The Daily Tar Heel

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Friday March 24th

Town launches Pedestrian Safety Campaign in response to fatal accidents on MLK

A view towards Hillsborough Drive on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. after a Jan. 2016 snowfall. Photo by Brian Vaughn.
Buy Photos A view towards Hillsborough Drive on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. after a Jan. 2016 snowfall. Photo by Brian Vaughn.

The Town of Chapel Hill has started a Pedestrian Safety Campaign following the death of two pedestrians on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

The initiative will start with “Phone Free Friday,” an educational campaign that urges residents to look up from their phones and pay attention to their surroundings. Ran Northam, Chapel Hill Police Department's spokesperson, said this month-long initiative will encourage people to travel without dangerous distractions.

“We often see that people walking at crosswalks will have their face down in their phones,” Northam said. “And we want to encourage people to have their eyes up, to check both ways, even if they are legally crossing the road. It’s always good to have that extra second to prepare or to react to something happening around them.”

Northam said the town wants to encourage residents, whether they are walking, driving or biking, to travel in a way that will prevent further accidents. 

“We saw these issues and we wanted to get out in front of the community with words of education and encouragement of conversation amongst one another to encourage safe travel behaviors,” Northam said.

Town Council Member Hongbin Gu said the town is discussing different options specifically in response to the incidents on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard such as additional traffic lights and improved lighting and educational campaigns. 

Gu said the Pedestrian Safety Campaign is important because it will help educate the town about transportation safety. 

“Ultimately, no rules or regulations will be effective unless we can change the behavior of people,” Gu said. “And that has to be both the behavior of drivers and the behavior of pedestrians.”

Following the “Phone Free Friday” initiative, the town will promote different educational messages about transportation safety. The campaign will focus on promoting safety for all travelers in the town, according to a Chapel Hill press release.

“We want to make sure we are getting a message each and every day to draw attention to alternative forms of transportation and everybody traveling together safely,“ Northam said.

He emphasized that safe travel depends on all members of the community. He said he doesn’t want people to point figures about what is and isn’t legal, but rather make safety a priority.

“We all have to work on this together,” Northam said. “We’ve been using the slogan of ‘Community Safety is a Shared Responsibility,' and it truly is.”

Northam is a member of the town’s Bike/Ped team, which meets weekly to discuss transportation related issues facing Chapel Hill. The team works to improve travel safety in the community, and Northam hopes residents and visitors will contact the organization if they have any transportation-related issues. 

“We’ll talk about all those issues and how we can get those resolved as quickly as possible, if it’s something the town can do,” Northam said. “And if it’s not, we’ll send it on to another organization.”


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