Some homeowners on the east side of South Dogwood Trail have discovered that the new two-way, multi-use sidewalk poses a hazard that they may not have considered: that of a collision with a bicyclist or even a skateboarder or a jogger when they emerge in motor vehicles from their driveways.
This past week warning signs were erected in the right-of-way next to the new five-foot-wide concrete South Dogwood Trail sidewalk, cautioning bicyclists and other people who may be moving quickly on it—skateboarders, scooter riders, roller bladers, even joggers—to “Slow Down” because of a “Hidden Driveway.”
Motorists exiting driveways also must take greater care to account for, and anticipate, people on the sidewalk, traveling in both a southerly and northerly direction. Although driveways are not actually hidden, bicyclists, pedestrians, and other sidewalk users may overlook them and appear suddenly in motorists’ paths, giving drivers little time to react.
Ten warning signs like the one pictured above have been posted along the east side of South Dogwood Trail, five of them in each direction of the north-south residential road.
Although homeowners may not have considered this hazard—certainly none voiced a concern in public hearings about the design of the pathway—the potential for collisions at driveways was foreseeable.
“Multi-use pathways located adjacent to a highway may result in bicycle/motor vehicle conflicts at driveways and with turning traffic at intersections with roadways,” warns the the N.C. Dept. of Transportation in a public-information advisory about bicycle accommodations.
See “NCDOT Bicycle Facilities Guide: Types of Bicycle Accommodations”: https://connect.ncdot.gov/projects/BikePed/Documents/Shared%20Use%20Pathways.pdf
Of course, the major problem with the new sidewalk—or walking path/walking trail, as Town officials often reference it—is that, although it is being used as a two-way, multi-use pathway, it is half the width of a standard two-way, multi-use pathway.
According to the NCDOT, a minimum paved width for a two-way, multi-use pathway is 10 feet. The NCDOT advises that more space should be provided if the pathway will be used often by pedestrians, as the South Dogwood Trail path is.
Multi-use pathways, according to the NCDOT’s definition, are “physically separated from motor vehicle traffic,” which the South Dogwood Trail sidewalk is not in many areas. (See the photo above.) Even in areas where there is separation, the separation is inadequate to ensure safety of sidewalk users.
“Studies have shown,” the NCDOT states, that multi-use pathways that run parallel to roadways “are approximately twice as dangerous for bicyclists as riding in traffic with motor vehicles.”
We have not observed serious cyclists using the new South Dogwood Trail path, but we have seen many casual bicyclists using it, including families out together.
According to the NCDOT, “To be safe and enjoyable, multi-use pathways must be designed according to well-established design standards. These design standards include adequate width for two-directional use by both cyclists and pedestrians, provision of good sight distance, avoidance of steep grades and tight curves that force bicyclists to make awkward movements, and minimal cross-flow by motor vehicles [such as those exiting from driveways].”
The NCDOT recommends that a two-way, multi-use pathway be a 10-foot-wide asphalt path with two-foot crushed stone shoulders on either side.
In the interest of safety—their own, pedestrians’, and that of motorists emerging from driveways—The Beacon does not believe that swiftly moving bicyclists should use the new South Dogwood Trail sidewalk, and children riding their bicycles on it should be cautioned by their parents of the safety hazards.
The NCDOT is more blunt, stating in its advisory: “Sidewalks should never be designated as multi-use pathways.”
No matter what the Town calls the concrete path on South Dogwood Trail, it is still a sidewalk.
THE NO LEFT TURN WEEKEND STARTS AT 11 a.m. TODAY
This morning we have experienced on Hickory Trail a noisy, constant flow of departing traffic, since about 7:30 a.m., most of it traveling at an excessive speed. We look forward to relief.
Motorists will be prohibited from turning left on to South Dogwood Trail from U.S. Hwy. 158-east from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. today and tomorrow.
Please feel free to comment below on the traffic conditions today in your stretch of Southern Shores. Thank you. Enjoy your day.
Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 7/25/20