Friday, August 15, 2008

Just what IS "pedestrian-friendly"?

Some very quick reactions to a couple of comments from previous posts:

"Cato," a regular reader, was talking about how some downtown streets are great, but others aren't very exciting. Yes, they have sidewalks, but . . . He says, "The Wachovia Securities stock ticker board at the corner of College & MLK could have been a minor landmark, but it's in such a dead zone practically no one sees it."

Commenting on an earlier posting, "Anonymous" asked: How are you defining "pedestrian friendly? My neighborhood of Spring Valley is very pedestrian friendly where you could walk continuously for several miles without the bother of busy intersections, plenty of sidewalk and wide streets for bikes, jogging strollers, etc."

I define pedestrian-friendly as having good sidewalks that are wide enough for several people at a time, including those with strollers, and having intersections designed so they don't terrify you if you have to cross. They have relatively short blocks so you can get somewhere without going too far out of your way. They have destinations, so you're not walking aimlessly only for exercise (though I like to walk for exercise).

In my definition, really pedestrian friendly streets need something interesting to look at. Different people think different things are interesting, of course. I like to look at people's gardens, landscaping and big old trees. This bores my husband something terrible. He likes store windows, sidewalk cafes and lots of people on the sidewalk.

But most everyone can agree, I think, that surface parking lots, parking garage entrances, loading docks and long blank walls are not pedestrian friendly. Those are, as Cato suggests, "dead zones."

How do you avoid them? Simple (if not easy). Encase parking garages in ground-floor retail, like Seventh Street Station. Put surface parking lots behind buildings.

I like to walk uptown, and some streets are quite comfortable for pedestrians: E.g., Tryon Street. Others are awful: College Street between Trade and Fourth, or Fourth Street between Church and Poplar.

Got nominations for great pedestrian streets? Or horrific ones?


Matt C said...

Central Ave between Pecan and the Plaza is a great pedestrian area - shops and eateries right on the street.

Central Ave anywhere else is horrible.

7th Street in Elizabeth from Hawthorne to Pecan is great pedestrian area.

7th Street from Pecan to Eastway is horrible.

South Blvd from Park to East is nice.

South Blvd anywhere else is not

If the concepts that made these nice parts (short blocks, retail, dining, sidewalks, crosswalks, low speed limits) were extended along these roads, then Charlotte would be on to something as far as pedestrian-friendly is concerned.

Margaret said...

I think Plaza-Midwood is the most practical/livable version of a pedestrian-friendly area in Charlotte. When I lived there it was an easy, pleasant walk from my house to Central Ave between Plaza and Pecan. I could go to the grocery store, post office, library, used bookstore (Yay Book Buyers!), Nova's Bakery, have a slice at Fuel Pizza, etc, very quickly.
I think Charlotte has a few areas that most people drive to and then walk around once they get there (NoDa; Birkdale; Phillips Place; College Street, Tryon between 5th and 8th downtown).
It would be great if our public transit system made it easier to access different areas without driving!

Sloan from SouthPark said...

Wow! You certainly did a great job of redefining “pedestrian-friendly” to include any part of town except SouthPark and Spring Valley, didn’t you? If you’d been born just a few years earlier, you could have gotten a job in Birmingham redefining voting requirements for exclusionary purposes.

I get the idea you’ve never walked in the SouthPark area. Sure, there are Cato’s “dead-zones”, just as there are in uptown. But my route, which is not always just for exercise, alternately covers places such as Piedmont Town Center, Morrison, the Shops on the Park, the new Village at SouthPark, Phillips Place, Sharon Corners and Symphony Park, where occasionally one will find other events than those crowded June concerts.

There are interesting neighborhoods nearby where you can ogle landscaping and “big old trees”. In fact, we have big old trees along our major streets. Most neighborhoods are walkable if not entirely sidewalked. Your husband would be busy eyeing the unique stores and watching people dine at the many sidewalk cafes.

We may not have as many people on our sidewalks, but I count that as a blessing. And as mentioned previously, we at least still have wildlife and trees. Have you ever herded a flock of Canada geese across Tryon Street on your way back from the library? I’ve done that on Morrison.

Any street-smart citizen who knows how to push a button can cross our wide boulevards easily and safely. I see folks in power wheelchairs doing that regularly. And frankly, I enjoy the soothing grassy buffers between most of our buildings and the sidewalks.

I’ll try to straighten my 4-mile circuitous walk and add another 2 miles to the north so I can see how uptown walking compares. Will I then be eligible to join Mary’s Center City Club?

Anonymous said...


I've walked many times around Southpark and it is very pedestrian friendly. The problem is that every single time I've done it I was the only one out and about on the sidewalks.

You've got to be kidding ! No one in this part of town would be caught dead "walking". Their fat asses are glued to their leather SUV seats.

Southpark could be a great walkable area. But as it stands now it is a joke. Mostly due to its lazy suburban minded residents.

Anonymous said...

And yes, we have plenty of geese in Marshal Park. As well as squirrels, rabbits and tons of birds in Fourth Ward park.

You really should get out more and stop knocking your center city. Without it and its businesses Southpark would still look like it did back in the 1970's.

Anonymous said...



Anonymous said...

Mary, I commented one time that white people don't ride buses - at least not local buses - and you wrote a column on that subject.

So here's another one: White people don't walk, unless you make it difficult for them to take their car out of the lot or parking deck (uptown situation).

If we had a dictatorship in Charlotte, we could eliminate much of the heart-stopping smog anywhere in this city - uptown, SouthPark or wherever - by requiring anyone residing outside the city limits to park-and-ride in order to work or shop here. Heck, they don't pay city taxes anyway. Fine their butts if police catch a violator.

Anonymous said...

Why is the # SEVEN not showing up on the blog ?

Anonymous said...

Opps, must be a font issue on my computer. I see it now.

Sloan from SouthPark said...

To Anon at 11:54:

We do get out of SouthPark. We even walk to a bus stop a block away from our house, take a 5-minute ride to the Tyvola Lynx station, and ride to center city to use the main library, go to the museums, and dine.

We're proud of center city, SouthPark, Ballantyne, the university area, etc. The message in most of my comments is that Charlotte is more than just the center portion, and I'm tired of local officials and the Observer over-emphasizing it to the detriment of, say, places like the Eastland area, which really needs city help.

So, since you apparently live uptown, when will you be taking the Lynx to the Tyvola Station, getting onto a Rt. 60 local bus, and dining or shopping in SouthPark, and acting like you're actually living in a big city?

I said...

Parts of South Park are pedestrian friendly - the inside of the mall maybe. That loop Sloan mentions (Piedmont Town Center, Morrison, Mall, Phillips Place, etc) is at least a four mile loop with tons of dead zones to pass.

The rest of SP is four-to-five lane roads that drivers move along at 40-50mph, with nearly all shops/restaurants, etc set back from the road.

While the neighborhoods around South Park are nice, there is no where to walk to within them.

I agree that South Park is a pretty area to walk-around, but it is not pedestrian friendly in an urban sense.

Anonymous said...

Hey Sloan,

I do live uptown and I sold my car 3 years ago and have been taking the bus ever since. Since November I have also been taking light rail. I am also very familiar with the #60 bus from the Tyvola station to Southpark.

For the most part I don't need to venture outside of uptown. Everything I need is there except for a good selection of clothing. But with the current revamp of Founders to include multi level retail and the upcoming Brevard retail street I should be good to go in the near future.

I have Harris Teeter a block away, Home Economist and farmers markets a short LYNX ride away. A new Lowes in South End, Home Depot Design Center, Target, Marshall's, Best Buy and Staples and soon a Trader Joes.

They already started construction of a year round farmers market across from the Time Warner Arena. Speaking of "arena". There's Time Warner, Panthers and countless venues for music, nightlife, theater. Then there's the new EpiCenter.

Hell, I can walk, bike, bus or LYNX to everything I need within a few short minutes.

Southpark may be "pretty" but as far as walkable you cannot beat uptown and that's why it rated the best on walkability. And that wasn't from Mary it was from the listed website.

Anonymous said...

I agree with anom 11:50. You can't show off your "ststus" while walking, and in south park that just wont do. What would Buffy and the girls at the club think? It would just be dreadfull to walk like one of the poor schlubs who do not live in the park.

On a side note matthews is a nice walk.

Sloan from SouthPark said...

I don't care what Buffy thinks, I enjoy walking in SouthPark, as do more and more residents and workers.

There are two Harris Teeters - including a flagship store,two drugstores,part of the Briar Creek greenway, a regional library, the Queens sports complex, a senior center. the SouthPark campus of three of the Myers Park schools, and of course a lot of unique shops, delis and restaurants. A lot of folks in my neighborhood have started walking and even biking to dine,work and shop.

Like I said, unlike the xenophobes who comment here, I'm proud of uptown, SouthPark and this entire great city, not just the part I inhabit.

Oh, we even have winos here, although, like pedestrians, there are not anywhere as many as here as in uptown. I think I even saw Buffy helping an elderly one into his dented-up Jag the other night outside the Palm.

Anonymous said...

Glad you are enjoying walking in your neighborhood. Hopefully it will catch on because I don't see many if any walking when I visit Southpark.

The more people see you doing it the more they will feel it's no longer just white trash that walk.

Bravo, keep up the good work. Everyone needs to get off their butts, out of the car and hit the sidewalk.

Anonymous said...


As a westsider, I thank you for sticking up for All of Charlotte.

Based on some other comments I've read here, one would think that Charlotte is a city of 7,000 persons instead of 700,000.

Anonymous said...


What's your problem ? It's about pedestrian friendly neighborhoods and if there is one out there as friendly as uptown. There isn't .... period.

It's not about who's neighborhood is best. Each neighborhood has its own qualities.

Get over yourself, stop sulking, stop jumping at the chance to hate uptown and get on with your weekend.

Anonymous said...


I hear it time and time again that you just "can't get there from here" with Charlotte transit.

You actually can get most anywhere and usually with ease. Especially if you are traveling to and from any of the neighborhoods of Uptown, Dilworth, Southpark, Myers Park, Elizabeth, Central, NoDa, South End, out Providence, North Lake, University and especially anywhere on the LYNX line all the way to Pineville.

Get online, punch in your "to and from" destinations and RIDE TRANSIT.

Anonymous said...

A point which I have not seen raised: Uptown Charlotte is inherently more pedestrian-friendly than a neighboorhood such as SouthPark or Ballantyne for the simple fact that it is more densely packed/populated. The closer things are to each other, the more likely that people will walk between them. It doesn't matter if you put the best sidewalks in the world in, if things are so far apart that walking between them takes too much time or is inconvenient.

So while I am not saying that we shouldn't install sidewalks, we should focus more on them in places where they are more likely to be used.

Anonymous said...

you seem to care what we think

Anonymous said...

Of course you care what Buffy, Biff and Charles howel III think. That is why you live in South Park and drive the suv 1 mile to the taj-ma-teter.

Anonymous said...

sloan, do you live in south park? i dont think you have mentioned that yet.

Anonymous said...

I'm goin' down to SouthPark. Gonna have myself a time.

Friendly faces everywhere. Humble folks without temptation.

Goin' down to SouthPark. Gonna leave my woes behind.

Ample parking day or night. People spouting, "Howdy, neighbor!"

Heading on up to SouthPark. Gonna see if I can't unwind.

I like those department stores. I like eatin' in the food court.

So come on down to SouthPark and meet some friends of mine.

Sloan from SouthPark said...

To Anon of 04:33 pm,

So where are you from that you're so proud of that you can't even give us a clue under your anonimity?

Wait! Don't tell me! Hamlet. Chickens. Puck, Puck Puck, Puck.

Anonymous, I should have known.

Anonymous said...

Ahm from Lincolnton, and the guys and me is going to the big city tonight to party at EpiCenter.


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Hey, Anonymous at 12:36 pm:

So you have such a bum job that you couldn't make car payments and sold your car.

Besides, you sure don't sound like a happy camper.

My guess is that you are some transient worker who is here today and will be in Houston tomorrow. Get a real job in a real neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

Wow. You must have graduated with honors from insult class.

Grow up.

William said...

Here is a better question. Why do you have to press a button at an intersection to get the "Walk" signal? I think it is in case someone hits you and you didn't press the button in time, they aren't at fault.

I almost got run over yesterday crossing South Blvd at East Blvd by an inattentive @#$& on his cell phone. The car behind me turning right actually stopped to let me walk (what a concept!). But this guy coming the other way turning left decided if she wasn't going to go, he would. So he came within 10 inches of crippling me. Thanks buddy.

Anyway, what exactly is the purpose of the button? If you don't press it in time, you still have the right of way. Why don't they just activate the walk signal at all times???

Anonymous said...

Good question, William.

My understanding is that state law requires vehicles to yield to pedestrians who are ALREADY in the crosswalk. If you're hit then, and survive, you'll have a very good chance of becoming quite wealthy. And of course the motorist will face a serious moving violation.

The trick is how to get safely into the crosswalk. I think that's where the button is supposed to help, at least it did back in the days of "No Turn On Red". Nowadays our motto is "My Time Trumps Your Safety".

Anyway, I push the "Walk" button mainly to stop as much traffic as possible, which occurs when the walk symbol appears. Then, before stepping off, I check to see if any vehicle is in a position to turn "right" into me, which will always be to my immediate left (The Right On Red People).

Those folks are always so busy looking left, never right, because they refuse to believe there may actually be people who walk in this city.

You have to get their attention. I then make sure they see me by getting eye contact after I press the button on my small can of Falcon Sound 911 Compressed Gas Horn. Then I step into the crosswalk.

There may be some crossings where cars could also be making left turns into my forward path. Having started across after checking my left, I also keep an eye out for them and one finger on that gas horn.

Works every time.

Anonymous said...

That gas horn sounds like a great way to get their attention. The sound blast probably scares the you-know-what out of them, causing them to literally pause.

Another way to walk safely in Charlotte is to buy one of those paint ball guns and get-up, then go confidently on your walk. The intimidation factor clears your path. The speed demons in their expensive SUVs and sports cars sure like to keep those vehicles clean.

william said...

Oh I made sure the woman to the left of me (waiting to turn right) saw me. She was very considerate and waved me on. Mind you it was raining so I very much appreciated it. The guy coming from across the intersection was stopped, and silly me thought he was waiting as well.

I'm just lucky he had good brakes. I stopped right in the middle of the intersection and after the initial shock I glared at him and gave him the international "What the *&#$" sign.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the city should start installing walk signals that emit a 3-second horn blast (like the horn sound on a semi) when the walk symbol appears.

Since some drivers may be legally deaf, have the signal also shoot off a low-level flash of some sort of firework. Ha!

Jumper said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
eye_dee_ten_tea said...

Charlotte IS a city of 7,000 (GovCo) - they just tax 700,000 to get their toys.

Jumper said...

It's important to know HOW to walk. I recommend the Cesar Milan style of
"calm assertiveness." This is far superior to the style of walking down the
sidewalk with visible "furtive nervous guilt."

And it's important to know how to walk down the sidewalk if you're gorgeous.
Because although it's true that in a free society, we should all be able to
count on the sort of Hemingway-esque decency that demands we not judge
another human on the face they were born to carry, whether that face is
horrendous or whether it is beautiful, yet who among us will treat the ugly
person with democratic goodwill, and yet is jealous, resentful, and envious when a
human with the face of a god or goddess appears? Many of us, I submit.

Well, to cut to the chase, how do you walk when beautiful? Is carrying a gun necessary, for the love of God? Is your constant stance to vigilantly laser in on the chance observing eye, grimace and glare, signalling "Stop looking at me!?"

No, being gorgeous requires a certain savoir faire, carries a certain burden: from those to whom much is given, much is expected! The price is not negotiable and only the heroic can survive this existential nexus. So let's get with it; you who know who you are!

Anonymous said...

So I went to CATS website and asked about a route from my house in Oakdale, an old western Meck neighborhood to get to UNCC. No stops available. So I asked about Capps Hill Mine Road, 2 miles away. The route was to downtown then to UNCC: 2 hours and 2 minutes. This reflects what I have long argued: CATS is a radial system serving only those who wish to go to and from downtown.

Certainly you can get where you want to, if you live in certain areas, as indicated previously.
But if your route is not radial, there is much more difficulty.

Anonymous said...


I can't believe it!

The attacks on people who don't walk, who live there instead of here, etc.

Ladies and Gentlemen!! Please. Be nice. This is a mundane daily issue which Mary brings up. A very easy one to be pleasant about.

But the attitudes.

WHich is why I bought my 100 acres in the country and walk quite a bit just getting to the garden where I grow enough produce to last all year. Freezing and canning tomatoes, corn, limas, green beans, okra, collards, asparagus, blackberries, blueberries, muscadines etc.

We also harvest 2 deer per year and the occasional turkey.

And yes, I commute to Charlotte, where I do pay excessive city taxes on my business. But, luckily, I only come to town 3 days per week.

Jim said...

As a relative newcomer to Charlotte, I decided Saturday to make a Triad visit to see downtown Greensboro and Winston-Salem. The comparison was astonishing. Greensboro has shorter blocks, narrower streets, a great small park, many trees, old but restored 4-story buildings at the back of wide sidewalks and LOTS OF PEOPLE OUT WALKING, SHOPPING AND DINING. THIS IS AN EXAMPLE OF PEDESTRIAN FRIENDLY. 30 minutes later in Winston-Salem, the contrast was astonishing: very wide streets, fewer trees, many larger, taller, newer buildings and NO ONE WALKING ANYWHERE except in old Salem on the College's campus at the edge of downtown.

Tom said...

It's great to hear that people are making an effort to walk in Southpark, but to call that area "walkable" is a joke. The distance it takes just to cross Tyvola is enough to get most uptown residents to the nearest grocery store.

Anonymous said...

If you're walking across Tyvola, or even jay-walking across Tyvola, you're not in SouthPark. Madison Park maybe?

Anonymous said...

Walking? How far? Is it less than two miles? Then it's not far at all. People downtown don't have to walk far, everything is close by. They get no exercise walking, they arrive before they've begun. Southpark is a bit different. It could actually take a bit to get from some places to others.

But the way zoning has worked is to keep destinations as far from residences as possible.

I would pick the Providence Road area in the vicinity of the Manor Theatre as an excellent place to live. A bit pricey, but you can live in a pleasant suburban type neighborhood and be within walking distance of a variety of good stores.

Similar, but not quite as pricey is Dilworth.

Uncle Dennis said...

"If you have the time, everything is in walking distance", so sayeth comedian Steven Wright!


Anonymous said...

Anon 8/15/2008 05:52:00 PM

That's a riot. More like I invest my cash in things that appreciate in value. Like my $450,000 home.

I also like to do whatever I can to help offset the global warming issues caused by jerk offs like yourself.

Nice try though. Good effort on your part for an insult.

Anonymous said...

To Anon of 8/17 at 06:33 (who lives in the "country"):

What city taxes? We don't have a city income tax. Oh, you must mean the city-county business personal property tax, based on a listing of business equipment which you must file each January. Or on real estate. Guess what, all we local property owners pay taxes on our homes, too.

I doubt your tax covers the societal costs of your polluting our air with you out-of-town vehicle as you drive to and from work, the wear and tear on our streets, the use of our water and sewer facilities, the cost of police and firemen to protect you as well as us,the cost of providing entertainment and cultural facilities that you use, and so forth. We Char-Meck taxpayers pay for much of that.

I read in today's Observer Forum a letter from a local person who uses the public facilities (swimming) at Marion Diehl Recreation Center. That facility is financed by bonds on which we city-county taxpayers pay the interest, yet the writer noted that many of those who use the facility are from surrounding counties.


Anonymous said...

It's pretty much a given that Mecklenburg residents subsidize the lifestyles of Union/Cabarrus/Gaston residents. I agree, no more free ride -- charge a commuter tax to cover the cost that they dump on Charlotte citizens when they dodge taxes by moving over the county line. Maybe some of them will move back into Mecklenburg and we can stop the upward tax spiral.

What kills me is that taxes in neighboring counties are also spiraling upward to cover the strain on county services (roads, sewers, police, etc.). So in the process of trying to exploit Mecklenburg for employment while avoiding their civic responsibility of paying taxes, they are effectively raising taxes for EVERYONE. It's ridiculous and should not be tolerated anymore. Let them all move to Idaho if they really want to live in the "country" so bad.

Rebecca said...

I live on Providence between Rutledge and Cavendish and can walk to Strawberry Hill in one direction and go to the drugstore, grocery, restaurants, paint store, nail salon, etc. In the other direction I can walk to the corner of Providence and Sharon Amity where there are four restaurants, two high-end clothing and decor shops, a dry cleaner, a dance studio and pilates place, Fed/ex, etc. I can continue around the corner to several hair salons, my dentists office, Hotel Charlotte, a bath store, etc. Or I can cut thru the back of the neighborhood and walk to Cotswold Mall. My kids and I walk everywhere and it never takes more than 15 - 20 minutes tops to walk to any of these places. We sold our old house in a more insulated southpark neighborhood three years ago and had to find a new home quickly b4 school started, and only moved there with the intention of quickly moving again after we found something more suburban. (I endured the usual OMG you live ON Providence! from my friends, and several mothers will not allow their kids to come over) But guess what? We LOVE that we can walk everywhere (including cutting thru niehgborhood streets back to our pool in our old nieghborhood.) I think we will probably stay for a long time. I ride the bus to work everyday, it takes a minute to walk to the stop, and I can choose between a local and two express busses, so about every ten minutes in the morning a bus goes by. I only fill my little diesel jetta up every 4-6weeks! I am ambivalent about being "green" - I just love the convenience and lack of aggravation that not having to drive everywhere gives me. And it is nice to have "neighborhood" stores, and getting to know the people who work and live in the neighborhood. I still have a half acre plus and a 3000 sq. ft home, so you CAN live a comfortable "suburban" lifestyle in a fairly "urban" environment.

Anonymous said...


I am acctually from myers park, MPHS class of '99, and I could not wait to get away from there. I now live near central and thomas st and love it.

sloan from southpark said...

Maybe they couldn't wait for YOU to get away from there!

Anonymous said...

good one Potsy

Tom said...

12:56 is a perfect example of what Charlotte needs to shoot for. Living an "urban" lifestyle doesn't mean living on the 40th floor and getting to know the local vagrants. It means having necessities within walking distance, being connected to our excellent transit system, and doing your part to cut down on traffic congestion and fuel waste. Like he said -- filling up your gas tank every 4-6 weeks brings its own rewards.

Charlotte CAN create that kind of environment in a suburban context. It's just a matter of working together for a better city.

Margaret said...

Public transit in Charlotte IS a joke if you need to get somewhere quickly. When I lived in Plaza-Midwood I looked into taking the bus to UNCC, which was about a 15-20 minute drive by car. It would have taken over an hour by bus, and that's only if all the buses were on time (they usually are not) and if they beat rush hour traffic. The sprawl of Charlotte makes riding buses a very time-consuming task.

sexy said...