Traffic safety for everyone

What’s more dangerous than riding a bicycle in Chapel Hill? Riding a bicycle in Chapel Hill at the Estes Drive-Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard intersection.

That’s why some residents plan to petition the Town Council at the business meeting tonight at 7 in Town Hall to end right-on-red turns at the intersection and paint wide crosswalks across MLK.

Sarah K. McIntee, who is to present the petition, was inspired to send a letter to the town and present the petition after she watched a bicyclist pedal through the intersection – yes, he had the right of way – and almost get pasted all over the road by a right-on-red turner. It can get very intense there, as the vehicles back up at rush hour and the pressure to turn gets heightened. All that’s needed for a tragedy is some nervous motorist who feels the heat and decides to go despite not being able to see past the left-turning line of vehicles – yes, line-of-sight issues also contribute to the dangers at that intersection.

I travel through that intersection almost every day, so I can attest to how dangerous it can be. I also have bicycled to the intersection and then fretted over which line of traffic I had to watch out for before crossing the road. Even with the light, a bicyclist has to be extremely careful crossing.

There are plenty of roads in Chapel Hill that don’t make sense – try getting to North Street by going from Columbia Street to the 200 block. Or try finding an address on Old Oxford Road – or is it Old Oxford Road East? Those street anomalies can’t be made sensible. But we can change how the Estes Drive-MLK intersection works. That would make a lot of sense.

–Don Evans

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1 Comment

  1. dltowns

     /  May 24, 2010

    Local governments are pretty good at legislation by anecdote–that’s were a citizen sees something he/she doesn’t like, says “there ought to be a law,” and gets the town council to pass one. Where’s the data? How many accidents at this intersection? How many with bikes? What kind of accidents? How does it rank with other intersections? I, too, ride a bike regularly–about 10 miles a day on average. I once saw a biker almost get hit at the Estes/MLK intersection. It was the biker’s fault. But urging bikes be banned on MLK because of that one incident makes as much sense as halting rights on red because someone observed a different incident.