Your voice is making a difference! With guidance and technical support from Sustain Charlotte, many residents of Belmont, Villa Heights, and Plaza Midwood have advocated for more than a year to make their neighborhood streets safer. As a result, some BIG changes are proposed for Parkwood Avenue! Yet we share the residents' concerns that not enough will be done to protect residents, cyclists, transit riders, and pedestrians along The Plaza.
At the January 9 meeting of City Council's Transportation and Planning Committee, the Charlotte Department of Transportation (CDOT) shared their preliminary recommendations for Parkwood and The Plaza. Click here to view the presentation that the Transportation and Planning Committee saw.
A map of pedestrian and cyclist crashes with cars highlights the importance of acting quickly to make these streets safer for everyone who uses them. With the coming Cross Charlotte Trail and the CATS Blue Line Extension's Parkwood and 25th Street stations opening this August, even more people will be traveling along Parkwood Ave and The Plaza on foot and bicycle.
18 people have been hit by cars while walking or biking here in just five years. Two of them died.
The great news:
Following resident advocacy in fall of 2015, Charlotte City Council and CDOT acted quickly to begin a corridor study to take a technical look at the challenges and possible solutions in this area. CDOT conducted an extensive public engagement process including walking tours and workshops.
For Parkwood Ave, CDOT recommends a road diet with buffered bike lanes, new crossings and signals, and enhancing existing crossings. The project is estimated to cost approximately $2.5 million.
We're so encouraged by the Transportation and Planning Committee's desire to find a way to fund the road diet so it can be built quickly, rather than having to wait for the next bond package! The safety threats facing pedestrians and people on bikes are clearly too urgent to postpone the road diet.
What kind of bike lanes will we see on Parkwood Ave?
CDOT's Dan Gallagher said that "buffered" could mean either painted buffered lanes (similar to those on Remount Road) or lanes with a physical barrier between cars and people on bikes. We agree with the Plaza Midwood Neighborhood Association that it's "critical to separate the bike lanes with a physical barrier." A physically protected bike lane will not only make the street much safer and more inviting for people of all ages and ability levels to ride bikes, but it will also provide more protection from cars for pedestrians on the sidewalks.
The not-so great news:
CDOT is not recommending a road diet for the portion of The Plaza between Parkwood and Matheson Ave. They cite the 32,000 vehicles per day on this stretch as too far above the typical threshold volume for road diets, and are concerned that reducing the number of lanes for cars could create significant congestion.
They've recommended a new crossing near Stratford Avenue and adjusting signals to better serve pedestrians at the Matheson crossing, an area where many car-on-pedestrian collisions have occurred.
The view of Sustain Charlotte and the neighborhoods surrounding The Plaza, is that quality of life and safety of the most vulnerable street users (people on bikes and on foot) should take higher priority than moving cars quickly. As Council prepares to adopt the city's new Transportation Action Plan, one of the new principles it embodies is Vision Zero: The only acceptable number of lives lost on our streets is zero.
The Plaza Midwood Neighborhood Association expresses their reasons for wanting a road diet on The Plaza in their letter sent on January 22 (or click here to download it).
TAP Committee and Charlotte City Council Members,
The Plaza Midwood Neighborhood Association would like to express our support for implementing a road diet along the full Parkwood Ave / Plaza corridor (all the way to Matheson), and feel it is critical to separate the bike lanes with a physical barrier.
We appreciate all the great work CDOT has done to assess this corridor, seek our input, and rethink the current street design for the safety of all users. While the proposed changes on Parkwood Ave offer a significant improvement, we are concerned that the plan does not address the safety issues on The Plaza where a large number of the pedestrian accidents have occurred.
The criteria used in CDOT’s proposal to rule out The Plaza assumes the accommodation of vehicles is the highest priority, but this does not align to our community’s priorities. PMNA puts a higher priority on pedestrian / cyclist safety and encouraging alternative transportation, and thinks the benefits of this road diet would be worth the trade-off. These community priorities combined with the city’s Vision Zero goal and Complete Streets policies should make The Plaza a strong candidate for a road diet, despite the normal vehicle thresholds.
In addition, a road diet on this 0.6 mile section of The Plaza would create a safe pedestrian connection to the many small and locally owned businesses that reside there. These businesses even have the potential to see an increased revenue due to the improved walkability, slower traffic, and beautification that comes along with a road diet. The CDOT proposal suggested that we wait and rely on redevelopment to create improved walkability and pedestrian safety here, but that means the existing businesses would likely be lost in the process. Plaza Midwood values our small and locally owned businesses and we encourage you to consider the impacts to them.
Extending the road diet on The Plaza will also give more residents access and likely increase usage of the bike facilities. To make the project fully successful, physical barriers should be included between the vehicle and bike lanes along both Parkwood and The Plaza. Studies show that physically separated (protected) bike lanes increase the comfort level for most users significantly. We feel that this is a critical component to ensure residents of all ages and abilities will be able to use the bike lanes and benefit from the connectivity to the greenway and light rail.
Plaza Midwood is a very active cycling and walking community that welcomes this type of change. With this project, Charlotte has a unique opportunity to challenge our historically auto-centric culture and set the tone for future growth in a community that is ready for it. PMNA urges you to push for the road diet, including protected bike lanes, on both Parkwood and The Plaza.
Plaza Midwood Neighborhood Association
Renee Bradley, Board Member (2016 President)
1722 Chestnut Ave