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After a Charlotte cyclist’s death, residents want road narrowed

Parkwood Ave. road diet proposal

Jordan Moore, bicycle program director at Sustain Charlotte, is helping to lead the charge to advance a petition for the City of Charlotte to put Parkwood Avenue on a "road diet." Residents want the city to add bike lanes, which would shrink the r
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Jordan Moore, bicycle program director at Sustain Charlotte, is helping to lead the charge to advance a petition for the City of Charlotte to put Parkwood Avenue on a "road diet." Residents want the city to add bike lanes, which would shrink the r

Three months after the death of a cyclist, some residents want to make Parkwood Avenue safer by reducing the amount of space for cars and creating large bike lanes.

The strategy – known as a “road diet” – has been used nationwide and in Charlotte. Cities are calming high-speed streets with traffic circles, by building medians and by turning lanes into on-street parking.

In Dilworth, the city used a similar strategy when it removed one lane in each direction on East Boulevard.

East Boulevard carried 15,000 cars a day in 2012, after the changes were made. Parkwood Avenue handles 16,000 daily.

The effort on Parkwood Avenue follows the September death of 73-year-old Al Gorman, who was struck and killed by a car while riding his bike on the sidewalk on Parkwood near Hawthorne Lane. Gorman, who had been homeless, had recently been moved into housing in Belmont.

It’s a four-lane highway cutting through people’s front yards. That in and of itself is problematic for being a homeowner. For being a pedestrian or bicyclist, it’s been proven to be dangerous.

Jordan Moore, the bicycle program director with Sustain Charlotte, a nonprofit

City residents have petitioned Charlotte to add bikes lanes on Parkwood Avenue and reduce the space dedicated to cars.

Parkwood begins at 16th Street near the old Norfolk Southern rail yard in the Belmont neighborhood. It crosses a mix of residential and industrial areas, and then turns east at North Davidson Street. It then runs a mile through Belmont, Cordelia Park and Villa Heights.

The avenue has two lanes in each direction with a median. Critics say the high-speed design is inappropriate for a residential area.

“It’s riddled with accidents over the years, including fatals,” said Jordan Moore, the bicycle program director with Sustain Charlotte, a nonprofit. “It’s a four-lane highway cutting through people’s front yards. That in and of itself is problematic for being a homeowner. For being a pedestrian or bicyclist, it’s been proven to be dangerous.”

Moore wants the Charlotte Department of Transportation to create a bike lane on both sides of the avenue. Sustain Charlotte would like the lane to be physically separated from the car lanes, possibly with small plastic barriers. Under the proposal, the avenue would then have one lane in each direction.

Besides creating a safe space for bicyclists, it also would create a buffer for pedestrians. The sidewalks on Parkwood are adjacent to the avenue.

But with much of the city built with a focus on cars – and little thought to pedestrians – there are hundreds of mile of streets that are either unfriendly or arguably hostile to biking.

The Charlotte Department of Transportation has put about 20 other streets, such as Colony Road and Tuckaseegee Road, on the “diets.”

Moore said it’s important to slow down traffic on Parkwood because the avenue will become even more important to pedestrians. The avenue will eventually connect the Parkwood station on the Lynx Blue Line extension and the future Cross-County Trail, a 26-mile greenway planned to cut through the city.

Sustain Charlotte said 580 people have signed a petition to add bikes lanes on Parkwood.

“People of all ages and ability should be able to travel without fear of being struck by a car,” said Mark Lynch, who lobbied City Council Nov. 23 for the “road diet.”

Moore would like to see a future Parkwood Avenue bike lane physically separated from the vehicle lanes.

Almost all of the city’s bike lanes today are adjacent to the vehicle lanes. Charlotte has one bike lane – on Remount Road – with a small section of pavement to give bikers extra space. It doesn’t have any bike lanes with physical barriers for protection.

City officials said they would be willing to consider adding barriers to future bike lanes.

Bob Jarzemsky said he no longer jogs or pushes his child in a stroller on the avenue.

“I’m tired of dodging speeding cars,” he said. “The road serves neither the commuter nor the residents.”

Danny Pleasant, the head of CDOT, said his staff will meet with the residents to discuss their ideas. But he added “there are no plans or funding” for Parkwood Avenue.

“There are many city streets built over decades without provisions for comfortable bicycling or walking,” Pleasant said. “This is one planners and safety experts expect to address in the coming year.”

Steve Harrison: 704-358-5160, @Sharrison_Obs

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