RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – A daily commute is part of Josh Ivey’s daily routine living in downtown Raleigh.
“I walk two or three miles a day and I also ride my bike all the time,” said Ivey.
The Raleigh resident said it’s during those commutes that he also stays aware of his surroundings.
Ivey said it’s not uncommon to experience a close call on occasion and added, “I’m always cautious when I’m walking. I look like three times back and forth just to be careful… Generally, drivers are not aware of what’s happening.”
Transportation Engineer Brandie Crawford said the City of Raleigh continues to focus on improving pedestrian safety—especially downtown. Through a strategic plan initiative and Vision Zero—an effort to reduce and eliminate injuries and fatalities along the city’s transportation network—Crawford said their department has been able to take steps forward to do just that.
Within the last year, Crawford said the city has been able to reduce the speed limit to 25 miles per hour, install “no turn on red” signs, and create safer crosswalk signals at 100 intersections downtown.
“One way we can make improvements is use these locations that have been identified as places to make countermeasures to improve pedestrian safety and improve bicycle safety,” said Crawford.
The transportation engineer said they identified concerning and dangerous intersections in a recent study. She added, “Any time you have a lot of vehicles and a lot of pedestrians interacting in a space, there’s a lot more opportunity for situations to happen.”
City Traffic Engineer Jed Niffenegger said the city has also worked closely with NCDOT. He said, “We embarked on this Downtown Pedestrian Safety Improvement Project several years ago right before we started COVID… the focus was to really move the needle significantly in terms of pedestrian safety.”
“When Raleigh was designed and built, it was mostly built around a vehicle-centric mode of transportation and that’s really changed over the years,” Niffenegger said.
Pointing to the intersection behind him he said, “Certain intersections like the one behind me, they’ll have more pedestrians than vehicles during certain times of the day.”
Both Niffenegger and Crawford said they’re excited to see the work in the intersection of Hargett and Salisbury streets that will be aimed at creating a safer space for pedestrians. Crawford said curb extensions will soon be added that will shorten pedestrian crossing distance. In addition, art will also be added to the pavement space to create pedestrian visibility.
“This location is where we had someone reach out after a recent pedestrian crash occurred and so we were already looking at it to address some concerns,” Crawford said. She added, “The art is just a bonus, so we’re able to incorporate the art into that project and just bring more community art to the public.”
Instead of paint, Crawford said artists will be using thermoplastics that are more durable and expected to last longer.
Niffenegger said the thermoplastic comes at a higher cost but they’re hoping the longevity will have a lasting impact. He said, “This is our pilot – to try it – and if it works, we can scale it up at different locations.”
Niffenegger said city engineers plan to work with the state to do a deeper dive and evaluate how these changes in the downtown area are impacting pedestrian safety. He said residents can expect to see a lot more projects like this in upcoming years to help reduce severe and fatal crashes in Raleigh.
According to city data, in 2022, Raleigh had 59 deaths from crashes—24 of those were pedestrian-related. This year through August, there have been 22 deaths from crashes—eight of those were also pedestrian-related.