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Town hosts community safety festival to celebrate pedestrian and bike safety grant

2023-1-26 Lam, UNC Bikes-8.jpg
One of the bicycle racks where the Tar Heel Bikes are normally found is pictured in front of Peabody Hall on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2023.

The Town of Chapel Hill hosted a Vision Zero community safety festival on Aug. 26 to celebrate the Town receiving a grant to fund pedestrian and bike safety projects.

Chapel Hill adopted the Vision Zero initiative — a project focused on eliminating pedestrian and cyclist deaths and serious injuries on the road — in October 2021, complete streets specialist Ian Baltutis said. Vision Zero began in Europe in the 1990s and has seen implementation in many areas of the U.S. due to its success.

The Town of Chapel Hill — along with 12 other municipalities across the country — received the 2023 AARP Community Challenge Demonstration Grant, a grant that will help fund the installation of pedestrian safety islands, LED lighting and street signs. The grant supplied the Town with $50,000 to improve pedestrian safety, Chapel Hill Town Council member Michael Parker said. 

“When we have opportunities to secure funds to implement programs of all sorts of types that we want to do, we go after them,” he said.

The Town plans on deploying modular medians and traffic gardens on roads like Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, Baltutis said.

Many crashes involve pedestrians or cyclists crossing the street after riding the bus, Baltutis said. He said the Town also plans to reduce the amount of cars on the road by creating safer alternatives to driving such as adding safer routes to bus stops.

“We’re thinking about how to make first and last mile connections," Emily Powell, the community outreach manager for Chapel Hill Transit, said. "So, how do pedestrians get to our bus stops? How do we make sure that once they are off the bus they can cross the street safely?” 

The community safety festival was held at 86 North Apartments. Baltutis said the location was chosen so community members could walk to the event and because of the apartment’s proximity to several planned road improvement projects.

Attendees participated in activities like cornhole, a bounce house and giant Connect Four. Local firefighters and police officers climbed up and down a fire truck ladder to inform attendees about the vehicle. Attendees also learned about Chapel Hill Transit and other Vision Zero organizations at booths.

“By getting out in the community face-to-face, that's always a really valuable conversation versus sending a flier out and hoping somebody reads it,” Powell said.  

The event also included activities for kids to learn about road safety. Children at the event were also given the opportunity to have informational conversations with local town staff.

Transportation planning manager Bergen Watterson said it's important that children know how to navigate out on the street and in the community.

"I also think the end goal is that we can live in a community where parents don’t have to worry about their kid being hit or killed by a car,” she said.

@DTHCityState | city@dailytarheel.com 

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