Endangered pedestrians

With this weekend's bad news, Chapel Hill's pedestrian death toll rises to THREE in the past month. May 17: Barbara Boone Sims was killed crossing Weaver Dairy Road at Perkins Drive, May 15: Lisa Carolyn Moran was fatally hit by a bus on Manning Drive near UNC Hospital, April 27: Clifton Walker Steed was killed crossing MLK Blvd at Hillsborough Street. All were killed within a block of the NC 86 corridor (South Columbia Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard).

I know the Town has studied the MLK portion of the corridor and proposed some pedestrian improvements (PDF report), but none have been implemented yet as far as I know. We also need to remember that crosswalks don't exist in a vacuum, we need safe sidewalks, well-lit bus shelters, adequate bike lanes, and much more.

I've heard people say that you have to get killed to get improved pedestrian facilities in Chapel Hill (as are now being planned for 15-501 near Manning Drive where a pedestrian was killed last year). Along those lines, I sadly predict the next trouble spot as West Franklin Street. Hopefully lower speeds will mean it won't be fatal, but it's only a matter of time before the inherent conflict between cars and people come to an unpleasant junction there.

At least two of this month's pedestrian deaths occurred near people's homes, so remember that it's not just businesses that benefit from sidewalks and crosswalks. Let's do everything we can to make sure there are no more of these tragic accidents.


Don't forget a major component of pedestrian safety: education and awareness. Unfortunatly in Lisa Moran's case she was found to have contributed to the accident (http://www.newsobserver.com/news/story/1079025.html). In no way am I "blaming the victim," I'm just saying that it is not as easy as throwing in a bunch of new crosswalks and sidewalks; pedestrians also need to use them properly. There's just no way a bus can stop in time if someone steps out into the road suddenly. I work right near the spot where she was killed, and there are crosswalks and large sidewalks and such, so I don't know if new pedestrian facilities would neccesarily improve anything.

Sounds like you're writing of dealing with reality.  When I jog and bike the streets, and when I've riden a motorcycle for that matter, I have often fussed at careless drivers.  "You almost made my mom very unhappy."  Whenever I venture near busy streets, I remember the reality is that while I may have the right-of-way, I'd rather be alive than feel I'm right.  Crossing Airport Road is always a gamble.  The worst part is for UNC and ECH students living on Ashley Forest Road.  There certainly needs to be more safe pedestrian crossing points along Airport Road.  And that is the reality too.

The most recent death is the woman mentioned in this DTH article. She's referred to as Barbara Simmons in the article (they have a note correcting her name at the top of the page).


so far, everything i've read/heard about this

"outbreak" is that the peds were the problem.

the vehicles were within the rules.



"Rules" are not always neutral, especially when the situations they govern are determined by the physical set-up, as here. Either the "rules" or the physical circumstances (or both) sometimes have to be changed -- you put in traffic lights when two directions of traffic become so heavy that cars will collide without them. Unfortunately, this sometimes means you have to have a history of crashes before that happens. But at least between two cars, it's usually a more even match (not so much between a Mini and Hummer, of course); and there's a balance between parties to the situation.

The current situation inherently is imbalanced, favoring vehicles. On top of the physical "rules" of momentum and force, it means that "rule-breaking" pedestrians will pay extremely heavily. 

Currently, the de-facto "rules" about staying on the sidewalk and not crossing except at crosswalks do not match the realities of where people on foot have to go on our large, un-sidewalked thoroughfares with long, long blocks, proximate to growing shopping and residential centers (the more ironic given CH's interest in getting people out of their cars).

To put it another way, it's not enough to say that peds were the "problem" and assume that "rule" enforcement is the answer. The physical situation needs to be changed so the "rules" are balanced, workable, and applicable, preferably before another "outbreak." 

Thank you, Priscilla. Well said.

Honestly I am not even sure increasing crosswalks is enough. Especially on roads people perceive as the quick ways  around and in and out  of town. 

We just went to a wedding in downtown Tucson where multiple lane highway runs right into the music/government district. There were walk overs and I found it so comforting, especially walking with a child, to know I was not competing with the six lanes - some turning -  of cars and trucks and buses below. 




how were the walkovers built were they accessible
Yes - at least the ones that we used - the kids loved chasing each other up the ramps. Which is much safer than chasing each other up the stairs.
I am not sure where the accident on Weaver Daity occurred but the section in front of the Timberlyne Shopping Center has had me concerned for a while.  Consideration of the north side of the street leaves me disturbed.  So on my way home today I drove by to see if I remembered it correctly.  Driving by, here is the way it appears.  There is a trailer park on the north side of Weaver Dairy Road with no sidewalk in front of it and no easy, safe way across Weaver Dairy Road to the shops in Timberlyne.  Next to it is a relatively new office building or something that has a sidewalk in front of it and a traffic light and a crosswalk to Timberlyne.  Additionally, there is no easy access to the sidewalk in front of the newer building from the trailer park.  I think there have been auto-pedestrian accidents in that vicinity in the past.   

There is an ethic promoted in this area that pedestrians come before drivers. The problem is that it is based on what we wish were true rather than on what is true. People want there to be more walkers and fewer drivers and thus they ignore the fact that many people are forced to drive and that as a result many roads are inherently dangerous to cross. And the ethic that pedestrians come first also encourages pedestrians to be careless. If you’re going to cross the road and you’ve heard a million times “pedestrians good, drivers bad” then you tend to have a sense of entitlement when crossing.

And as a result we have had three pedestrian deaths within the past month, all of which are the result of poor decisions by the pedestrians, and the response we get from people here is “How do we make things safer for pedestrians?” as if these people were walking down the sidewalk and cars veered off the road and hit them. How do we protect pedestrians? Here’s how we make thing safer for pedestrians. We (1) give them safe options and (2) insist they choose safe options instead of unsafe options. Right now we don’t have enough of #1 and we totally ignore #2.

Let’s review. If the incident on Weaver Dairy Rd happened where I think it did then it is not safe to cross there even in the daylight. The person that died was crossing at night and, according to what I read, was wearing dark clothes. Another person died crossing MLK at Hillsborough, which is unsafe to cross at any time and also unnecessary since I believe there is a pedestrian walkway under the road near that intersection. The third person on Manning Dr died crossing in a place other than the crosswalk while hearing headphones.

If it were true that these three people happened to be the most foolish people in the area then the outcome would be sad but understandable. But instead, as we all know, people in this area cross the road pretty much any time they want to. The ethic that pedestrians are always right makes them feel entitled. The especially tragic case is the one near South Columbia St and Manning Dr. That young woman moved here from Scotland a few months ago and in the spirit of “When as in Rome…” probably would have followed whatever the local ethic was on this issue. If everyone here were really strict about being careful about crossing the road then she likely would have followed suit. Instead most people here are careless and so she was too and now she is dead.

If you want to change future reality then you must acknowledge and understand current reality first. The fantasy we pretend is true is that people in Chapel Hill / Carrboro can walk anywhere they want safely. The reality is they can’t. Just because we want a crossing to be safely crossable doesn’t mean it is safely crossable. And if a crossing is not safely crossable then encouraging people to navigate it is irresponsible.

The man crossing MLK was in the crosswalk. I don't know where you got the idea that there is a pedestrian tunnel, maybe from the plans for the future greenway, but that is a fantasy for now. The women at Weaver Dairy and Manning Drive may have made bad judgments about where and how to cross, but they were in areas that are intended to be navigable by pedestrians and I think those places could do more to accommodate them safely.

I am really disturbed by the number of people who want to blame the pedestrians for these problems! If cars have to sometimes wait or be slowed down to make walking safer, that is fine with me. It's true that many of us think walking is a higher priority than driving, the question is how our infrastructure and policies that can be made to match those values. When Rosemary Street doesn't even have sidewalks on both sides downtown, and when West Franklin Street goes for over half a mile with no safe place to cross, I have to conclude that Chapel Hill has not entirely put it's money where it's mouth is about supporting pedestrians. (Although I know they are trying.)

I don't blame the pedestrians as these were all accidents, however as cynical as it sounds there will always be accidents, no mater how much you invest in pedestrian safety. A pedestrian overpass sounds good for the Manning Drive area, but honestly I cross that area fairly often and have always thought the sidewalks and crosswalks are adequate. It's when people try to take shortcuts that problems arise.

I think the lack of crosswalks on West Franklin is one of those state DOT versus reality issues.
Yes.  It is.

I didn’t say the man that died on MLK wasn’t in the cross walk, rather I said that crossing at MLK at Hillsborough is unsafe.  And it is.  I could go into deep detail about why I think that but it would take some writing and I suspect people here don’t want to read long posts. 


The time to think about making MLK safely crossable was before it was built.  It’s too late now.  We need to accept the reality of what MLK is instead of pretending it’s something we wish it were.  The MLK-Hillsborough intersection would be somewhat dangerous even if there were no pedestrians or bikers at all.


The reason I thought there was a pedestrian tunnel near there is because I thought I saw one before.  And today I checked it out and yes, it’s there, 50-100 yards up MLK in the direction of Rosemary St.


You’re disturbed by the number of people that blame pedestrians.  I’m disturbed by the number of people that don’t.  People walking into traffic is common in this town and the reason is because it is accepted instead of challenged.  If I had a dollar for every time I was waiting to cross the road and it wasn’t safe to cross so I was still waiting and then another pedestrian just walked right past me and into the road then I’d be a millionaire.

"The time to think about making MLK safely crossable was before it was built."

MLK was built shortly after UNC was founded in 1792.

"then I’d be a millionaire."

If you lived here for 10 years and and observed this 3,000 times per day, then yes, you would be a millionaire.  But I bet that, in reality, you would only have a couple thousand dollars at the most - if you have been living here for a long time.

MLK Blvd was built in 1792?  Wow, those people must have been psychic, that was over 130 years before MLK was even born.  That reminds me of the comedian that had the line “Isn’t it an amazing coincidence that Lou Gehrig died of Lou Gerhig’s disease?”


But seriously, perhaps it was some sort of trail way back then but my point is once you make it a five lane road designed for cars traveling at higher speeds then making it safe for people on foot to cross (or people on bike to travel) becomes very difficult.


And yeah, when I said it happened a million times I was exaggerating but I was hoping people here were mathematically illiterate and wouldn’t be able to do the arithmetic to check.  I have seen it a lot though and in my well over 10 years here the trend hasn’t gotten any better as far as I can tell.

And speaking of MLK Blvd, when that was renamed from Airport Rd whose brilliant idea (sarcasm) was it to change the last part of it from “Road” to “Boulevard?”  You’re already changing the first part of the name from two syllables to five (or three if you abbreviate it MLK).  Why change the last part of it from one syllable to three?

I believe it was widened to four/five lanes north of Columbia Street in 1968 or 1969 -- that was when the pedestrian tunnel was built to get from a parking lot across the street from the then restaurant the tunnel went to. The parking lot was the old roadbed as the road was realigned to reduce a curve-- I think the automotive shop on the west side of MLK that is still there fronted on the road back then.

"The reason I thought there was a pedestrian tunnel near there is because I thought I saw one before.  And today I checked it out and yes, it’s there, 50-100 yards up MLK in the direction of Rosemary St."

I finally located the tunnel too. Both times I checked in May and June it was locked.  On one side it had a series of steps going into the entrance. On the other side I could not find the entrance so I presume it goes into one of the buildings.

I wish pedenstrian tunnels would be built parallel to the new unitlity construcion occurring in town but when I and others have suggested it at various public hearings and meetings the proposals were rejected due to additional cost, difficulties in making them handicapped accessible and some fear of criminal activity.  The tunnel under 54 near meadowmont is a good example of a useful, accessible tunnel.


I went out there today and you're right, the door was locked.  I saw the tunnel there in the past and just assumed it was always open but apparently it's just for workday hours for the people that work at the Shep Center and the buildings across the street that need to go back and forth.  So people can't cross using the tunnel during non-work hours. 

 I still don't think it's safe to cross Airport Rd there, especially at night, which is when that person was hit.  If people are going to cross there there should push a Walk button for them to push and then when the Walk signal comes up there should be red lights for cars in every direction.  People and cars both having the right of way at the same time at that intersection is a bad idea IMO.

"The time to think about making MLK safely crossable was before it was built.  It’s too late now"

One can always research making MLK safe for pedestrians. The question is: do we want this to be a major thoroughfare or do we want it to be a multi-use route. As time passes this road WILL be maintained and changed by the DOT. How it is chosen to be changed (and used) will determine it's use.

"The MLK-Hillsborough intersection would be somewhat dangerous even if there were no pedestrians or bikers at all."

It has been a while since I sat at that light so I may be mistaken. But there is an abnormally long wait for automobile traffic on Hillsborough Street and a very very brief crossing light for pedestrians, no? Jose, what else makes it unsafe?

"People walking into traffic is common in this town and the reason is because it is accepted instead of challenged."

This bothers me very much as well. What can we do to discourage it? My preference is to strictly enforce the J-walking laws. STRICTLY. But if we do that we need to make it easier to get across the street at appropriate locations.

There are very many crosswalks that either do not have a pedestrian cross light or, if it does, the white light does not stay on long enough to cross the entire street. I also strongly believe that when the crossing light is white then pedestrians must feel so safe to cross that there is an imaginary wall on either side of the crosswalk. But that would only happen if automobile drivers didn't attempt to turn while pedestrians are trying to cross. And lastly, just as important, once the white light switches to the countdown NO pedestrian should enter the cross walk. It is the equivalent of the yellow light at a traffic light.

I wonder if Ms. Moran looked the wrong way before crossing the street - ie because in Scotland you look the other direction to check for on-coming traffic.

The "ethic" that pedestrians come first is neither wishful thinking nor unrealistic, but it does recognize the destructive power of vehicles that outweigh humans by a factor of 10 or more--not to mention the value of human life (with or without good judgment).

Notably, I have been in many areas where the rule of law is a universal "yield to pedestrians" no matter where they happen to be walking. Cars stop even mid-block when a pedestrian steps off the curb (at least there is a curb). Not surprisingly, a number of these areas are college towns, but many are just metropolitan areas that enforce that particular rule/law aggressively.

Providing safe options for pedestrians is exactly what we're calling for here. However, choosing humans on foot rather than humans in vehicles as the targets for penalty ignores the reality of difference in weight and power to harm and does indeed punish a victim. It may not be the motorists' "fault" in these tragedies, and the drivers may be severely traumatized by the experience -- assuming they were driving exactly as prescribed by law, you could consider them victims, too, of the absence of reasonable accommodations for BOTH cars and pedestrians.

But the drivers are still alive.

You are right.  Things are very different in most West Coast cities, but the main difference is in the attitude of the drivers.

In some parts of Kenya, you can expect to have rocks thrown at your car for failing to yield to pedestrians.  Let's hope it doesn't come to that.

 I am really glad Ruby posted her blog. I live off Jones Ferry Road, past Old Greensboro Rd. There have been NUMEROUS accidents and even fatal accidents since I moved there nearly a year ago. The speed limit is 55, which I think is too fast, particularly since I saw a couple of trucks that have flipped. There needs to be Deer Crossing signs. I hold my breath every single time I have to share the road with a bike because there are NO bike lanes. I am too scared to ride my bike which I think is a shame.  I think there has to be stoplight at Bowden and Jones Ferry or at Damascus Church and Jones Ferry. I am tired of bitching about it. I want to do something about it. How and who would I address this issue with? Please point me in the right direction, thanks. 




“Until the great mass of the people shall be filled with the sense of responsibility for each other's welfare, social justice can never be attained.” Helen Keller

I'll second this concern -- the bikers on Jones Ferry combined with the drivers on Jones Ferry creates very dangerous conditions. I live on Ferguson Rd and seemingly not a day goes by when the weather is warm that I don't see some kind of near miss. I understand that Jones Ferry makes for a pretty bike ride, but I cringe every time I see two bikers riding side-by-side through a curve, causing drivers coming behind them to have to swerve into another lane and, often times, into oncoming traffic.

I don't think stop lights are going to solve the problem. There's simply not enough traffic on Bowden or Damascus to justify them. I'd like to see Jones Ferry Rd widened to accomodate bikers -- that would solve the major traffic problems on that road. I'm curious what it would cost to add small bike lanes on either side of JF road?

The deer crossing signs would be a good idea as well. I'd happily chip in a few hundred bucks, a shovel, and a few hours to help you put them in ;)

Thank you for that. I would love to ride my bike instead of drive. Especially with the gas prices these days, but I am just too afraid. Frankly, I feel it is not fair. I hope those who are in control of making bike lanes possible on Jones Ferry Rd are reading this and do something about it SOON. I can't imagine it costing that much money.


“Until the great mass of the people shall be filled with the sense of responsibility for each other's welfare, social justice can never be attained.” Helen Keller

I hope that too. In terms of "fair", however, let's remember that the roads were built for cars, not bikes. The ideal situation is one wherein both vehicles can be accomodated.

Any driver who cannot slow down in time as they come around a turn to prevent running into a child, a deer, or a biker is driving too fast. I understand that an accident would not be called an accident if it wasn't one. But there *should* be no reason to leave your lane if you are in control of and operating your vehicle safely. Pay attention to the road and assume that a deer is around the bend. I assure you that you wont run off of the road.

jones ferry bikers

"...I cringe every time I see two bikers riding side-by-side through a curve, causing drivers coming behind them to have to swerve into another lane and, often times, into oncoming traffic..."

Jamie - That's an absolutely silly argument. I can't believe that i am going to even respond but here goes...

If the engineers decide that a speed limit is appropriate for a certain stretch of road and the driver is minding road conditions *using appropriate judgement* then that driver is being safe. If I hit a turn on my motorcycle on a clear, sunny day and the speed limit is 35, i am driving appropriately. i am not going to slow down to 5 miles per hour because there *might* be someone or something around the turn. If road engineers were concerned, they would put up a warning sign that I would heed.

You apparently have never ridden on a motorcycle. When you get on and ride, there is always the chance that you will have to swerve due to unseen problem. Am I supposed to stay in first gear because a deer or child  *might*  jump out in front of me? I have come close - deer are sometimes unseen until they are nearly in front of you. It's just part of the game, no pun intended.

Come on Jamie...let's just use common sense. is it really this hard????



Hi Gilbert,


I am talking about physics, not laws. I am talking about deciding to drive slower even though the sign says 35 mph. If you can drive safely at any speed and avoid an object in your lane without swirving into oncoming trafic, great. I know that I cannot. Therefore I will travel at a speed that I know I will be able to slow down in time.



I went out there today at 12:30 pm-ish.  I drove about two miles past University Lake and got to Damascus Church Road and turned around and came back.  I saw 18 bikers in that four mile round trip.  Most of them were in one long, extended clump so I don’t know if that means there was a gang of them traveling together.   Such traveling is both good and bad, good in the sense that a large number of them traveling together are easier for drivers to see and bad in the sense that a driver not paying very close attention can take out several bikers at once instead of just one.


And I almost laughed out loud when I saw the sign that said “Speed Limit 55.”  It’s a narrow road with no shoulder at all and even if drivers could be certain there were no bikers on the road then a safe speed limit for cars would be 45 at most.  I was trying to go at a safe speed, especially since there were so many bikers on the road, and yet other drivers quickly lined up behind me so apparently I wasn’t going fast enough to please them. 


It was sunny at the time and since there are a lot of trees you’re constantly driving from sun into shade into sun and that makes it even harder to see, especially bikes, which are so much smaller than cars.


And through it all there were the “Share The Road” signs with a picture of a bike on it.  There is no way that road is safe for biking as is and whoever decided to put up those “Share The Road” signs should be kicked in whatever part of their body is the most sensitive.  Either bike lanes should be added or else biking should be banned.

Or else biking should be banned?  Right, the solution to bad drivers is to accomodate them.
The point is, even when drivers are careful on that stretch of road it is unsafe for bikers on that.  At any particular place biking should either be (a) safe and encouraged or (b) unsafe and discouraged, ie, illegal.  Instead on that stretch and many others in this area biking is unsafe and legal, which implicitly encourages it.

The section of Jones Ferry Road from Damascus Church into Carrboro is part of the Mountains to the Sea bike route. That decision was made back in 2003, before all the new developments were built south of Frosties. Are you saying that since the Chatham development have come along, the Orange County section of the trail should be discontinued?

Jones Ferry, like Smith Level Road, is a rural entry way into Carrboro, and we have the opportunity to work with Chatham County to control how that entry way is designed. We can make it an intentional design that includes bike lanes and walking paths where appropriate, or we can ignore the problems and let both roads become unsafe thoroughfares. If something is not done soon, both entries are at risk of becoming a scaled down version of the situation on Hwy 54 in Chapel Hill. Fortunately, the University Lake watershed will prevent full scale development.

We initiated a very minor collaboration between Orange County, Carrboro, Chapel Hill, and Chatham County on Smith Level Road. It wasn't much and isn't moving quickly, but it's a start. Hopefully, someone who lives out Jones Ferry will initiate a similar project.

"Are you saying that since the Chatham development have come along, the Orange County section of the trail should be discontinued?"

 I'm saying that biking should either be (a) safe and encouraged or (b) unsafe and discouraged, ie, illegal.  And that two mile stretch I was on yesterday from University Lake to Damascus Church Road is unsafe for biking.  IMO we should either ban biking there or else change something there to make biking safe.

 "If something is not done soon, both entries are at risk of becoming a scaled down version of the situation on Hwy 54 in Chapel Hill. Fortunately, the University Lake watershed will prevent full scale development."

It's fortunate for the people that already live there that full scale development is prevented but not for the ever-growing number of people that work at UNC who have to live somewhere.  And if they can't live in Carrboro two miles from UNC and bus or bike or walk to work then they'll instead live 5 or 10 or 20 miles from UNC in Chatham or northern Orange or Durham or Cary and drive to work.  So I suspect that whatever environmental degradation that is avoided by not developing near University Lake is made up for in environmental degradation elsewhere.

So let me be clear about what you're proposing.

A ban on cycling on roads without bike lanes until they can be built. 

(I'm not sure that could be ordained at the local level. I think law might have to change at the state level.) 

Increased education on crosswalk use for pedestrians AND drivers.

But no crosswalks on multilane highways and pedestrians should not be encouraged or expect to cross them. That would include all the apartments on 54 and MLK. I'm thinking that would require rerouting buses so that no one need cross those roads, but I don't know if you meant to imply that.

I'm also concluding that there are people who are walking and cycling who you believe should be busing. Because they should not be walking across MLK even at designated crosswalks. 

Are those your proposals? I'm just checking, because there's a lot of There's A Hole In The Bucket in these threads and I'm interested in what you think the solutions -that can be implemented- are.

Holy crap, that came out as a mess, the more I do this the worse I get.  Okay, let me edit it and see if I can make paragraphs. 

 I’m just saying that in any particular area biking or walking should be encouraged if it’s safe or discouraged if it’s unsafe.  Safeis subjective but I think looking at each situation on it’s merits helps instead of just telling everyone to walk or bike as much as they can. 

Re. the MLK-Hillsborugh intersection:  There is the convenience store to the NE that has entrance/exit on both MLK and Hillsborough.  On the SE is the clump of stores (Fosters, etc) that has two entrance/exit on MLK and I think one on Hillsborough too.  MLK itself comes downhill towards the intersection in both directions, sharply downhill from the north.  And as Hillsborough comes to the intersection you come uphill and you’re suddenly at the intersection.  There is way too much going on there to add pedestrians to the mix IMO. 

The next one up, MLK-Estes, is much friendlier.  It’s flatter coming from every direction and there aren’t any other entrance/exits nearby.   

All that said, I rarely see pedestrians crossing MLK at either of those intersections and that tells me one or both of two things is true, those being (1) there aren’t many people that want to cross those on foot and (2) people don’t think it’s safe to cross on foot. 

As far as 54 goes, back when Harris-Teeter was open at Glenwood I'd shop there and then when I was leaving I'd go over past the gas station / convenience store and exit at the light.  I’d turn left at that light and usually it was night and sometimes there were people crossing and they were very hard to see them.  Since I went there a lot I knew to be very careful when turning left but a person that didn’t know better could easily hit a pedestrian if it were dark. 

At intersections in town like Franklin-Columbia it’s possible for the “Walk” signs for pedestrians and the green light for cars to conflict.  By that I mean, if the drivers just went without looking when the light turned green they’d run over pedestrians.  But that’s no problem because it’s in town and everything is close together and people are expecting it.  The Franklin-Columbia intersection doesn’t strike me as dangerous at all. 

But at some intersections on roads like MLK-Hillsborough or 54-Meadowmont it’s completely different.  Everything is bigger, everything moves faster.  There are more lanes of traffic for drivers to keep track of and more pavement for pedestrians to traverse when they’re crossing.  And there is so much car traffic and so little pedestrian traffic that sometimes drivers aren’t even thinking in terms of pedestrians.  At intersections like that I think it would be a good idea for all drivers to have a red light when the sign flashes “Walk” for pedestrians. 

And that is especially true at night.  Either nobody should be allowed to cross those kinds of intersections on foot at night or else when they do no cars should be allowed to move at the same time.  From what I can glean so far that is what went wrong at MLK-Hillsborough.  I mean, the driver wasn’t charged and the pedestrian was in the crosswalk and I haven’t heard that the pedestrian didn’t have a “Walk” signal. 

Now that I think about it, two of the three recent pedestrians deaths were at night and the daylight death sounds like at least part of the problem was that woman tripped and fell into traffic.  And the other pedestrian I can think of was a couple years ago when the guy was trying to cross 15-501 (another road that is generally dangerous to cross on foot) at night before a basketbal gamel.  And the biker death that I can think of is a few years ago when a guy got hit at night on 54 by the Boston College basketball team bus.  Maybe nighttime is at least partly a common denominator in a lot of this. I could now go on to bikes but I’ve written too much already.

It's clear you have a very different way of approaching this problem than I do, Jose, and I'm not going to try to change your mind. (I don't have the patience for so much debating.)

But if you think it feels easier or safer for pedestrians to cross MLK at Estes than at Hillsborough, you either haven't tried it yourself or may possibly be living in a different Chapel Hill than I am.

Jose, I am insulted that you have so easily chosen biking to be illegal in this situation. If the roads must be for one mode of transportation, I am curious about how you feel about designating certain roads solely for bicycles and other roads solely for automobiles? Would that be a fair compromise?

I can tell you that, instead of giving the drivers with poor-to-no driving skills more leeway to harm someone I rather get to where I need to go and assert my legal right doing so be it on food,  on my bike, or on my scooter. Lastly, please remember that driving is a privilege.

and so is riding a bicycle on the road. you guys are supposed to follow the exact same laws as automobiles yet i see bikers constantly blowing through lights and stop signs. they also fail to yield, make illegal and dangerous turns etc...i'm curious - is it illegal for bicycles to ride in the street more than single file. I'll tell you what i'm tired of - bicyclists riding on a lane that is posted 50 mph yet they take up the entire lane and go 15 mph.


" and so is riding a bicycle on the road..."

As far as I know I cannot have my bike taken away from me if I am riding drunk.
So I would have to disagree with you on this one. Riding a bike is a right.

 "...you guys are supposed to follow the exact same laws as automobiles..."

 I agree.

 "...yet i see bikers constantly blowing through lights and stop signs. they also fail to yield, make illegal and dangerous turns etc..."

 I agree. But let's be fair, when was the last time you read in the paper that a cyclist swerved out of the lane and killed someone? Furthermore, please keep in mind that saying 'you guys' when you are refering to bikers is like me thinking of you when some 16 year old snot-nose blows by me at 85 mph with no room to spare.

"...is it illegal for bicycles to ride in the street more than single file..."

We may ride two abreast, by law.

"...I'll tell you what i'm tired of - bicyclists riding on a lane that is posted 50 mph yet they take up the entire lane and go 15 mph."

I am sorry that this bothers you. It used to bother me. If you realized what cycilst put up with from other automobile drivers you might appreciate how nervious one gets when a 2 ton car barrels down on them. If not please consider that you WILL get to where you are going, even if it is all of 10 minutes later. Below is a NCDOT link to the laws pertaining to bicycling:


For whomever it may concern:

I wasn't going to get involved in this discussion but I figure - what the heck. First, I drive a motorcycle and have done so for the better part of the last 40 years. I also drive a car and walk but have rarely ridden a bicycle (bad knees). Bike riders do have a right to use the roads and they do have the right to ride two abreast (as do motorcycle riders). Suggesting that bike riders avoid certain roads because they are unsafe is a fine suggestion if you have a sincere concern for the bike riders' safety but otherwise, inappropriate. If you want to blame someone you need to start with the State of NC and its counties who have built some of the most treacherous (but often scenic) roads I have ever seen. But cyclists have a right to use them if they dare and motorists should respect that right and do it with patience.

On Saturday I encountered a number of cyclists on my way from Chapel Hill to Durham via Sunrise, Whitfield, and Old Erwin. I was in my van. If you know these roads you realize that there is absolutely no paved shoulder and there are numerous hills and turns which block a view of oncoming traffic. I was forced to wait a minute or more several times on this trip while I waited for a safe place to pass the cyclists I was behind on each stretch of the trip. As I neared my destination I thought about those waits and told myself that it was a minor inconvenience to insure someone's safety.

And then it dawned on me that by thinking of these waits as "inconveniences" I was implying that something had been taken from me. In reality I should have been appreciating that I had those two minutes or so to give. I, like most of you, have known people who died in their teens, twenties, thirties, etc. We're all living on "borrowed time" you might say. So next time you have to slow down for a cyclist, a pedestrian, an auto accident, etc., don't complain about the time you had to give up by waiting but appreciate the fact that you even have that time to give.  Open your window, take a deep breath, and think about how lucky you are to be there that day.

It's Sunday Afternoon on Memorial Day Weekend.

Recreational cycling has been popular in this country for at least 20 years.

Were you really surprised this scenic route was full of cyclists today?  

It was Saturday that I was there.  And I rarely go out there so I didn't know what it would be like.  But if it's a scenic route in this area then no, I'm not surprised there are bikers, because that is one of their main critera people use, that is, whether it is scenic.  I just think that whether it is safe should be the criterion that trumps all others, including whether it is scenic.

I would like to live in a town where a car will stop for me if I am attempting to cross the street in between intersections.

I would also like to live in a town where there are appropriately placed crosswalks and people used them instead of j-walking.

Ms. Murphy mentioned "pedestrians com[ing] first". As far as I know pedestrians do not have more legal rights then automobile drivers. Am I wrong? I hope not. I can't see how we could find fair solutions if I am.

I taught my kids to assume that the other person, be it driver or pedestrian, is going to make a mistake.  Then walk or drive accordingly.
In the book Zodiac by Neal Stephenson, one of the characters takes that idea one step further: He assumes that Boston drivers are trying to hit him.

Having lived in Boston that is pretty much the status quo. Also the middle finger is an acceptable alternative to a turning signal.

I've always found the problem with college campuses is that pedestrians seem to feel entitled to cross the street regardless of whether there is a crosswalk or walk signal. Unfortunatly unlike a lot of smaller campuses, at UNC there are a lot of 4 lane roads bordering and going through campus with cars moving at a decent clip, which makes this practice a lot more dangerous. Do you remeber a couple of years ago when UNC (or maybe Chapel Hill) PD were going to start ramping up their issuance on jaywalking citations? Did they actually ever follow through with that?

I don't know if things have changed in the last several years but several years ago I brought to the attention of the Duke University police the issue of jaywalking on Erwin Road in front of Duke Hospital. The problem was that employees, in a hurry to get to work on time, were jaywalking from the parking garage across to the sidewalk in front of the children's hospital. This was occurring early in the morning just as the sun was coming up so that a driver headed north had the early morning sun directly in their eyes. It was (and still is) a very bad situation since these jaywalkers would often cross right behing southbound traffic (including buses) so that the northbound drivers, with the sun blinding them, couldn't see these pedestrians until the last moment. When I brought this to the attention of the then police chief he pointed out that although there is a state law stipulating that pedestrians must cross at crosswalks or at intersections, there is no penalty for not doing so and therefore the law was unenforceable.



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