that it goes unanalyzed and underreported (I didn't even see these articles, and I'm on the news sites multiple times a day).

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A personal pet peeve of mine is right turn on red. That cat is out of the bag and it's never going to get put back in. It might have been better if it had been implemented such that right-on-red is only legal when there is a sign explicitly allowing it (this is how they do it in NYC) but now, 90% of the time, even "no turn on red" signs are ignored.

After living car-free for a couple of years several years back, I can attest that the I felt marginalized, out of place, unwelcome, and downright unsafe due to neighborhood and street design far more often than I felt like I was in a place where I was really supposed to be as a pedestrian.

We've spent so long building our cities around the car, that it will be difficult or impossible to undo the damage that this has caused.

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A personal pet peeve of mine is right turn on red. That cat is out of the bag and it's never going to get put back in.

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It is illegal to make left turns on red from one-way to one-way, however Charlotte is in the minority in this regard. Most other cities allow this (I believe even in Raleigh it is legal). I had one girl behind me not to long ago laying on the horn because I wouldn't turn left on red as she wanted to turn as well. I didn't move until it turned green and when she pulled up next to me at the next light, I got her to roll down her window and explained that it's illegal in Charlotte....she had no idea.

Like Dubone, I'm a big fan of smacking an offending driver's car as hard as possible. This usually sends the message.

I honestly think its sheer ignorance here (combined with self-centeredness) as most drivers typically seem momentarily confused by the site of a pedestrian.

I think visual cues that would help would be urban sidewalks....NO PLANTING STRIPS!!!, and more on-street parking. Additional stop lights would help as well. More buildings will help as well, as it offers visual stimulus that naturally makes drivers want to go slower and examine their surroundings. Higher density also results in other traffic calming devices by circumstance, such as delivery trucks illegally blocking lanes, construction crews blocking lanes, large numbers of people walking close to the street, and limited sight lines at intersections creating concerns of someone pulling out in front of you.

In short, Charlotte is still dominated by driving, and there is little to slow people down, as well as the relative rarity of pedestrian. Driver's here are a product of their environment. As Charlotte slowly urbanizes, pedestrian conditions will improve, but I don't see any way that drivers are regulated into better considering pedestrians.

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Left on red is illegal in NC. I remember it came up a few years ago, but the legislature opted to keep it as is.

I guess I'm a contrarian on this part, but right on red has no impact on pedestrians in my thinking. Right on green is more dangerous because they don't even have to stop to look for cars, and it is harder to see them right behind you.

My problem uptown are the drivers on the larger one way roads where they feel free to speed. As a driver, I'm also guilty of speeding in some deserted parts of uptown, but I have always slowed down around pedestrians.

I agree about some of the methods for traffic calming, but looking at 6th, it defies them. West 6th has urban buildings from Tryon to Pine, sidewalks abutting the street, street parking, lots of people, etc., but people still fly. I guess part of it is the downhill slope going down to Church.

Some states have those kid font signs saying "Slow Down for My Daddy"/"...Mommy" at construction zones. Perhaps we should have some kind of shocking sign that reminds people of the humanity of pedestrians as they enter uptown.

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The problem on W 6th is that there aren't enough signals to regulate the slow of traffic. After Church St, its a free-for-all to get to Graham. A light at 6th & Pine would do wonders for that problem.

So here is a trend I have noticed, and I have no clue how scientific it is. It is almost always people with SUVs or minivans.

All this is is my experience downtown. To imagine being a pedestrian or bicyclist in Ballantyne, Carolina Place, and places like that just horrifies me. It is very sad that all that happened, but sadder still that it goes unanalyzed and underreported (I didn't even see these articles, and I'm on the news sites multiple times a day).

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So here is a trend I have noticed, and I have no clue how scientific it is. It is almost always people with SUVs or minivans. For me, these circumstances have almost never happened with drivers of regular cars. My theory is that they are closer to the ground and don't have the sense of disconnection and authority that goes with the drivers of the larger vehicles. The second part is inexplicable to me, is that they have mostly been women, although that is not as high a percentage as the numbers of SUVs/vans. This part baffles me as I tend to think of women as being more sympathetic to strangers and nurturing and so on.

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Try getting across Kings Dr at the intersection of Morehead St. That's a very long crosswalk for only a 4-lane road. Cars come flying from Morehead St onto Kings Dr heading away from the city. I've almost been plowed into 4 times at that crossing. Also try any crossing in Southpark. The rich people love to blow their horns at the pedestrians in crosswalks in Southpark.

I really believe that we need some traffic speed enforcement in this city. I am guilty of speeding all over Charlotte - sometimes it's my own doing, and other times it's keeping up with traffic. Although as a frequent runner and pedestrian uptown myself, I am always cautious and slow down at the site of other pedestrians. But I do believe that we need speed enforcement. I believe we see the excessive speeding partly due to the lack of traffic cops in Charlotte. We're becoming just as bad as Atlanta with speed problems.

I would be all for speed cameras like they are used all over Ireland, England, and Australia. I know that the US is a very long way away from that, though.

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Right on red got me a free ride on the hood of an SUV back in the day. Drivers often don't think to look for people in the crosswalk, they just look left for traffic and and then go. I guess rural and suburban drivers just aren't used to driving in situations where people are actually crossing the streets at intersections.

Along with pedestrian accidents, a cyclist was hit and killed at U city and Tryon about a week ago.

I really hope the widening and rerouting plans for Mallard Creek Rd. include sidewalks and bicycle lanes. I see people have near death experiences along the stretch from WT Harris to Sugar Creek on a daily basis.

I wish this PSA was on TV here:

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I'm a first hand witness the driving and walking habits in Uptown every day (usually as a walker), and I see risky habits from both drivers and pedestrians. The most frequent thing that I see that really makes my blood boil is drivers that try to run yellow and often red lights (only to have to stop at the next intersection's red light). Also, way too many people making illegal turns at intersections (Trade and Tryon) where no turns are allowed. As far as pedestrians go, too often people head into a crosswalk without looking for oncoming traffic or try to cross against the light.

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Whenever I'm walking (mostly in Uptown), I always take steps to be on the defensive, knowing that people think that the privilege to drive is a divine right. So that's minimized any close encounters I might have had. I just take the attitude that people would rather mow me down than slow down for me as I cross the street.

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That is a really cool PSA!

As for Nicaragua, I concede the point that not everywhere is better. I've mostly traveled in Europe and Asia, and Europe is significantly better on this front, and Asia is better in some places and worse in others. But everywhere seems to be at least more aware of pedestrians, even if they are not as courteous.

Like you, spartan, I've grown in my sense of satisfaction to inconvenience drivers. I wasn't that way a year and a half ago when I first started my car-free life. I haven't had trouble with people getting out of their cars, but I would love one of those people who endanger my life to try that. Our lives are worth less just because we are not in a steel cage exploding dinosaur crape.

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