Multiple deaths on Charlotte streets in recent days have advocates calling for safer infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists, but a visit from NC House Speaker Tim Moore on Monday only showed what they’re up against, as the Republican lawmaker from Cleveland County threw cold water on the city’s plans to fund more bike lanes through its proposed $13.5-billion transportation plan.
Speaking at a Charlotte Regional Business Alliance event on Monday, Moore stated that Charlotte officials should focus more on “road capacity” if they want the state legislature to endorse the city’s plan to place a one-cent sales tax increase on the ballot locally, which would go toward funding the massive transportation plan if approved by voters.
Meanwhile, cycling advocates say focusing on road capacity would only put more pedestrians and cyclists at risk. Many pointed out that Moore’s comments were all the more disheartening coming days after a cyclist on an e-bike was killed after being struck by a car on The Plaza.
Kristie Crowder, 30, was struck on Thursday, Jan. 5, at the intersection of The Plaza and Hamorton Place in the Plaza Midwood neighborhood. She died the next day.
Crowder’s friend Maceon McCracken wrote a heartfelt message memorializing Crowder in a GoFundMe that’s been launched to help the family with medical and end-of-life expenses.
“We all have a friend who we call when we’ve had a bad day, need a laugh, or a shoulder to cry on — someone so incredibly selfless and loyal they put themselves last to ensure that everyone else’s needs are met before their own. To everyone that knew her, that person was Kristie,” McCracken wrote.
At around 7 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 10, another woman was killed after being struck by a car on The Plaza, about 5 miles east of where the Jan. 5 incident occurred.
“Sadly, this morning brings news of yet another traffic death on our streets,” tweeted local nonprofit Sustain Charlotte, an organization that does work around cycling and pedestrian advocacy in the city. “Our roads need to be made safer for ALL users. Pedestrians and people on bikes are most at risk of serious injuries when being struck by drivers. Our thoughts are with the family of the deceased.”
On Tuesday afternoon, CMPD released a statement alleging that the woman killed that morning on The Plaza had walked into traffic after police responded to reports of her waving a knife and threatening people in a gas station parking lot.
Queen City Nerve’s own tracking of vehicle-related deaths in 2022 found 61 traffic fatalities on Charlotte streets, nearly a third of which (20) were pedestrians who were struck by cars. While that number is a decrease from the previous years, it does not put the city on pace to meet the Vision Zero goal of seeing no traffic fatalities by 2030.
Though Vision Zero is seen by some as an idealized goal, city staff and advocates are adamant that the effort be made.
“If you don’t say zero, what do you say?” CDOT’s traffic safety and Vision Zero manager Angela Berry asked Queen City Nerve in 2021. “Do you say Vision Five or Vision Ten? What if one of those five or 10 people is someone in your family or a friend? We have to set the bar high and shoot for zero.”
And yet as Speaker Moore reminded Charlotte leaders on Monday, they’ll need help from state legislators if they want to pursue some of their planned efforts to help cyclists and pedestrians. The city’s vision for a “transformational mobility network” (TMN) includes the new CATS Silver Line as well as hundreds of miles of rapid transit bus lanes, greenways, cycling networks and new roads, but they’ll need the state legislature’s support to even consider funding such a project.
As N.C. House Speaker Moore made clear on Monday, he’s not ready to give that support without a bigger focus on roads and a shift away from bikes, buses and rail. For cycling and pedestrian advocates around the city, that’s simply unacceptable.
John Holmes, a local cycling advocate that serves on the city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee as well as on the Transportation Committee for CharlotteEAST, a nonprofit organization that advocates for east Charlotte, has been working with the Crowder family to set up a memorial to Kristie in her beloved neighborhood of NoDa as well as helping with fundraising efforts.
On Tuesday, following news of another pedestrian death in east Charlotte, Holmes responded to Queen City Nerve’s request for comment with a statement directed at Speaker Moore, though Holmes clarified that he was speaking for himself and only himself, not as a representative of either organization that he is a part of.
“Tim Moore, go fuck yourself. You can’t claim to be for ‘small government’ only to decide that you know what’s best for our community,” he wrote. “Your comment was as tone-deaf and cruel, on the wake of someone’s death, as it was insipid. You should be forced to have a conversation with every family affected by traffic violence and tell them, point blank, that you valued something as arbitrary as how many private vehicles could be contained on a roadway over making it home safe.
“You don’t fucking get it — it isn’t about the bikes, it’s about being able to get from Point A to Point B without dying. That shouldn’t be such a hard ask. Don’t give us the bullshit about how it’s good for the economy when the costs of how many traffic deaths we experience outweighs the benefit of ‘fixing’ congestion for a two hour period of the day, you stupid fuck.”
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