While I am excited that my interview with Perils for Pedestrians from early 2013 has been posted online, I am frustrated that the bicycle and pedestrian safety issue I was interviewed about has become reality. Here is the video, which should be forwarded to when my interview takes place at 10:33.
In case you are unfamiliar with Charlotte, I have provided a map below that shows where the Mallard Creek Greenway is closed at North Tryon Street. As you can see, this closure is near an entrance to UNC Charlotte so people commuting from across North Tryon Street have few, if any, safe routes to arrive on campus by walking or biking.
The intersection on February 22, 2013
As any good advocate does, I took photos of the intersection on February 22, 2013. While looking at the below photo, where should pedestrians and bicyclists safely cross North Tryon Street?
If you expected people to safely walk or bike across North Tryon Street, please look at the below photo. Automobiles travel about 50 mph through here. The nearest signalized pedestrian crossing is about 1/3 miles north at Mallard Creek Church Road, but I highly doubt anyone is going to walk that far to use the crosswalk when this section of North Tryon Street has no sidewalks.
Phase I detour: August 2014-May 2015
Since I am currently living in Portland, I don’t have photos of the detour. I’m hoping one of my Charlotte friends will help by sending me photos of the detour. Thankfully, I found a University City Partners blog post from July 1, 2014 that discusses the phase one and two detours. The detour during phase one, which started in August 2014 and may have closed in May 2015, involved a temporary detour path along North Tryon Street’s southbound lanes, which were closed to automobile traffic during the detour. The below map shows this temporary detour.
State engineer Ron Graham said the greenway detour path traveled up a gravel access road to North Tryon Street and onto a temporary paved path along the edge of the closed southbound lanes to Mallard Creek Church Road. People using the detour path crossed Mallard Creek Church Road and North Tryon Street via existing pedestrian crossing signals. An existing sidewalk led them to the Kirk Farm Fields Park and the start of Mallard Creek Greenway. A short walk back up the greenway connected with the Toby Creek Greenway bridge and access to UNC Charlotte. Even though I didn’t see the detour or walk it, I’m impressed with reading this detour.
Phase II detour started in May 2015
Unfortunately, the phase two detour is very disappointing. As I expected because I already knew the Barton Creek Greenway was being delayed when I asked Gwen Cook, Mecklenburg County’s greenway planner, about it in 2013,
“Design challenges have delayed a hoped-for second detour path – Barton Creek Greenway to University Place and UNC Charlotte. As a result, we may face several months in late 2015 without a greenway alternative.”
According to the blog post, phase two has no detour for pedestrians and bicyclists!
Once the state reopens the southbound bridge in May 2015 and reroutes northbound traffic onto the new bridge, the state must close the temporary greenway detour path, Graham says.
I find it interesting how the state “must” close the temporary greenway detour path. The main reason why NCDOT “must” close it is because NCDOT prioritizes automobiles over walking and bicycling.
Ray’s proposal for a phase II detour
Since I feel people in the United States often dismiss Dutch and Danish transportation infrastructure because they feel their city is too automobile dependent and doesn’t have funding to spend on bicycle and pedestrian safety projects, I’m very thankful inspiration for my phase two proposal comes from the United States. As I was biking along the Mount Vernon Trail near Fort Hunt National Park in Alexandria, VA on August 17, 2014, I was amazed by the below bicycle and pedestrian detour. To see all 22 photos of the detour, view my facebook album (sharing is set to public so anyone should be able to view it).
The below photo show the detour being routed onto an entire lane of George Washington Memorial Parkway, which is a state road maintained by the National Park Service. The reasons why I pointed out that it is a state road is because local jurisdictions have less control over what they can do with the road and North Tryon Street is a state maintained road. This is why many jurisdictions try to transfer state roads to city roads.
Let’s return to the NCDOT statement where Graham said, “the state must close the temporary greenway detour path.” Another option could have been to close the right southbound lane on North Tryon Street to automobile traffic so cyclists and pedestrians could have safely biked or walked to the signalized intersection at Mallard Creek Church Road. Was this option even discussed? If it was, I’m sure someone at NCDOT said, “motorists are going to hate us if we remove a travel lane!” I’m confident motorists didn’t enjoy having a travel lane removed on the George Washington Memorial Parkway either. Why did the Mount Vernon Trail have such a great construction detour for bicycle and pedestrian traffic while the Mallard Creek Greenway has no construction detour for bicycle and pedestrian traffic during phase two?
Phoenix’s Traffic Barricade Manual
John Wetmore informed me about how effective Phoenix’s Traffic Barricade Manual is for requiring contractors to provide a safe and convenient detour for pedestrians through construction zones. Here is a video of his interview with City of Phoenix staff about accommodating pedestrians through construction zones.
I plan to update this blog post after getting some photos of the phase two detour from a Charlotte friend and asking Gwen Cook for her thoughts on the feasibility of implementing my proposed detour for phase two.