As the town of Davidson has grown, more and more car-dependent suburbs have sprung up on roads leading into the downtown area. Additionally, Main Street is only a segment of NC 115, an important arterial road for our region a bit more broadly. The confluence of Concord and main naturally brings a lot of challenges for managing the flow of traffic and of people across those two roads. As a pedestrian, crossing over Main Street can be daunting. Drivers appear to be very focused on their car, their lane, the car in front of them, or the on-street parking they are trying to snag before someone else. They tend not to be focused on the pedestrians, the ones on the sidewalk, or desperately waiting for someone to stop and let them cross. The crosswalks we have in town reflect our deference to the car very plainly: the “high visibility” strobing lights and bright retro-reflective signs are attempts to grab as much of the attention of drivers as we can, short of actually changing our streets.
I’ve been fortunate to have grown up in a place like Davidson. I’ve spent most of my 25 years of life in this town. I’ve seen it grow considerably in that time. More houses, more people, more cars. Davidson has a lot of potential to be a better town for the people that live here by reinforcing our progress on bike infrastructure and public pedestrian spaces. Davidson is well-situated to be a hub for bicyclists and pedestrians, if only we could make their journeys to get here safer.
The current bike infrastructure is disjointed, with painted lanes coming in and out of existence, pushing cyclists out into the lane with cars. Riding between cars is a very unpleasant experience on a bike. It’s hot, the air is really bad, and you’re stuck between the bumpers of the biggest cause of death for someone on two wheels: cars. If you’ve been riding long enough, you know someone personally who has been killed on a bike, by a car. Likewise, the “improvements” to our crosswalks in this town have all come at the cost of the lives of our friends and community members. How many deaths will it take before we prioritize our lives over our cars?
The pandemic showed us a way out: we can change our public spaces to benefit more people. We can put tables and umbrellas out for more outdoor seating, add a new (long-needed) crosswalk mid-block, and even facilitate ebike rentals in front of a few shops. We come together as a community at the green, listening to live music, buying and selling art, celebrating our community, fundraising for good causes. We come for the Davidson farmers market and we strengthen our town and community.
The new proposal for the “Clark Center” includes a parking requirement that they are going to have a hard time meeting without assistance from the town, and the town doesn’t have many good options if they are forced to accommodate cars. So, why don’t we reduce the number of cars needed to exist in our community? If it’s safe and practical to get downtown on a bike/ebike or public transit, people will use that option. If they’re not worried about riding between a line of parked cars (potentially about to open their doors at any moment) or the moving line of cars in the lane (that may not be giving them enough space to coexist safely), then they’ll actually use their bikes to get around. Painted bike lanes are not safe for cyclists as they currently exist in Davidson.
We have a long way to go as a country, as a state, and as a town of addressing the big problems we see in our society and in our environment. We’re out of balance. We’re tired of this. We’ve had multiple 100+ heat index days this week, and we’re due for more next week. Our dependence on fossil fuel is changing our environment and we’ve known it for a long time now. We need to make changes now to alleviate how much worse it is going to get in the next few years and decades. Has the Town of Davidson secured any funding via the infrastructure bill? Are there state or county funds that could be used to install and improve bike and pedestrian infrastructure? Public transit?
I am ultimately hopeful for Davidson, I think we have good people in this town. We have a ways to go, but we can do the work.