The first phase of the College Hill for Everyone project is primarily a demonstration project. It’s being used to gather information and demonstrate the use of innovative techniques and materials to slow traffic on South Mendenhall Street and to improve pedestrian safety and quality of life in College Hill.
The changes that have been put in place are temporary. The information gathered during this test phase will help identify what kinds of changes will be effective at reducing motor vehicle speeds, reducing traffic noise and improving safety for bicyclists and pedestrians.
After the testing phase, we’ll use what we’ve learned to develop long-term improvements. The timing of those improvements will be coordinated with upcoming water and sewer replacement and street resurfacing projects to limit the disruption and cost.
Vehicle speed and pedestrian safety
Mendenhall doesn’t look like a 25 mph street. It’s straight and wider than the nearby side streets. Most of its intersections lack crosswalks, and one side is clear of parked cars. It doesn’t give motorists obvious reasons to travel at or below the posted speed limit.
The combination of a high level of pedestrian traffic, lack of marked crosswalks, high rate of motor vehicles speeding and other factors create a dangerous situation.
Last year, traffic speed data were collected on the 500 block of Mendenhall, where the lane diverters are being tested. Only about 40% of motor vehicles were travelling at or below the posted speed limit. The maximum recorded speed was 54 mph.
Data collected after installation of the temporary treatments show that the changes to the design of the street are reducing traffic speeds significantly. Over 97% of vehicles are travelling at or below 25 mph. Only 0.1% of vehicles are traveling above 35 mph. The maximum recorded speed was 38 mph.
There’s a strong positive correlation between motor vehicle speed and pedestrians’ risk of death or serious injury from being hit. A pedestrian struck by a motor vehicle at 40 mph has a 30% chance of dying and a 45% chance of serious injury. At 30 mph, the risk of death goes down to just 6%. At 20 mph there is only a 1% chance of a pedestrian dying.
At 54 mph, the highest speed recorded on Mendenhall in the 2016 data collection, pedestrians have about an 85% chance of death if hit; if they survive they have a 100% chance of serious injury. No one should be travelling at 54 mph on a street with a speed limit of 25 mph, nor should anyone be travelling at 30 or 35 mph on that street.
The changes installed on Mendenhall Street right now are not permanent. We began this project with no preconceptions about what the right changes would be, and until we see the data we’ll be open-minded about what the correct treatments are for each intersection. What you see on Mendenhall is a rough draft, one step in a process of creating a street environment that is safe, inviting and functional for all users.
We recognize that the lane-shift can be improved. We’ll fix that. In the meantime, we’re gaining information that will help us see what can be done differently. Although most of what we’re trying is relatively new and innovative for Greensboro, these treatments and methods have been used successfully in hundreds of other cities.
Next public meeting: Monday October 23
A more extensive analysis of the data gathered, and of the input received via the online survey and other sources, will be presented during the next project meeting on Monday October 23, 7:30 p.m., at the Presbyterian Church of the Covenant, 501 S. Mendenhall Street, in the Fellowship Hall.
At the previous project meetings, we’ve had excellent turnout. We encourage all College Hill residents to become involved in this effort to make College Hill a safer and more enjoyable place for everyone.
Our thanks to Jeff Sovich of the City of Greensboro Planning Department for the content of this post.