Update 6/28/2023 – The blog bloggers have just learned that the NC DOT will fund the improvements at Critz drive. This is good news, as it means the money the town was gathering for this project can now be used for other pedestrian safety initiatives! 

On a regular basis, pedestrians are struck and killed by people driving cars on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. A look at the town’s pedestrian crash map shows all of the deaths and most of the serious injuries happen on this road. What makes this road especially lethal? It is the imbalance of the safety over convenience. Simply put, when measures are developed to make life easier, and faster, for people driving cars, it comes at the expense of everyone not in cars.

Area where crosswalk is proposed
Area where crosswalk is proposed

If we care about the safety of people on foot, we must accept it will cause very minor inconvenience for people in cars. Tonight, the town will be presenting some proposed changes in the area near Critz Drive, an area of numerous pedestrian crashes and fatalities over the years. This area has a mobile home park and apartments on the east side, and a popular convenience store on the west side. This badly needed improvement will result in some minor inconveniences to the people turning out of Critz Drive onto Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. 


In order to promote equitable access to our community, we need to prioritize safe streets for all, even when it means that drivers have to wait a little longer at a light. The Windsor Circle neighborhood, which is connected to MLK via Critz Drive, is a classic ‘lollipop neighborhood’ that has only one way into and out. I talk about these designs in a previous article.

Watch this video (start at 25:00) where Crystell Ferguson, Community Manager at the Interfaith Council, speaks about the most recent death on MLK Jr. Blvd.

A ‘lollipop’ neighborhood has only one way in and one way out.

If you were to write a mission statement for Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd, it might read “Valuing the Convenience of Drivers Over the Lives of Pedestrians.” Despite it having a speed limit of 35, the street is managed by the NCDOT like a highway. A good example is right turn priority lanes. In the following images, I illustrate only one of numerous examples.

There is a right turn lane at the intersection of MLK, Jr., and Westminster. This is a heavily used crossing. A preschool is nearby, and students who get off the NS bus use this crossing to reach apartments on the west side of the road.

The problem with these right turn only lanes is they are treated by drivers as a free flowing lane. When there is a red light, and pedestrians get a crossing signal, drivers will roll right through without looking. On one recent occasion, when members of the Vision Zero task force crossed here during a walk audit, we were nearly hit by a driver operating this way. I suggest the lane be removed completely. The people making the right turn can wait a few moments to get to their destination. 

Westminster intersection, with pedestrian unfriendly right turn priority lane.
Walk audit members endangered by right turn traffic

If you want to hear what the town is doing, or wish to lend your support to town staff, and the people who have walk along this deadly corridor, consider sitting in tonight.

MLK/Critz Crosswalk Public Meeting (Virtual)
02/16/2023 7:00 PM – 8:00 PM



In the last municipal election cycle, we helped increase turnout by over 20 percent. We're all volunteers who care deeply about Chapel Hill and Carrboro, and we're working to make Chapel Hill and Carrboro more vibrant, accessible, fun, and sustainable.  Please consider a small donation to help us keep our digital lights on, host events, and hire students to do data deep-dives.

John Rees lives in Chapel Hill. His day job is an enterprise architect for a big IT company. He was, until very recently, a member of the Chapel Hill Planning Commission and former chair. He serves on...