Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Safer sidewalks ahead

Starting next week, the City of Charlotte launches a publicity campaign to get residents to keep sidewalks clear. They'll start with a campaign about garbage and recycling carts, yard waste and other bulky items.

This is much-needed, and some might say long overdue. A tragic accident last May killed a Myers Park High School student riding a bikee to school along a Sharon Lane sidewalk which was next to the curb. He encountered a rollout garbage bin blocking the sidewalk, and in trying to avoid it clipped the bin and fell into the street. He was hit by a car and killed.

In my walks around the city I note this is a problem in many places. The city built many back-of-curb sidewalks well into the 1990s, to save money. Where to put the rollout garbage and recycling bins? If you put them in your driveway you can't get out of your own driveway. Sometimes there's room to put them in the yard next to the sidewalk. Sometimes there isn't, especially if the lot slopes steeply up or down.

Yard waste is another problem: One Sunday morning not too long ago I was walking down Wendover Road and
someone had pile massive amounts of tree branches along the whole property frontage, completely blocking the sidewalk next to a steep slope. Nowhere to walk but in the street. I was trying (helpfully, I thought) to move some of the brush up onto the slope and the resident in the home came out and yelled at me. I confess, I yelled back, something about what "right-of-way" means and that the sidewalk was one, and that I had the "right" to go that way. She just yelled back and I gave up and walked in the busy, 4-lane street. Good thing that I was not in a wheelchair trying to get to a bus stop and that it was not rush hour.

Below is from the weekly memo to the Charlotte City Council, from the city manager. I'm glad to see they'll tackle the problem of overgrown shrubbery later. I've considered going out armed with hedge clippers, to hack my way through some places. The memo:

"Solid Waste Services, in collaboration with Corporate Communications & Marketing, CDOT [Charlotte Department of Transportation] and Neighborhood & Business Services, will launch the first phase of a public campaign to increase community awareness of the need to keep sidewalks clear of obstructions.

"The first phase of the campaign, which begins on January 28, will focus on sidewalk obstructions associated with solid waste collections – garbage/recycling carts, yard waste and bulky items – as well as other items such as parked vehicles that impede sidewalk traffic. Educational efforts will aim to increase public awareness of the proper placement of collection items and offer alternatives for residents with limited options. Code Enforcement officers will be monitoring problem areas and will be providing educational assistance via door hangers.

"Campaign components will include radio ads (WLKO, WNKS, WLNK, WPEG, WOSF, WOLS and WKQC), online ads (Yahoo), Solid Waste Services truck decals, a utility bill insert in March, social media, Gov Channel billboards, segments in City Source, community meetings, door hangers and community newsletters. A website, will launch on January 28 as a resource for additional information on keeping sidewalks clear.

"The second phase of the campaign, which addresses additional obstructions such as overgrown shrubs, is set to launch this summer. Staff will update Council when this phase of the campaign begins."