CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) – Chapel Hill leaders spoke of a “crisis” on town roads after several bad crashes in recent weeks. Police are vowing to step up patrols.

During a town council work session Wednesday evening, Mayor Pro-Tem Karen Stegman described a problem she said requires urgent solutions.

“We’re really in a crisis around safety on our streets,” Stegman said at the beginning of a discussion about future plans for West Franklin Street in downtown Chapel Hill.

In recent weeks, CBS17 has reported on two teens hit while crossing the street on Estes Drive on New Year’s Eve. Last week, three children were injured when a car crashed onto the playground outside Northside Elementary School. And also last week, a bicyclist sustained critical injuries after crashing into an opening car door along West Franklin Street.

CBS 17 checked with Chapel Hill police on the cyclist’s condition Wednesday. Police were not able to provide an update.

In a written statement Wednesday evening, Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue called the recent crashes “simply unacceptable and entirely preventable,” decrying the fact that 16 pedestrians have been hit while walking in town crosswalks over the past year.

Blue said his department will begin stepping up enforcement — with an emphasis on crosswalks — along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, Fordham Boulevard, Franklin Street, Raleigh Road, and Estes Drive. The patrols will involve on-duty officers each day — police told CBS 17 this will begin immediately — and off-duty officers at certain times, as well.

A search for solutions

After Wednesday night’s meeting, Stegman said she hopes, on top of police enforcement, to see the town act with urgency in solving the recent traffic issues.

 “It’s literally life and death, the decisions we’re making now,” Stegman said.

She said the recent crashes — including the crash involving a bicyclist last week on West Franklin Street — underscored the importance of discussions like the one the council had Wednesday night when leaders settled on the framework for a plan to add bike lanes along the busy downtown stretch of road when NCDOT re-paves and re-paints the street later this year.

Council will also work throughout the year to detail a long-term vision for Franklin Street, which the town has discussed taking over control of from NCDOT at some point in the future.

Downtown, and throughout Chapel Hill, Stegman believes more work is needed — from police, to leaders, to the community — to prevent more crashes like the ones seen in recent weeks.

“People are overwhelmed, and they’re not paying as much attention,” she said. “There’s just a lot of distracted driving, a lot of speeding. We, as a town, need to do more to make our streets safer.”