Local News

Chapel Hill improving safety for cyclists

Posted October 28, 2014 6:15 p.m. EDT
Updated October 28, 2014 7:04 p.m. EDT

— A small white bike marks the spot on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Chapel Hill where cyclist Pamela Lane was killed when she was hit by a car pulling out of a gas station earlier this month.

That accident has pushed town leaders to improve cyclist and pedestrian safety. Town spokeswoman Catherine Lazorko said she's part of a team of staffers that has begun working on several solutions.

Some are already in effect, such as roadside digital signs reminding drivers to share the road.

“They have been installed in over the last two weeks,” said Rainer Dammers, a cyclist and member of the Bicycle Alliance of Chapel Hill, which contributed to the new safety improvements.

The town is also changing how some flashing crosswalk signals work.

“Those flashing lights - they are constantly flashing now, which over time dulls the attention to them,” Dammers said.

By November, the signs will only flash when a pedestrian activates them. The change is designed to keep drivers more alert.

Megan Floyd uses one of the crosswalks regularly and likes the idea.

“It's probably about 60/40 the amount of times cars will stop and be ready for you to cross,” she said.

Another improvement that is still in the works is an interactive map website. Pedestrians and cyclists will be able to post comments on the map, marking trouble spots for the town to consider.

“People can really see and remember where they were when they encountered trouble spots,” Lazorko said.

All of the new improvements should be in effect by November, and Chapel Hill police are also stepping up their patrols of crosswalks. They will be monitoring pedestrians crossing against the signal or outside the crosswalk.

Fines for those violations start at $213.