Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Walking? Hazardous duty in Raleigh, Charlotte

This morning's topic: the hazards of walking in Charlotte. One recent horror story: On Election Day my husband and I walked to our polling place, and then to the cleaner's – which meant crossing the vast Providence Road-Sharon Amity/Sharon Lane intersection. Even after we waited for the crossing light, we couldn't set foot into the crosswalk for fear of becoming grease spots on the asphalt, as vehicle after vehicle sped around the generously curved corner, designed to make it easy to turn at 30 mph (and making it easier to destroy anyone on foot). Knowing state law gives pedestrians in a crosswalk the right of way, and thus my heirs might at least get a nice settlement, I ventured into the crosswalk. A monstrous black SUV nearly creamed me. The blond driver, on her cellphone, never even saw me.

When we made it across, then we had to cross the other street. This time, we edged into the crosswalk so drivers could see us, and stop for us. A driver wanting to turn right (into our path) kept edging forward. I made eye contact, which usually signals to drivers to stop. So far so good.

The light changed. We stepped farther into the crosswalk. Zoom! She drove right in front of us. I am here to recount this only because we are reasonably spry. My husband shouted at her so loudly she – get this – stops her car in the left lane of Providence Road and sits there for several minutes. Hmmm. Driver safety class needed?

Which brings me to this: Although most Charlotte drivers aren't thinking about pedestrians, we are NOT the most dangerous N.C. city for pedestrians in the state. Raleigh takes that ranking.
(Here's a link to the Triangle Biz Journal article on the same ranking.) The study, by an advocacy group, Transportation for America, used an index based on the number of pedestrian fatalities relative to the average amount of walking by residents. The deaths came from 2007-08 data; the walking stat was based on the percentage who walk to work in 2000. I.E., it's not a perfect measure - but it's probably relatively close in terms of rankings if not absolute numbers.

Orlando, Fla., was the most dangerous city for pedestrians, followed by Tampa, Miami and Jacksonville, Fla. Memphis, Tenn., was No. 5. Charlotte was No. 12 on the list. All are in the Sun Belt (well, Louisville maybe is borderline), until you get to No. 14 (Detroit) and then to No. 20 (Kansas City). Here's a direct link to the rankings. And here's one to the study, called Dangerous By Design. That reflects the reality that most Sun Belt cities grew during the 20th century, when pedestrians were discounted completely in street and highway designs.

Pedestrian safety starts with safe sidewalks, of course. But there's more. Traffic speed is a huge factor, and for the last half of the 20th century even in-town streets were designed for speed, not for pedestrians. Another factor is turning radius of corners. If they're wide, pedestrians are endangered by speeding cars turning. A huge factor is enforcement. Where police take pedestrian safety seriously, drivers get the message. I don't think Boston drivers are more courteous or innately kinder. Yet in Boston they stop for pedestrians. Police enforcement (and seeing other drivers do it) trains you. In Charlotte I've seen police cars almost mow down pedestrians uptown.

71 comments:

Anonymous said...

Carolina drivers are the absolute worst. Don't even start on the "Yankee" nonsense. I've traveled all over this country and lived in many cities (Charlotte in the 80's and then again this past decade). Nothings changed here. The drivers are just as bad now as they were in the early 80's before the Northern influx.

They are totally oblivious to pedestrians. I believe it's due to it's suburban car culture mentality.

atlasnavigator said...

Last week I was making a right-hand turn from Poplar onto fifth and stopped to allow a lady with her baby in a stroller to cross. I was rewarded with a long honk from the idiot behind me. I was shocked; the vehicle behind me was a CMS bus!

Anonymous said...

It's partially speed, and partially design....but what contributes the MOST????? The fact that about 90% of those speeding drivers DON'T HAVE EXPERIENCE WALKING. As you know, the pedestrian experience is VERY different from the driving experience. While enforcement is important (I'd rather have my officers out chasing bad guys) awareness is more important. If you live in the burbs and don't walk in the urban jungle - you'll never know what we experience on a daily basis. Get out of your car and try it some day - it'll scare the ever-living bejezums out of you!

Suburban car cultre mentality 100%.

Those Bostonians who are considerate are the SAME Bostonians who just walked to get into their car to drive. They understand because they're like minded, experienced urban jungle walkers.

Anonymous said...

I was struck by a vehicle the other day while walking on the sidewalk on East Blvd in Dilworth. I was thankfully not injured, and did get the tag # of the vehicle. The driver of the vehicle was chatting on his cell phone, and didn't even stop after the incident. I turned the tag #, along with the phone # of an eye witness over to a Charlotte PD Officer. He called me later to tell me he wasn't going to charge the driver because he seemed like a "nice guy". Part of our traffic problems around here are due to the police refusing to do their jobs, and aggressively enforce the laws.

consultant said...

1)We've had an entire generation that hasn't had drivers education.

2)New technology in cars (phones, iPods, PDAs) distracts poorly trained drivers.

3)The biggest factor, as you indicate, are streets designed solely for cars with zero consideration for pedestrians. ZERO. Over the last 50 years we've even turned many of our central city streets into NASCAR roadways.

4)Much of our population has grown up in suburbs. In most of them, you have to drive everywhere; you walk nowhere. People get use to zooming down the street without giving a thought to someone crossing the street.

"Did I hit something? George, can I call you back? I've got a call coming in from Bill."

Anonymous said...

It's not even so much an urban jungle thing. I grew up in a tiny town way out on Eastern Long Island and I was brought up to respect pedestrians. I have never seen such an unfriendly/unconscious pedestrian city in my life as the likes of Charlotte.

Right of way:
1. pedestrian
2. bicycle
3. car

PLEASE learn it, stop texting, put the cell down, keep your eyes peeled. Most of all, try to know where you are going before you head out on the road. If you are unfamiliar with an area like Uptown then print out a map and study your route before you go. I can't tell you how many people I see every day who drive around blindly looking all over the place, almost hitting pedestrians and other cars. Stopping in the middle of the road to make a turn across two lanes, backing up traffic, it's horrendous.

On a side note, there's also lots of pedestrians out there in CLT that haven't a clue how to walk either. They will step right out in front of you without looking at all while you are cruising along at 30 m.p.h.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the above poster. CMPD NEVER, EVER enforce a damn thing. They are the slackest police force I have ever seen.

consultant said...

"try to know where you are going before you head out on the road.."

Metro Atlanta streets eat navigation systems for breakfast.

Anonymous said...

I walk home from work every day, as I live just a mile from my office. It's scary every time, especially when I need to cross 521 at Ballantyne Commons Pkwy because there is NO crosswalk. I know when I'm supposed to be able to go, but no drivers seem to care even if we are making eye contact. I don't get it!

consultant said...

"..but no drivers seem to care even if we are making eye contact. I don't get it!"

I think a cruel calculus is going on. Including all of what's been said so far, I think some drivers think pedestrians are not that important. Seriously. I mean, if you were important, you'd be in a car. You'd be a 'somebody' like me. Driving this big shiny machine.

What are you? Homeless? Poor? A city dweller? Who 'wants' to walk somewhere?

That's how much we've elevated the car in our culture.

Anonymous said...

Haa Haa, no crosswalk you say ?

I take the LYNX and then a bus for 2 miles to my biz park. THe bus drops me off on the friggin' grass (or on rainy days the mud). No crosswalks here either and 6 lanes of traffic (8 if you count the turning lanes at the intersection). Try running across that during rush hour.

I've even got the approval from the city and the state DOT to put in a crosswalk 14 months ago. Still not a damn thing done.

Mayberry USA

Man said...

Both drivers you cited were female - I think we should take away this privilege.

Bojjie said...

I agree that drivers are inconsiderate. But so are the pedestrians. I was taught to look BOTH ways before crossing the street or parking lot. Many of these people never look one way let alone two. They are too busy on the phone or texting or just plain dumb. I always stop to wait for a 'go ahead' from a driver. Have some common sense and some courtesy drivers and walkers

Crystal Jordening said...

I take the Lynx every day and see stupid drivers and stupid pedestrians almost every day. This selfishness and lack of awareness is killing me!

Anonymous said...
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shocked said...
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Anonymous said...

As a Dilworth resident who walks along East Blvd almost daily I agree that it can be dangerous. I have been cut off and almost hit countless times.

Anonymous said...

Yoou think that's bad ? Try riding a bicycle. Death wish.

consultant said...

"Any suggestions ?"

Counseling.

Anonymous said...

The lesson here is obvious: If Ms. Newsom had stayed home on Election Day, we'd ALL be better off.

Anonymous said...

I can't wait until Mary is out of work.

consultant said...

"The lesson here is obvious.."

This is the kind of twisted logic that led people to vote for Bush-twice.

consultant said...

"I can't wait until Mary is out of work."

What will you read in prison?

Anonymous said...

Why in the world would you want to walk when you have a perfectly good automobile in the driveway?

Want to walk? Then move to one of those socialist, communist, Nazi countries that builds sidewalks and forces their enslaved citizenry to walk. But as long as you're here in the Land of the Free, the Constitution gives me the right to bear vehicles.

So leave us God-fearing, car-driving, truck-loving, gas-guzzling American patriots to live out our lives without government intrusion.(At least until a pothole forms in front of my house - then you better have one of those big government pothole patchers out here lickety-split!)

J said...

Consultant nailed it. We have elevated the car to such a degree (everywhere, but more so in Charlotte than anywhere else I have lived) that I honestly believe that people driving cars in this city believe they are superior life forms to those who are not. I am visually impaired and unable to drive, so CATS takes me everywhere I have to go. Walking to/from my bus stop each day, I come within 2 feet of getting run over every single day. Try crossing Independence at the Village Lake Dr. stoplight. There's only 1 crosswalk (across Village Lake), and the Village Lake light is set to turn red as soon as all the cars turn on to Independence, which is usually about half the time a pedestrian needs to get across - and of course, that time has already been reduced by having to wait for all the cars on Independence to finish running the red light.

The worst case was a couple weeks back on my way home. Finally on Village Lake alive, I was walking down the sidewalk and crossing the driveway into the parking lot of the new convenience store. Here comes a cop at 40 mph at least, turns right in front of me and misses me by inches. While I'm trying to work my heart out of my throat and back into my chest, the cop pulls into a parking spot, gets out and casually walks into the store. She almost killed me so she could get to her Twinkies faster.

Hey, drivers - we walkers are people, just like you. We have jobs and spouses and families, and the same life stressors as you. WE ARE NOT BUGS TO BE SQUASHED! It is not your God-ordered duty to remove us from the earth. Please work with us!

J said...

Anon 02:26 - please tell me you're being sarcastic. If not, I challenge you to point out where in the Constitution you find the right to vehicles, as well as proof that those that are physically unable to drive are inferior to you.

Jessica Eiden Smedley said...

I agree with a lot of things said here.

This city was not built for pedestrians - take a look around your own neighborhood. Do you have adequate sidewalks? Makes me sad. I hate jogging and/or walking the dog in the street. I do not feel safe here as a pedestrian.

Anonymous said...

There are very few "walkable" neighborhoods in this city; these are the neighborhoods where a resident has a CHOICE to live portions of their life without a car. And these are the neighborhoods with the highest quality of life and real estate appreciations according to Charmecks: City Within A City. (see NoDa, Plaza Midwood, Wesley Heights, Wilmore). That can't be a coincidence, and it can't be unnoticed by Charmeck... But why then, do we continue to grow in the way we do? Why? Why? Why?!

Anonymous said...

Charlotte has had very poor leadership for several years now. Services and infrastructure has not kept up with growth. I hope the new leadership does a better job.

consultant said...

Yet, if you want to get that good old blood boiling, start talking about:

•building more sidewalks and safe walking areas for pedestrians

•reducing the width of streets to make them easier to cross and slow down traffic

•build more mix use neighborhoods and reduce sprawl

•and the one that seems to bring out all the red, white and blue hormones-build mass transit in our urban areas.

We're coming up on almost a century of the car as the American pin up doll.

I've got 2 cars. I like cars. But they are expensive to maintain, they're killing the planet, and our waistlines have become too big as a result of too much driving and not enough exercise.

Let's spend some of our money building walking into our environment so the next generation won't grow up thinking you only walk inside a mall.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Well said consultant.

Anonymous said...

The Charlotte/Mecklenburg DOT and the NC DOT is a joke. Our roads and highways exhibit some of the worst designs in the country. They can't figure out how to build a decent on/off ramp system to save their lives.

Anonymous said...

You wanna walk or ride a bike? Go to the damn park. Roads are for cars!

Anonymous said...

True Mary. The car is king here... pathetic but true. And always watch out for the giant SUV crowd. Those things are always driven by the most inconsiderate of humanity. I'm sure there is a special place for them in the after life... hopefully...

Anonymous said...

I wish consultant would leave Charlotte and move back to CA.

Anonymous said...

Modern day liberalism is a bankrupt ideology.

Anonymous said...

Consultant, I just lost my job and my house. Can I set up a tent in your back yard until I can get on my feet? I noticed you seem to have an overwhelming sensation to help humanity. I promise I'll keep your yard clean.

Anonymous said...
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consultant said...

"I wish consultant would leave Charlotte and move back to CA."

You obviously haven't been to California. Lot's of sprawl there. LA is the poster child for sprawl.

For some reason most state DOT agencies are run like Soviet bureaucracies.

So, are you saying you would like all the Communists in the NC DOT to leave Charlotte too?

Johann said...

The level of smugness and self-righteousness in this post and the comments is nauseating. You people could not come across more arrogant & all-knowing if you tried. Good luck with that attitude!

consultant said...

Johann,

"..in this post.."

Were you referring to your post or other posts?

Anonymous said...

It's fun annoying do gooders. They have bad ideas and the only way to force their ideas on people is to legislate them.

Anonymous said...

Consultant needs a life.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

This comment has been deleted by Mary Newsom.

Anonymous said...

Escape and evade classes coming to the Charlotte area. Be prepared.

Anonymous said...

Since I am sure that all of the arrogant SUV driving, pedestrian ignoring posters haven't even read Mary's link I'll sum it up for you.

Here's the Top 13, besides Vegas do you notice any similarities ?

1. Orlando-Kissimmee, FL
2. Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL
3. Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL
4. Jacksonville, FL
5. Memphis, TN-MS-AR
6. Raleigh-Cary, NC
7. Louisville/Jefferson County, KY-IN
8. Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX
9. Birmingham-Hoover, AL
10. Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA
11. Las Vegas-Paradise, NV
12. Charlotte-Gastonia-Concord, NC-SC
13. Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX

And they complain about the arrogant Yankee. Haaaaa !

consultant said...

"Consultant needs a life."

I just found it. I'm going to connect people in metro Charlotte who are down and out with people like yourself. I'm giving you the assignment to take in:

"..I just lost my job and my house. Can I set up a tent in your back yard.."

There. You set me on the right path to finding purpose in my life. Now you can find purpose in yours by giving this poster a temporary home in your back yard.

Hopefully you have sidewalks in your neighborhood and public transportation available for him. Otherwise, I'm sure you won't mind giving him a ride to the unemployment office each day.

There are some good folks in Charlotte.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

If all of the Yankees moved out of Charlotte, there would be no one left that could read or write. Look out Observer, this could be trouble for newspapers.

Anonymous said...

Consultant I was planning on setting up a tent in your back yard. I thought you cared.

Anonymous said...

Bev Perdue is an idiot.

Anonymous said...

I hope consultant doesn't actually consult. I'm 100% certain that consultant is a trust fund baby.

Anonymous said...
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consultant said...

Folks, these are real facts:

Vote for Bush - dislike sidewalks

Vote for Bush - hate mass transit

Like SUVs - Dick Cheney lifetime club member

Saw the movie Idiocracy and didn't understand it - love Sarah Palin

Hate walking - fat stomach

Never walk - Republican tea baggers

Anonymous said...

It is sad that there are so many ignorant people down here. They look down on educated people because we make them look bad. The Republican Part plays this ignorance like a violin to push their agendas. They are just sheep on a big stupid farm!

Anonymous said...

It is all over this country and it is only going to get worse. If they would crack down on this kind of thing it would make these idiots think a bit more about what they are doing. There is a lot of money to be gathered in if the police were able to make tickets stick. The judges are the cause of most of the problem in these cases. Do not forget where judges come from, Lawyers.
Get rid of the cell phones up to the ear, Follow the speed limits and stop at all of the stops signs. If you do not stop at one you will run another.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Why doesn't anybody talk about the real issue facing the country: currency crisis. Hyper inflation is a real possibilty.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

You'd think crossing the street is hairy, try making to your on a parking lot, talk about rudeness. A female driver zoom by us doing easy 45, on her cell totally oblivius of the pedestrians around it.

consultant said...
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Anonymous said...

How dare we pedestrians go to cross the streets, we have no right, only drivers on cell phones in a hurry to ge nowhere have that right. If we go there is a high probability will be street marks,

Anonymous said...

Yea...ladies..get off the phone when you are driving. I hate to break this to you but you are not good enough drivers to handle that SUV, and a phone at the same time. Men do this also, but not anywhere near as much as women. Who are they talking to anyway?

Anonymous said...

other women.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...
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Mary Newsom said...

Due to the obscene troll, I am closing comments on this blog. See y'all tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

Goodnight Mary.

Anonymous said...

The most ecologically sustainable and walkable future is going to be found in Agriburbia - http://www.agriburbia.com/

Outside of Salisbury they are building a community like this - http://www.thefarmstead-nc.com/