This morning I was on my regular route from home to school, right along the greenway, through Freedom Park, catching the Jameston/Irby connection when I rolled up on this latest gift on the route. It’s a flashing red. It’s at an intersection (Westfield and Hillside) that is already a four way stop, at a place where a whole bunch of people need to interact, walkers, cyclists and drivers.
I’ve watched all improvements taking place over the course of the past few weeks on this small section of the greenway that many of our school families use every day, and that anywhere between 20-50 kids use on any given Friday during the school year. The women that run our Bicycle Friday ride are so thankful that we are getting these improvements. We’d love to see anything that brings increased awareness to this route that we travel so frequently.
I think I felt doubly thankful because I’d just come by that bend in the road on Irby where a driver ran me off the road a few months ago because they were driving on the wrong side of the road in a blind curve. This morning a policewoman was there taking a statement in that curve from one of the neighbor’s there who’s car had been hit while parked there, by someone once again driving on the wrong side of the road, or at least driving to close to a parked car because they weren’t paying attention to the very important task at hand.
One of the major issues we have on our Friday rides, besides the surprising frequency with which a few of our children lose their shoes in the middle of the street, ride through mud puddles willy nilly or shout weee down long hills, is the fact that drivers are distracted. It’s the elephant in the room of using Charlotte streets. We all know it’s happening, it’s allowed to happen, and if you happen to kindly point out to a driver that they should put their phone down, they’re likely to get upset with you for pointing it out rather than themselves for doing it.
Last night I went to something called the Ride of Silence, which honors people who’ve been hit by drivers on Charlotte Streets. I realized as I was there how very tired of this ride I am. How very tired I am of hearing another friend/mother/father/sister/child was hit by a distracted driver while just trying to get where they are going.
Yesterday evening I stood at a crosswalk and waited for one car to stop and let me go (I had the signal), the countdown of the walk signal began before someone stopped. Yesterday on my way home from the ride, I was crossing an intersection when a driver suddenly darted out and stopped right in front of me, then laughed and yelled out the window, “I bet I scared the shit out of you.”
These moments make me feel sad and hopeless, so I needed this little blinking light today. I need the improvements that are being made at this intersection (one of my Bicycle Friday teammates said today, “it feels like they’re making that intersection safer just for us.”). I’m going to go with that.
I’m proud of the work our city is doing on creating better roads, using traffic calming and active transit design, and expanding our greenway/trail system, because our world is changing and we’re going to need all of these solutions.
My hope is always that at the end of the day, children can ride and walk safely in their own neighborhoods, that they can enjoy the freedom and wonder that playing outside brings, as well as the seemingly forever adventure of the walk/ride to school. It’s a gift, one that we all once took for granted, that I’d like to see taken for granted once again. You can contribute to this gift by putting down your phones and driving well. And we’ll contribute by continuing to show our young people how to be good road users. 🚲❤️