Thursday, May 7, 2020

Charlotte Shared Streets

My hat's off to the City of Charlotte for innovative thinking. Much respect for the folks in the brainstorming room who came up with the concept of Shared Streets. As the pandemic shifts the way we do everything from shop for groceries to educate our kids, one constant is the need for fresh air and exercise to support mental and physical health. Shared Streets will give residents another great option for healthy living.

Shared Streets are low-speed neighborhood roads throughout the city that will be temporarily closed to through-traffic starting May 9 to allow citizens to use them for outdoor exercise, like walking and biking, with a comfortable cushion for safe social-distancing.

The streets will remain accessible to residents and people performing essential services (like emergency workers, garbage pick-up and street-sweeping), and on-street parking will not be impacted.

Shared Streets will be marked with special signage that reads "Road Closed to Thru Traffic," placed at key intersections.

These protected spaces will provide more recreational areas in proximity to more Charlotteans. Folks can also continue to use parks, greenways and nature preserves run by Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation, which are all open, though the department is operating at a limited capacity due to COVID-19 (restrooms, recreation centers and playgrounds remain closed).

The first phase of the program is beginning with three streets (click on the links for maps):

Folks using Shared Streets for recreation and exercise should obey pedestrian signals and watch for traffic. Bike riders should wear helmets and use hand signals to indicate turns. Residents should not view this as an invitation to gather on Shared Streets for social purposes.

Motorists using Shared Streets must always yield to pedestrians and give them the right of way.

While this pilot program will be adjusted as public health officials provide ongoing guidance, plans are in the works to open additional Shared Streets over time (see a list of potential streets and maps).

I'm genuinely impressed by this simple, yet innovative concept. We look forward to enjoying these new designated corridors for protected, enjoyable outdoor time together. Shared Streets will give us an opportunity to explore different parts of the city as we chart bike routes to them and plan to visit parks or other open spaces near them. Kudos to the City of Charlotte for a creative and nimble move to provide more safe spaces for citizens to enjoy fresh air and keep mentally and physically fit.

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