Today we celebrated with neighborhood residents, City staff, and elected officials as one of Charlotte's most treacherous streets for walking and riding a bicycle became a whole lot safer!
A ribbon-cutting was held to formally celebrate the new bike lanes. (photo: David Flower)
Mayor Pro Tem Julie Eiselt, City Councilmember Larken Egleston (District 1), and our Executive Director Shannon Binns spoke about the importance of not only the new protected (ie, separated and buffered by bollards) bike lanes, but also the entire project that has transformed this 0.8 mile section of Parkwood Ave into a Complete Street.
Shannon shared the story of how the project started as a vision and became a reality. (photo: David Flower)
Here are the comments that Shannon shared on behalf of Sustain Charlotte:
Good afternoon! Thanks for being here today for this exciting event despite the rain!
Our streets are our largest shared public space in Charlotte, yet they were designed in the past almost exclusively to meet the needs of people driving cars. For decades after the invention of cars, the safety and accessibility needs of people walking, riding bikes, and riding public transit were largely forgotten and overlooked.
But thanks to the tireless voices of residents speaking up, the support of our work by the Knight Foundation, and the commitment of City staff and elected officials, including CMs Eiselt and Egleston, to carve a new path -- sometimes quite literally -- the future of equitable mobility is looking brighter!
To fully appreciate why we are here today, I want to share with you a bit of what has transpired over the past six years to make this project a reality.
In June of 2015 Joe Borrusso was struck by a driver while walking on Parkwood and sustained multiple serious injuries: broken vertebrae, a mangled hand, and his left leg had to be amputated.
A few months later in September of 2015, 73 year old Al Gorman was hit and killed by a driver while ridig his bike on the sidewalk along Parkwood near the intersection with Hawthorne.
A white “ghost bike” was placed at the collision site to memorialize him and remind drivers to watch for cyclists and pedestrians. Less than a month later, another collision occurred at the same site, destroying the memorial.
This string of tragedies led Sustain Charlotte to partner with the Belmont and Villa Heights neighborhoods in November of that year we proposed a new design for Parkwood and a portion of The Plaza in a petition to the City that would make these streets safer for all users: people on foot, people on bikes, transit riders, and motorists.
Over 700 residents signed the petition and several local residents, including Belmont residents Lorna Allen and Stephen Valder who are here today, and one of our staff brought it to a City Council meeting and asked for the changes to Parkwood we are now celebrating today.
Over the past six years, there were many meetings between residents, CDOT and Sustain Charlotte, as we worked together on a safer design for this road.
And to make Parkwood what is called a “complete street” or a street designed for everyone.
Recently Sustain Charlotte partnered with RAO Community Health and Smart Growth America to use a new ‘Benefits of Complete Streets’ tool that projects how these changes to Parkwood Ave are likely to transform the health, safety, and connectivity of this community over the next 20 years:
- The changes made to the street will make it significantly less likely that people walking and riding bikes will be hit by a driver.
- The design will also reduce speeding, which reduces the probability that a fatality or serious injury will occur as a result of collisions between car drivers with people walking or biking.
- Lowering the speed from 45 to 35, we’re likely to see a 74% drop in the risk of death for a person who is hit by a car.
- We can expect to see lower rates of 7 serious diseases as the area attracts more people who ride bikes daily, including: 209 fewer cases of diabetes, 221 fewer cases of heart disease, 173 fewer cases of stroke, and 170 fewer cases of depression.
- And the area’s Walk Score is projected to increase 29 points from 44 to 77, making it easier for residents to walk more and use a car less in their daily lives.
So today we are celebrating a safer street that we expect will dramatically reduce the number of serious injuries and fatalities that occur on it.
We are celebrating what can happen when neighbors come together to ask for change.
And we are celebrating when our City staff and elected leaders, like Council Members Eiselt and Egleston, listen and act to heed this call for change.
At the same time, I want to acknowledge that not every neighborhood has the ability to organize and do the advocacy that was needed for this change.
For this reason, it’s encouraging that the City has a goal of reducing serious injuries and fatalities on ALL of our streets to zero by 2030. This means they are looking at streets like Parkwood across the city through an equity lens and working to make them safer through a variety of improvements.
We will continue to work closely with the City staff and City Council Members to achieve this important goal. And I encourage all of you to continue speaking up for safer streets for all!
Thanks again for being here today, I look forward to riding with you!
The celebration concluded with a short community bike ride. Despite the rain, it was truly a community celebration!
Parkwood Ave is now a safer place for people of all ages and abilities! (photo: David Flower)
A group bike ride on the newly transformed Parkwood Ave completed the celebration! (photo: David Flower)