City officials held a press conference on Thursday to announce the launch of the TravelSafely app pilot program, part of Charlotte’s Vision Zero safety initiative that seeks to eliminate traffic deaths and serious injuries.
The app, designed to improve safety for motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists by connecting users to an electronic network of intersection and crosswalk data as well as to each other, will be accessible in the South End area through November 2023. It uses audible alerts to notify drivers when they’re approaching slow traffic zones, red lights, cyclists or pedestrians, among other features.
The service area stretches from Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Uptown to Remount Road in South End, including traffic lights along South Tryon Street and South Boulevard, Pedestrian Hybrid Beacons, and other lights in the area.
The app only alerts drivers to nearby pedestrians or cyclists who are also using the app, according to a release sent out on Thursday.
“We must work together to improve traffic safety and this app promotes connectivity to each other and to our surroundings,” said Charlotte City Council member Victoria Watlington at Thursday’s press conference. “The app is another tool that will help us improve safety for all people using our roads and I encourage everyone to download the app and use it in the South End pilot project area.”
Another important goal of the TravelSafely app is data collection, though Thursday’s release from the city claimed all information shared on the app is anonymous and protected.
According to the release, the Charlotte Department of Transportation (CDOT) has partnered with Charlotte Center City Partners to implement community outreach and inform residents and visitors in the South End area about the opportunity to participate in the pilot, which will allow staff to evaluate and compare before and after crash data.
City officials have also collaborated with CMPD in the implementation of the pilot project.
“The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department works hand-in-hand with our partners at CDOT to address transportation safety and we are excited about the potential of the TravelSafely app to make the roads and sidewalks of South End safer places to walk, run, bike and drive,” said CMPD Major Dave Johnson. “Leveraging technology is the future of traffic safety and piloting this app positions Charlotte at the cutting edge.”
At least 40 people were killed in vehicle-related incidents on Charlotte streets between January and August this year, including 14 pedestrians who were struck by cars. Queen City Nerve stopped tracking these fatalities in real time August when CMPD changed its public information policy and stopped alerting the media of traffic fatalities.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: I took a trip to South End at lunchtime on Thursday to test out the app, and as I prepared to turn left onto South Boulevard from the I-277 interchange I was nearly struck by a driver who ran the red light going north at around 35 mph. I surely would have been hit hard in my driver’s side if I hadn’t seen her coming and waited to see what she would do.
The app certainly could have helped that driver, who was looking down and was clearly surprised when I honked my horn, having no idea that she was running a red light. I’m not here to do PR for this project, I’m unsure of how effective it will be, but in this case she may have known a red light was in front of her had she gotten the audible alert from DriveSafely.
That said, my feedback is to suggest that the audible alert that states “Prepare for green,” also adds, “Check both ways before going in case of idiot drivers looking at their phones.” It’s a practice I’ve always done and one that very well might have saved my life today.