Despite efforts to make Charlottes streets safer, the number of injuries and vehicle crashes involving cyclists and pedestrians increased last year.
Deaths declined slightly, city and state transportation data show.
Twenty-two pedestrians and cyclists died in 2012, compared with 24 in 2011. That, however, is nearly three times more than in 1997, the earliest year for which data was available.
Pedestrian and cyclist injuries rose by 5 percent since 2011, while the number of accidents jumped by 3.2 percent.
Last years rising number of accidents and injuries came even as the city added sidewalks and bike lanes, closed turning lanes and ticketed uptown jaywalkers.
Mayor Anthony Foxx and Mayor Pro Tem Patrick Cannon, both Democrats, said the numbers highlight the need for a capital spending plan that would let the city improve safety.
A strategic plan the city has adopted would build 375 miles of sidewalks by 2035. But efforts to finance those proposals with $45 million for sidewalks and pedestrian safety were snagged by controversy over a proposed streetcar.
Charlotte has a nationally-recognized strategic plan but we need to fund it, Foxx said in a statement.
But council member Andy Dulin said the city builds about 15 miles of sidewalks each year, financed by $12 million annually from its general fund.
The fact of the matter is we have so many thousands of miles of roads and streets and neighborhoods that we are barely denting the need, said Dulin, a Republican.
Bernadette Christi, mother of a Myers Park High School student who was killed riding his bike to school in May, said more must be done.
I recognize that its a funding issue, Christi said, but its sad that this isnt where we put money into making the city safer for people.
The recent uptick in Charlottes accidents mirrors a national increase in pedestrian and cyclist fatalities. The latter increased by 8.7 percent in 2011 while pedestrian deaths went up by 3 percent, according to the most recent numbers from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
It also reflects the difficulty cities have had transforming themselves into walkable and bike-friendly communities. That task becomes even harder as they struggle with tighter budgets in a down economy, transportation safety experts said.
Why accidents increase
The 2012 numbers continued the citys recent trend of increasing pedestrian- and bicyclist-related crashes, according to an Observer analysis of nearly 3,300 crashes from 2005 to 2011.
But the overall pedestrian crash rate has declined in recent years, Linda Durrett, spokeswoman for Charlotte Department of Transportation, said in an email. Along with the accident totals, crash rates also consider the number of vehicle miles traveled each year.
Determining the exact rate that pedestrians get hit is nearly impossible. The number of people walking and biking would affect the crash rate, but no authority or government tracks how many people walk or bike along the streets each year.
Transportation safety experts say its hard to pinpoint why pedestrian and cyclist fatalities are up nationally.
Even Seattle, a city that ranks as the seventh safest for pedestrians and cyclists according to a 2011 study, saw an increase in those fatalities.
One underlying cause for the increase may be that more people are walking and biking in urban areas while city funds for road design improvements remain insufficient, national safety experts said.
There is a growing awareness of these pedestrian safety issues around the country and growing desire for people to walk and bike, said David Goldberg, a spokesman for the nonprofit Transportation for America. But it is coming at a time when were in a prolonged downturn and cities have depressed tax revenues that fund the design projects to make roads safer.
Durrett said the city continued to implement safety measures in 2012, including adding marked crosswalks and warning signs near Ardrey Kell Road and Travis Gulch Drive in the Ballantyne area, traffic and pedestrian signals at 6th and Pine streets uptown and a pedestrian island at Kings Drive and Baldwin Avenue near uptown, among others.
But in some instances last year, Charlottes safety efforts were reactions to deadly accidents.
City officials closed a right-hand turn lane in uptown after the January death of a 47-year-old man at Stonewall and College streets.
A month later, a truck hit and killed two boys, ages 1 and 5, as they walked with their father along West Tyvola Road. Afterward, Charlotte City Council members OKd money for a sidewalk along the stretch.
And in March, an 18-year-old high school student was killed while crossing Eastway Drive near East Sugar Creek Road. Later, the City Council voted to install a signaled crosswalk near the area.
To combat pedestrian-related wrecks uptown, Charlotte Mecklenburg police launched a jaywalking crackdown and ticketed 177 jaywalkers during a three-week period last summer.
The tickets cost $213. To drivers who didnt yield to pedestrians, officers issued tickets for $223.
Police have tentative plans to hold a second campaign in the spring but havent yet worked out specific details, CMPD spokesman Keith Trietley said.
Community input, city efforts
Relatives of crash victims and a lawyer who represents Charlotte bikers struck by cars said the city should take a more proactive approach.
Cyclist Edward Carl Hedrick, 29, died in May 2011 when an SUV ran over him in a hit-and-run before dawn on Poindexter Drive. Long after the painted white bicycle memorial for Hedrick was taken down, his mother, Joni Webster, still refuses to drive past the spot.
Webster said city leaders need to do a better job of educating drivers about cyclists rights and adding bike lanes.
Theres just not enough bicycle lanes, and people are riding out here all the time in southwest Charlotte, Webster said.
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