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Safer Routes for Walkers, Wheelchairs Needed

Public News Service

DURHAM, N.C. – People in Durham who prefer two-wheeled transportation say bike lanes with physical barriers reduce road fatalities, and they’re partnering with local transportation officials to add flexi-posts to existing bike lanes and limit car traffic on some residential streets.

In 2018, said John Tallmadge, director of Bike Durham, the region saw more than 100 car crashes involving pedestrians or cyclists. He explained that Light Individual Transportation (LIT) lanes with flexi-post barriers can be used by walkers, people in wheelchairs and even scooters, and said he believes they could cut fatal accidents in half.

“Just painting a line on the street is not providing enough protection for people,” he said, “and lots of people don’t feel protected, so they still won’t use that lane.”

A $5,000 community mini-grant from the American Heart Association and Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina will help with installation of LIT lanes across Durham and also to limit traffic in some neighborhoods to create safe, semi-permanent spaces for people to gather outdoors.

A 13-year study of a dozen U.S. cities found a dramatic decrease in road fatalities in places with protected bike lanes. Tallmadge pointed out that Durham’s Black and Brown residents are the groups most likely to lose their lives in accidents on foot or on a bike.

“And so,” he said, “we need to be investing in these protected spaces in those low-wealth neighborhoods of color.”

Research has shown that when biking or walking is part of a daily routine, people are more likely to get consistent exercise. In several community assessments conducted by the Durham County Public Health Department, residents said they want more opportunities to be active outside, in their own neighborhoods.

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