Tragedy throws crosswalk safety into spotlight
by Staff Writer
by Katie Orlando
Crosswalks are getting safer in Davidson following the death of a professor, hit by a car while walking in a crosswalk Nov. 3.
Mayor John Woods asked attendants to reflect on Davidson College Professor Robert Whitton’s death at the Tuesday, Nov. 15 town meeting.
Public Works Director Doug Wright is evaluating crosswalk visibility and compliance, working with Duke Energy, which leases street lighting to the town, and the North Carolina Department of Transportation, which must approve main road changes.
Wright is already adding in-street yield signs to crosswalks in town. These signs yield high compliance, Wright said.
Some crosswalks meet national lighting and visibility standards, but Wright said most will improve.
The brick crosswalks on Concord Road, where Whitton was stuck, are not very visible. In-pavement lights would uphold the aesthetic, but Wright does not know how effectively they would stop cars.
With some effective devices, like the one on Washam-Potts Road in Cornelius, pedestrians activate a crosswalk stoplight. These cost $6,000 per crossing, then run on solar power.
“I’m going to be looking at costs, the best location for these and benefits as well,” Wright said.
Wright said state department approval could slow efforts, but he is trying to accelerate projects.
“Maybe we could get businesses to adopt a crosswalk and pay for flashing signals,” Mayor Pro Tem Laurie Venzon said.
Police Chief Jean Miller clarified crosswalk rules.
“The driver has to yield when the pedestrian is in the crosswalk,” Miller said, but not when they are on the sidewalk.
Police will increase crosswalk enforcement and publicize crosswalk safety.
Red Line Rail & Trail
The Red Line task force will release a business plan Dec. 13.
Nothing is decided until the financial information is available in December, Town Manager Leamon Brice said, but the task force knows this economic development project will combine commuter and freight uses. Growth the line brings will help finance it.
Brice also anticipates continued state participation.
“The state of North Carolina is positioning itself to be a logistics leader in the southeast,” Woods said.
Planning staff is preparing for the future station area.
Property owners, neighbors, regional developers, Planning Board members, commissioners and other stakeholders are invited to participate in the following meetings:
• Dec. 15 and Jan. 5 public workshop information session – 7 p.m. Town Hall
• Jan. 17 – 20 Station Development Site workshop – 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., Town Hall
The board supported, without obligation, a 30-mile greenway, the Red Line Trail, which could go ahead even if the rail does not.
The board increased the number of signs and areas businesses can post, as discussed in an Oct. 25 work session.
Businesses are also now allowed to post one metal or wooden frame sidewalk sign within three feet of their entrance. The face must be changeable, but may be preprinted.
Temporary signs on the town green are now only allowed within 48 hours of events on the green.
In other board news
• The regional advisory commission for Davidson Design For Life and the Centers for Disease Control Health Impact Assessment grant met for the first time Tuesday. Dr. Arthur Wendel of the Centers for Disease Control spoke about the centers’ interest in Davidson’s existing partnerships, smart growth, built environment and potential to be a leader for other small towns.
• The board reallocated Town Manager Leamon Brice’s retirement benefits to his salary, which Venzon said would not increase the budget.