The walking blues

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We can probably give Guilford County Sheriff’s Deputy PM Lowe the benefit of the doubt in the death of 51-year-old Florence Farrish White, whom he struck with his marked vehicle on Oct. 25 as she was traveling eastbound, by foot, on the shoulder of Burlington Road.

It has all the markings of an accident — a dark night on an unlit road, a pedestrian in black clothing. The police press release says Lowe immediately reported the incident and attempted to aid the victim. It’s true that he’s getting off easier than any ordinary citizen would after a traffic fatality, dark clothing or no. But that’s not what makes this incident outrageous.

What’s wrong with this picture is that pedestrians are getting killed because of a lack of sidewalks, crosswalks and street lighting in areas with the most pedestrian traffic.

On Oct. 17, 33-year-old Tykwan Love Harper was hit crossing High Point Road, another heavy pedestrian thoroughfare bereft of safe street crossings. These long blocks are much more hostile to pedestrians than traditional street grids with short blocks.

Nathaniel Whiteside, 52, was hit by a car on South Eugene Street on Oct. 2, where there are sidewalks but not crosswalks along the stretch of road between several of the city’s housing projects and the neighborhood convenience stores.

The list goes on.

We’ve been waiting for three city council terms now on sidewalks for Yanceyville Street, a stretch where there are several bus stops and it is not uncommon to see young mothers pushing strollers along the shoulder of the road.

While other parts of the city are being recast for walkability and safety, the neighborhoods where people actually walk — to the store, to the bus, to school, to work or just to get around the neighborhood — remain hostile to foot traffic.

And that’s the real irony. In our downtown districts we are encouraging people to get out of their cars and travel the streets by foot. In our poorest neighborhoods, where feet are a necessary means of conveyance, we remind the citizens that when there are no sidewalks, it’s against the law to walk along with traffic on the right side of the road.

Cars still have the right of way.

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