The Daily Tar Heel

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Monday December 6th

Do you look both ways? How Chapel Hill and Carrboro try to promote pedestrian safety

An accident occurred at the Franklin Street and Mallette Street intersection on Sunday, Sept. 29. 2019.
Buy Photos An accident occurred at the Franklin Street and Mallette Street intersection on Sunday, Sept. 29. 2019.

A pedestrian was injured and taken to the hospital following a collision with a Chapel Hill Transit bus on Tuesday. 

The accident occurred around 4:30 p.m. near the corner of Cameron Avenue and Pittsboro Street. According to UNC student Hannah Lawrence, who witnessed the accident, the pedestrian was crossing the street and the front of the bus hit her after it turned the corner. 

Ran Northam, community safety communications specialist for the Town of Chapel Hill, said the pedestrian was treated at the scene for some minor injuries, but was brought to the hospital to check for any other sustained injuries that may have been undetected at the scene. 

Between 2016 and 2017, the number of pedestrian-involved motor vehicle accidents in Chapel Hill increased from 20 to 34. There were 27 in 2018, and there has been 15 accidents so far in 2019 with about two months left in the year.

Northam is a member of the Bike/Pedestrian team for the town. He said the team meets every Tuesday to discuss information received from the community to make traveling in and through Chapel Hill safer.

“Whether it’s adding bike lanes or adding bollards in specific areas like Rosemary Street to reduce the number of cars that park in the bike lane, items like that continue to improve safety among all travelers and the communication between travelers," Northam said. 

Most of the 96 accidents that happened between 2016 and 2019 resulted in at least minor injuries for involved pedestrians, but only three accidents were fatal.

Northam said these accidents may result from distraction from either drivers or pedestrians.

“Cars are having more and more technology installed in them,” Northam said. “There are more distractions just within the cars themselves, whether it’s a heads-up display, the radio with a full screen or cameras that are involved.”

Distracted pedestrians can play a large part in accidents as well, he said.

“We don’t want pedestrians, especially if they are crossing the road, to have that distraction of looking down at their phone and having their earbuds in,” Northam said. “They need to have a sense of awareness around them so they can remain safe too.”

UNC student Jason Jimenez said he takes all the necessary precautions before crossing the road but said speeding cars worry him. 

“It just depends on where you’re at on campus,” Jimenez said. “There are some main roads where cars do go fast and speed, so I just try to be more cautious when I know I have to cross.”

The Town is working on adding new sidewalk and curb ramps near Franklin Street at Merritt Mill Road to “provide safer, more defined and more efficient bike/ped accommodations,” according to the Town of Chapel Hill’s website. 

The Town of Carrboro also actively works to promote pedestrian safety and make roads safer for all travelers. 

Carrboro Board of Aldermen member Damon Seils said the Town has several policies that support pedestrian travel, such as a general policy to not widen roads any further in the town. 

“Another example is that we recently completed spending down funds from the town’s most recent bond referendum,” Seils said. “And that bond referendum supported the construction of sidewalks and greenways throughout the town over the past several years.”

The most recent project to be completed was the addition of a five-foot-wide sidewalk running along the west side of Rogers Road to Meadow Run Court.

Both Chapel Hill and Carrboro try to promote all modes of travel, and officials said pedestrian safety is a large part of that.

@kcarp3nter

city@dailytarheel.com

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