On April 11, Winston-Salem officially opened its Long Branch Trail after two years of construction. The official opening was celebrated by city officials and local business who gave speeches promoting physical health, all of whom hope that the trail will promote more physical activity among citizens, actively encouraging those who attended the event to use it for walking, running and biking.
The trail will allow Winston-Salem residents and visitors to travel from the city’s downtown areas to Salem Lake in a route that is about 20 miles long round-trip. The new greenway, which spans 1.7 miles in length, has several entry points which start at Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and pass through the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter and onward to the beginning of the Salem Creek Parkway.
While examining a map of Long Branch Trail, I wondered what other trails were in the city of creativity and innovation. I noticed that, while Winston-Salem has a multitude of trails, many of them interconnect with one another and essentially allow access to all parts of the city, and I wondered: why doesn’t Greensboro have a similar network of trails?
While the city of Greensboro bolsters one of central North Carolina’s largest greenways, the Bicentennial Greenway, it doesn’t connect the city. It sits in the northeastern corner of the city and connects to High Point, which is an amazing feat but does little to help increase safe mobility for pedestrians and cyclists throughout Greensboro.
The safety of cyclists is a cause that many of the information booths advocated for at the Long Branch Trail grand opening. The general safety of cyclist on busy roads in and around downtown areas has been a major concern, and Piedmont is a hotbed for accidents involving pedestrians and cyclists.
In fact, a published report from the NCDOT shows that from 2011 to 2015, Piedmont is the region that has had the most reported bicycle and pedestrian accident reports by a staggering margin, with the trend continuing upward. What’s more alarming is that 74 percent of all reported bicycle collisions and 55.1 percent of pedestrian collisions occur in broad daylight, as opposed to other times of day and conditions of road lighting.
Unfortunately, these numbers are bound to go up as our city increases in size and population and more streets are remodeled to include sidewalks and bike lanes. The introduction of rent-to-ride bike services such as Lime Bike also increases the number of cyclists on the road, who will share the road with motorists as the weather gets warmer.
Much of these collisions are due to inattention from all parties involved. I’ve personally witnessed people illegally using the bike lanes on Spring Garden Street as a third lane for passing, turning and even double parking. I’ve seen a cyclist get hit by a motorist who was not only texting while driving but was too immersed in their music to pay attention to their surroundings. I’ve also witnessed both cyclists and pedestrians not adhering to traffic signals, often running through busy intersections or not using the crosswalk properly.
This is why I believe an intricately connected trail or greenway corridor would be a wonderful investment for the city of Greensboro to promote health and safety. Many of Winston-Salem’s trails make its major parks, universities, downtown areas and shopping centers accessible by foot or bike.
This allows for all citizens of the city to access what the town has to offer and to do so in a safe manner. I noticed that many of the trails in Greensboro are located in or around affluent neighborhoods in the town, which is also where a majority of safety initiatives for pedestrians and cyclists take place.
This effectively leaves people who live outside of these areas no safe means of commuting around their neighborhood or the ability to access other parts of the city. Many of those living outside of the trails, also live within Greensboro’s food deserts. We could not only promote safe traveling and prevent injuries and fatalities, but we could also promote healthier lifestyles by getting people to be more active, and allowing impoverished communities to escape food deserts by foot.
While we cannot dictate people’s actions on the road, it is very important that we remember we are not just responsible for ourselves, but those who share the road with us. We can also do our best to help our fellow Greensboro residents, to the best of our ability. If you would like to advocate for the construction of a network of trails or a corridor through the city, you can attend city council meetings and contact city officials, as well as the Greensboro Department of Transportation.
For more information about city meetings and how to contact city officials, as well as the Greensboro Department of Transportation, visit their website at https://www.greensboro-nc.gov/home.