To make neighborhood streets safer for residents, the Charlotte City Council is considering a policy that would lower speed limits and make it easier to request four-way stops and speed bumps.
The changes, reviewed Monday at City Council’s Transportation and Planning committee, could make it safer for people to walk and bike in Charlotte neighborhoods. A car’s speed is one of the most crucial factors affecting how badly pedestrians are hurt in a wreck. City staff said a pedestrian hit at 20 mph has a 90 percent chance of living.
At 40 mph? Just 10 percent of pedestrians will survive.
“It’s so significant,” said Tamara Blue, of the Charlotte Department of Transportation. The changes are part of the city’s “Vision Zero” plan to try to reduce traffic fatalities.
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So far this year, 22 pedestrians have died on Charlotte streets, according to a review of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department reports. That total excludes one person killed in a shooting incident involving a car and pedestrian that was classified as a homicide.
The fatalities include a 13-year-old girl killed trying to cross North Tryon Street, a 15-year-old girl crossing Youngblood Street to reach her bus stop and an 85-year-old woman walking her dog on Moores Chapel Road. Many of the deaths occurred on main roads or highways that wouldn’t be impacted by a lower speed limit on local roads, such as Independence Boulevard.
Last year, a record 27 pedestrians died on Charlotte streets, the most since the city started keeping records in 2002.
Here are the specific policy changes under consideration:
▪ Preemptively reducing all neighborhood street speed limits to 25 mph. The citywide speed limit in Charlotte stands at 35 mph, unless otherwise posted. Currently, neighborhood streets can be reduced to 25 mph, if neighbors petition for the change or the city’s transportation director decides to do so.
Many neighborhood streets already have this speed limit, but not all. The city now wants to go ahead and proactively reduce speed limits on neighborhood streets, rather than waiting to be asked.
“We’re focusing on neighborhood, residential streets only,” said Blue. The department’s director has statutory authority to reduce the speed limits. And reducing the speed limits also makes it easier to request a speed bump or stop sign, since a 25 mph speed limit on the road in question is a prerequisite.
▪ Making it easier to request four-way stop signs and speed bumps. The revised policy would lower the threshold to get a speed bump on a neighborhood road by reducing the minimum number of daily vehicle trips on the street from 1,000 to 600, a 40 percent reduction. For multi-way stops combined with a speed bump, the minimum requirements would be lowered from 2,500 vehicle trips per day to 1,500. And for multi-way stop signs, traffic on both the main street and cross street could be used to count toward the required total.
▪ The city also plans to reduce the size of the geographic area residents are required to get signatures for multi-way stops, making the petition process easier. And the city’s Housing & Neighborhood Services Department would provide support for neighborhoods that have difficulty collecting signatures or moving a petition forward.
“The notion that because traffic calming is largely a petition-based process, there are some concerns that we need to be looking at it through a different equity lens to make sure all of our citizens have access to request traffic calming,” said assistant city manager Danny Pleasant.
The full City Council is set to review the proposed changes on Nov. 5 and vote on them at its Nov. 26 meeting. Council members on Monday said they were enthusiastic about the changes.
“This is a great plan,” said council member Larken Egleston. “The only thing I’d like to see is that when we’ve got good ideas...that we move more quickly on them.”