Letter writer: City transportation department impresses with pedestrian support

Graphic by Lori Deaton

Triple kudos to the city’s Transportation Department! How about this awesome pedestrian support happening right here in downtown Asheville! It happened just a few minutes ago, on April 2, not April 1, so it’s really true.

Construction of the expansion and remodeling of the Buncombe County Services Building [40 Coxe Ave.] is starting this week. In preparation for the two-year long closure of the east sidewalk on Coxe Avenue, between Aston and Commerce, north of the existing Social Services Building, Transportation Planner Barb Mee invited city traffic [signal shop] staff members Joel Tweed and Gary Proffitt and downtown pedestrians to a meeting on the street to discuss pedestrian safety and how the city could improve the resulting dilemma on the northern part of Coxe.

All three specialists came up with myriad suggestions and listened to pedestrian issues and their potential solutions, including those encountered by a blind person walking the streets with a cane to and from work. We visited relevant pedestrian lights with and without cross lights, audible and not, with knobby pads and without, with lowered curbs and without, in this windy and otherwise pleasant spring afternoon air for an entire hour, observing in situ the intricacies of each existing crosswalk.

And there are a good number of crosswalks in that area, yet each of them has its own challenges for a pedestrian who is walk-impaired. Some of the difficulties could be mitigated by encouraging motorized traffic to slow down, by extending the time the walk sign is up, or by adding an acoustic signal that would help the high traffic noise from rushing vehicles.

Only in Asheville! Such a meeting is so Asheville! Actually, that’s not quite true; it was possible in Seattle many years ago as well.

And if you have a need in your area to mitigate another traffic-related situation, try contacting Barb Mee. I know she will try everything in her power to listen and help. Or, you could attend the city’s Pedestrian and Bicycle Task Force run on a monthly basis under Ms. Mee’s auspices. For meeting details, send an email to Iwalk@ashevillenc.gov.

Thank you, Barb, for making this possible!

— Inge Durre
Asheville

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