Charlotte is spending millions to try to accomplish Vision Zero, the city’s goal of eliminating traffic deaths and serious injuries. However, a new study shows that more pedestrians are being killed on Charlotte-area streets and most pedestrian fatalities are in Charlotte’s crescent of poverty, in the west, north and east of the city.
A new report from nonprofit Smart Growth America, “Dangerous by Design,” reveals there were 265 pedestrian deaths from 2016 to 2020 in the Charlotte metro area. There are an average of 2.04 pedestrian deaths per 100,000 people annually, an increase of 0.42 from the five-year averages for 2011 to 2015. That ranks the area as the 44th most deadly for pedestrians out of 101 metros, Axios Charlotte writes.
Why it matters: Charlotte leaders want more people to walk, bike and take transit to reduce emissions and lessen congestion as the city grows. But to do so, there needs to be infrastructure in place that allows people to get around safely. And the city must contend with how to undo decades of planning decisions that left neighborhoods of color behind in the construction of essential infrastructure like sidewalks.
“(Charlotte) made a lot of mistakes in the past in planning both land use and transportation,” says Meg Fencil, director of engagement and impact with nonprofit Sustain Charlotte. “And now we know that population growth is coming to Charlotte, we have an opportunity to do better in the next decade.”
Black residents make up nearly half of pedestrians killed on Charlotte streets from 2008 to 2018, but 35.5% of the city’s population.
The Rev. Janet Garner-Mullins, a member of the Charlotte Regional Transportation Coalition, says the city needs to do more than make band-aid fixes when there’s public pressure.
“It’s just like a generational curse,” Garner-Mullins says. “Until proper infrastructure, adequate and equitable infrastructure is put in place across the city, you’re going to continue to see generation after generation of people of color getting killed because nothing has been done to change the complexities of it.”