Charlotte drivers, get ready to slow down.
City Council on Monday unanimously approved a new set of traffic-calming measures that are intended to make the city’s neighborhoods safer. Those measures include making it easier to lower speed limits on neighborhood streets to 25 mph and simplifying the process to request stop signs and speed humps.
“It gives the neighborhoods and the communities better flexibility,” said council member Greg Phipps.
Council member Ed Driggs said he frequently hears requests from constituents for traffic calming measures in their neighborhoods.
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“I think this is a good idea,” he said.
As part of the global Vision Zero initiative, Charlotte is aiming to eliminate pedestrian deaths on the city’s streets by 2030. But deaths are trending the wrong way right now. So far this year, 25 pedestrians have died in Charlotte car wrecks. That’s close to the 27 pedestrians killed in 2017, and Charlotte could equal or exceed that grim total this year.
None of those killed this year have died on the neighborhood streets covered by the plan approved Monday, however. Instead, about 80 percent of them have died on two- or four-lane arterial roads with speed limits of 35 mph to 45 mph, such as The Plaza, Tryon Street and Shamrock Drive. The remaining deaths have occurred on limited-access roads such as Brookshire Boulevard and Independence Boulevard.
Many streets such as Sharon Road, Eastway Drive and Graham Street — each of which has claimed a life this year — lack crossings for long stretches, requiring pedestrians to walk a quarter mile or more out of their way to cross safely. That’s a major factor in pedestrian deaths, most of which occur outside of marked crosswalks.
Here’s what the changes approved Monday include:
▪ Reducing the minimum number of vehicles required per day on a street to request a speed hump to 600. The current policy calls for 1,000 vehicles per day.
▪ Counting traffic on both a main street and the intersecting street to meet the 600 vehicle per day minimum for a stop sign, instead of just counting the main street.
▪ Reducing the number of vehicles required for requesting both a stop sign and speed hump from 2,500 to 1,500.
▪ Providing assistance to “distressed neighborhoods” to collect required signatures on petitions for traffic-calming measures.
▪ Charlotte speed limits are 35 mph citywide, unless otherwise posted. The Charlotte Department of Transportation will lower speed limits on neighborhood streets from 35 mph to 25 mph, if there aren’t already signs posted identifying 25 mph as the limit and if neighbors request the change. CDOT Director Liz Babson said there isn’t an estimate of how many streets could be affected by this policy.
“Scaling down the criteria ... goes a long way to addressing the concerns I know constituents in my district have,” said council member Matt Newton.