November is the month when The Town of Chapel Hill is making an extra effort to remind motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians to share the road safely.
On Oct. 3, 57-year-old bicyclist Pamela Lane, lately of Durham, was struck and killed by a vehicle on Martin Luther King, Jr, Blvd. in Chapel Hill.
That tragic incident re-opened a serious local discussion about the too-often uncooperative relationships between drivers, walkers and bicyclists.
Talk has turned to action this month, as the Town of Chapel Hill and its Police Department are working with partners including the UNC Department of Public Safety and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools to promote safety at crosswalks, and when sharing the road.
“You hate that a tragedy has to happen for folks to really get engaged,” said Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue, “but that has been the case here.”
Blue reminds Chapel Hill citizens to keep a lookout for a few safety features around town.
“You may have seen, the last few weeks, message boards placed around town that are warning, or reminding folks to share the roadway, and to think about looking for a bicyclist, or pedestrians.”
He added that Chapel Hill Police studied the effect of one recent message board. It was placed on Franklin Street near the merge with 15-501 down by Eastgate throughout the month of September.
The message to motorists was “high-crash area.”
“For the month of August, when the sign was not out there, we had 12 crashes, just between that sign and the town limits near I-40” said Blue. “For the month of September, while that same sign was deployed in that space, there were six crashes.”
Blue said he answered a lot of calls and emails from citizens asking about the sign, which showed that people were paying attention.
There are now more crosswalks on major arteries now. Blue said that the behavior and attitudes of motorists towards pedestrians and bike riders have improved as a result. But there’s still need for more improvement.
“They still are a little bit scary,” said Blue, “and people don’t always know how to behave as they approach those.”
The proper behavior is to slow down, and allow bikers and walkers to cross whenever possible. Failure of drivers to yield, or of walkers to obey the signal can result in fines starting at $213.
Blue said the town will soon install push-button-activated flashing lights at four crosswalks on either MLK or Franklin Street where the light is always flashing. That’s confusing to drivers.
Police will also continue to vigilantly patrol high-speed areas, particularly on MLK, according to Blue.
To find out where Chapel Hill Police are concentrating enforcement efforts, Blue said you can follow them on Twitter @ChapelHillPD.
This coming Tuesday, those efforts will be concentrated around MLK Blvd. between 9 and 10 a.m.