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All Durham needs is love and crosswalks

guest column

What was the Beatles' greatest accomplishment? It was neither selling over 1 billion records worldwide, nor revolutionizing the entire music industry nor becoming a major symbol of the 1960s social and cultural transformation. What people don't realize is that John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr were actually pioneers of public safety. 

The Beatles' album cover of the walk across Abbey Road represented a rare celebration of pedestrians in the music industry, which frequently glorified cars. Today, cities like New York are similarly rethinking their relationship with automobiles, saying "Hello" to crosswalks and "Goodbye" to dangerous streets. 

Likewise, Durham finds itself in times of trouble as a pedestrian gets involved in a car crash once every three days. Specifically, the popular route for Duke students between 300 Swift apartments and East Campus is the real long and winding road, posing a challenge for pedestrians as they must cross both entrances to the Durham Freeway. In my life, I have to make this perilous journey anytime I want to eat, shop, or explore Ninth Street and Downtown Durham. Almost eight days a week, I witness pedestrians narrowly avoiding cars that recklessly zoom past. Although it's just a 0.8-mile walk from the student apartments to Downtown Durham, the majority of students opt to drive or take an Uber. 

The city of Durham needs to install a crosswalk between the 300 Swift apartments and East Campus, so pedestrians can walk across the freeway entrances safely. This crosswalk will help! bridge the gap between the communities separated by the freeway, allowing easy access to the Durham community.  

Durham was once a place where walking was more feasible, but this was a thing of yesterday. Fayetteville Street was the hub of Durham's African American entrepreneurial spirit. Imagine all the professors from North Carolina Central University, doctors, lawyers and entrepreneurs living in this area stretching from Umstead to Pettigrew Street — known as the Historic Hayti neighborhood.  

Fifty-one years ago, the freeway constructed right through the middle of Hayti caused the loss of businesses and neighborhoods, leading to its decimation. The city did not create any safe paths across the freeway entrances to link the two communities. A crosswalk between Swift and East Campus is the first step in making downtown Durham more accessible to all residents. 

This crosswalk can also work to improve walkability in Durham, which can lead to economic advantages for the city. Let it be known that out of 130 U.S. cities with a population greater than 200,000, Durham ranks near the bottom in terms of walkability. The city should improve this metric as neighborhoods within walking distance of schools, shopping or parks have 23.5% higher home values compared to car-dependent properties. Increased foot traffic in Durham can also stimulate local businesses and increase economic activity, leading to job creation and increased tax revenue.

Baby, you can drive my car? Think again. Encouraging walking in Durham can also have positive impacts on the health of the community and the environment. Studies have shown that people who live in walkable communities tend to be more physically active, which reduces the risk of chronic diseases such as obesity, heart disease or diabetes. Additionally, fewer cars on the road reduce vehicular emissions, which benefits plants, watersheds and overall health.  

Living in Durham is easy with eyes closed, but digging a bit deeper can reveal the impact of systemic racism. Residents and city leaders need to come together and get back the vibrant community destroyed by the Freeway. 

Some may say that one crosswalk is not significant enough to bring about influential change in Durham. But look at the impact the Beatles made with one crosswalk. Thousands of Beatles fans flock to the famous crossing every year to recreate the scene, raising awareness of pedestrian safety and bringing massive amounts of revenue to the city. 

We can work it out to install one crosswalk over the freeway entrance that intersects the route between 300 Swift apartments and East Campus. Hopefully, before I'm 64, Durham residents and city leaders will recognize its benefits and crosswalks will be here, there and everywhere in the city.  

Katherine Gallagher is a Beatles fan and a Trinity sophomore. 


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