By Jane Salemson
In 2013 on WCHL, Ron Stutts and Freddie Kiger were discussing the “improvements” to Weaver Dairy Road and Martin Luther King Boulevard. I was asked to broadcast a commentary about this.
My last sentence of the commentary was: “Do people need to be injured or even killed before the Department of Transportation and the Town of Chapel Hill realize what poor planning the have instigated?”
In 2014/15, I spent a 10 month “personal sabbatical” in Britain and Europe where, for much of that time, I walked to wherever I needed to go, visit or explore and followed the signs and signals, which were very pedestrian oriented (Switzerland is especially hard on jaywalkers). Not only was it an excellent way to get know the areas I was visiting, but back home in Chapel Hill my doctor was impressed at my physical condition!
Returning to Chapel Hill in 2015, I continued to walk as much as possible at home, but it was not long before I had a near collision with a car.
I was on the corner of Weaver Dairy Road wanting to cross MLK Boulevard going north, as there was a sidewalk on the far side. I waited at the crossing for the pedestrian white light to go on, and when it started flashing I started to walk across the road.
Fortunately my peripheral sight was good, as immediately I sensed movement on my left side and jumped back. A driver coming from Weaver Dairy Road had not stopped for the pedestrian light, and turned the corner at great speed followed by several other cars. There isn’t much space between the stop lines on Weaver Dairy and the pedestrian crossing on MLK. Another step on the crossing and I would have been hit.
Fast forward to 2018.
Two pedestrians killed in Chapel Hill this year where many people walk from their homes to the shopping centers.
The other side of the coin is that MLK Boulevard is the racetrack to I-40 and drivers are cutting corners whenever they can, to the detriment of pedestrians who also pay their road taxes and should expect safety when walking along or crossing these city roads. Expect more accidents especially on the pedestrian crossings that have no flashing lights. Who has right of way on the painted lines on the roads?
There is confusion by both drivers and walkers. Right now for the most part, both drivers and pedestrians think they have right of way. The only place a pedestrian can feel confident is in the shopping areas that have pedestrian crossings. Drivers have to slow down for the bumps and the pedestrians can signal them to stop and let them cross.
People come first. The people in charge of safety need to look more closely to the areas where those who walk, live and work in Chapel Hill.