OPINION: Callous cars on Clark Avenue demonstrate a need for pedestrian-friendly road systems in Raleigh (2024)

I hate to brag, but I live a five-minute walk from campus, and I'm not paying an arm and a leg in rent. My gas bill is kaput compared to when I lived in the suburbs of Charlotte. Although I love my Volkswagen, I'd rather spend a little longer getting to the grocery store so I can watch the cold air suck the life out of the leaves. I do not, however, want the life sucked out of me by an F-150 because I dared to use a crosswalk.

Since moving into my walkup on Clark Avenue, I have learned how precious life is. If I had to estimate, I'd guess that I've had 17-25 near-death experiences using crosswalks in the past eight months.

We all know how car-dependent Raleigh is. Do we think consistently driving 20 or more miles over the speed limit in residential areas might contribute to that?

Now, I don't mean to assume, but it seems that people might not be aware of the state law that states crosswalks without a signal give pedestrians the right of way. I'm led to this assumption based on the many encounters I've had with drivers who have honked at and even scolded me because I neglected to thank them for having mercy on my life.

This does not create a welcoming environment for folks who want to try an alternative form of transportation, such as a bike or scooter. Even worse, this phenomenon poses a dangerous risk for people with health conditions or impairments who especially deserve safe and accessible neighborhood streets.

I spoke with my council member for District D, Jane Harrison, who is the liaison for the Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee and typically commutes to work daily by bike. She grew up biking in Columbus, Ohio, a city she said is similar to Raleigh's regarding its car culture.

Harrison learned to get around on a bike from her dad. This early education was vital to understanding how to safely bike in cities not designed for cyclists.

Not everyone has someone to teach them the little things; unfortunately, these lessons are often learned through bad experiences. However, I’m not sure we should accept bodily harm as a necessary part of learning to bike around a city.

Even Harrison herself has had two accidents while riding her bike. The first was when she was ten years old, and the second was while she was working towards her Ph.D. at Oregon State, even though she attests Corvallis, Ore. is the most bike-friendly city she’s ever lived in. Obviously the combination of her vast experience and a strong bike culture does not mean she is invincible.

In a city like Raleigh that, until recently, was far from urban, it's understandable that long-time residents or people from rural areas are not accustomed to sharing the road with cyclists and pedestrians. Additionally, not everyone wants to live in a densely populated urban area where they can walk to their daily conveniences. I mean, how awful it is not to have car insurance bills, right?

The post-WWII economic boom incited the dominance of car culture. At this point, it is the default mode of transportation. This is evident in data on how Raleigh residents commute to work. Before the pandemic, 80% of commuters drove to work alone. This number has dropped to just under 60% as the number of individuals working from home has increased.

Fortunately, Raleigh City Council is committed to prioritizing alternative transportation methods alongside road infrastructure improvements.

I will say we are quite spoiled in the Triangle with our bus system. Around this time last year, I took the GoTriangle bus from D.P. Dough all the way to Cat's Cradle in Carrboro, and I didn't pay a dime. However, we must exercise these options, if we expect our public servants to write grants asking our legislature to pay for them.

Fortunately, my council member has been doing just that. Harrison told me about an exciting new program coming to Raleigh this summer to make biking more accessible.

The Raleigh e-bike incentive program will give every Raleigh resident over the age of 18 the opportunity to apply for a $500 voucher, and those with incomes of 80% of the Area Median Income or less will be eligible to apply for a $1,500 voucher.

Attentive driving is vital to keeping our neighborhood streets safe. Harrison said we must watch out for other vehicles on our roads besides cars. This initiative is a great way to promote that mindset.

This doesn't mean you have to give up your glorious gas guzzlers and take an e-scooter to Trader Joe's, but please do me and the NC State retention rate a favor by stopping for pedestrians at crosswalks.

OPINION: Callous cars on Clark Avenue demonstrate a need for pedestrian-friendly road systems in Raleigh (2024)
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