Pedestrian safety problem worsens on Independence Blvd.

Pedestrian safety problem worsens on Independence Blvd.


by TONY BURBECK / NBC Charlotte

Bio | Email | Follow: @TonyWCNC

Posted on September 4, 2013 at 5:32 PM

Updated Wednesday, Sep 4 at 6:25 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Police say people climbing over construction barriers and crossing Independence Boulevard is a problem that just got worse, but they can't do much about it because it isn't illegal.

Lieutenant Brad Koch says an estimated 50 to 100 East Mecklenburg High School students, who started school last week, are crossing Independence at intersection locations every day that no longer exist due to the rapid and ongoing widening project.

Police are asking students and others who cross the same way to use intersections instead. Signs are also up urging the same thing. 

East Mecklenburg High School also issues daily announcements urging students not to climb over the barriers and walk into lanes of oncoming traffic.

Police say the problem started several months ago with roughly four miles of construction barriers going up along Independence Boulevard.

One rush hour driver recorded a person crossing Independence right in front of her car. That same driver also recorded two people with a baby and baby stroller doing the same thing.

Our cameras caught Mylene Castro Cross crossing Independence through a construction zone and waiting for cars to whiz by.

"I have to wait for cars to pass by and wait for an opening," she said.

Castro Cross says her 10 and 12-year-old sons do it, too.

"Yeah, they have to," she said.

Police say no they don't and wish they wouldn't.

They prefer pedestrians take the extra time to walk to the nearest intersection, like Idlewild Road.

Intersections no longer on Independence due to the ongoing widening are part of the problem. People still cross where intersections like Conference Drive used to be, to get to school, work and bus stops.

Teenager Taz Walker says he knows it's dangerous if he doesn't pay attention, but he's not changing his routine.

"I won't be crossing when there's cars coming, so it's not a problem at all," Walker said.

Police say drivers aren't expecting people to dart out in front of them, and if either the pedestrian, driver or both aren't paying attention it could lead to accidents, injuries or death. Police say that hasn't happened, but fear it could and want to prevent it.

Police say crossing Independence that way might not be wise, but it isn't illegal and they can't cite pedestrians. Koch says it has to do with the distance between intersections on the same stretch of road being far away, unlike in uptown Charlotte, where they are just a block away.

"We need pedestrians to cross at crosswalks, also for drivers to really pay attention," Koch said.