Whose Streets? Good question: Pedestrians and Chapel Hill

After what seems to have been a heated month of politics on OP, I thought I'd start December with a few questions about crosswalks, speeding, sidewalks, road design, and other issues that impact the walkability of Chapel Hill and Carrboro.

First, I've noticed that when I'm stopped at a crossswalk (particularly on Rosemary Street), cars rarely stop to let me cross, even if they see me patiently waiting. My understanding is that they are required to stop for pedestrians. What recourse do I have when they don't? How does one go about getting additional crosswalks put in? 

 Second, I've been fairly convinced by the Twenty's Plenty campaign in the UK, and think that instituting 20mph as the speed limit in the downtown core of Chapel Hill would be a good idea. Most of the downtown core already has 20mph as the speed limit, but a few sections (like Rosemary St.) do not. How does one go about lowering the speedlimit. Enforcing the law would be difficult, so implementing some novel traffic slowing structures, such as mini-traffic circles, would also help.  

 Third, does anyone know why so many streets in Chapel Hill are still without sidewalks? Even streets in very wealthy neighborhoods make do with dirt paths, which seems unsafe. One would think that a town as wealthy as Chapel Hill would be able to afford sidewalks in its neighborhoods.

 Fourth, and perhaps further out, has anyone proposed a way to make the intersection of Franklin/Rosemary/Weaver/Main/etc., more pedestrian friendly? As much as I love all the businesses in Carrboro, walking to them from Chapel Hill is very unpleasant, and could be corrected by widening the sidewalks and eliminating a lane of traffic.


The only way to ensure observance of pedestrian crossings is to make them signaled. Though signaling is not necessarily the most economical option.

Something which may improve the pedestrian experience at the intersection of the two towns, and would certainly improve traffic flow and safety, would be roundabouts at the intersections of Rosemary and Franklin, and of Weaver and Main.

Hey Martin:It is challenging. Unfortunately, sidealks are expensive, and the relative lack of density of much of Chapel Hill means that there's a lot of linear feet of sidewalk which needs to be done. Because of topography, some sidealks are even more expesnive, such as the one that's being planned (not sure if it's under construction yet) on one of the streets near the Culbreth School.Moreover, some neighborhoods don't want sidewalks. There was a proposal to add sidewalks in Northside, but given the small size of the lots, and the fact that the narrow roads already extend across the nominal property lines, residents objected.Every year the Town has a pot of money to spend on sidewalk projects, and Town Council approves the priority list. There's a ranking system which depends on such factors as daily pedestrian traffic, whether there are pedestrian generators nearby, whether there's a school nearby, but projects can be pushed up and down the priority list by Town Council. I believe that the process is coming up soon, so you can make youself heard. Also, I'm on the bike and ped committee and we give our input to Town Council, so if there are any streets where you think adding sidewalks should be a priority, please let me know so I can check it out.

Hi Geoff,Thanks for the response. I'll try to be involved in the process this time around. I'm happy that there are now sidewalks on both side of Rosemary Street (from Merritt Mill to Columbia), and wish the same was true for Cameron Ave.  Is CH's topography particularly unusual? My suspicion is that the great city planning wave of the early 20th C passed CH by, and it's more difficult to do city planning now because people have more tools at their disposal to stop things from happening. But, I wonder if there's something more specific that went wrong here. But, as noted above, sidewalks are just one of many pedestrian issues in CH. There's lots of small, innovative things towns can do to improve pedestrian safety (like adding mini-traffic circles that force cars to slow down to the speed limit). 

Part of the topography of Chapel Hill is challenging; I know the sidealk extension on Culbreth is quite pricey for that reason, though I don't know the details. It's being done, though, because it's an important missing link.


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