There isn’t a community in the United States that doesn’t value safety; virtually every other attribute flows from that single characteristic.
In terms of safety, Pinehurst consistently ranks at the top in most every survey conducted on the subject. The car and home break-ins that do occur within the village come about because people feel they can leave their doors unlocked. Street lights, often viewed as a crime deterrent in many neighborhoods, are regularly scorned in Pinehurst, with residents mostly fighting to keep them away.
But safety isn’t just a measure of how few crimes there are, or one’s level of apprehension while walking at night. As the Pinehurst Village Council has heard lately, people have to feel like they also are safe from traffic in their own neighborhoods. Are there sufficient measures to prevent speeding? Are there safe means for pedestrians to move about?
Homeowners in two neighborhoods near Pinehurst Elementary School and Cannon Park are now bringing those very issues before the council, but the matter is far broader.
“Efforts at maintaining the quality of neighborhoods” is a subject that ranks high in desirability among residents year after year on village surveys. Yet for all of the village’s virtues, one of the weaknesses is that its neighborhoods are not very pedestrian friendly. Other than the central historic district and certain blocks in Village Acres, Pinehurst just isn’t that walkable on a neighborhood level.
It’s not that Pinehurst hasn’t recognized this about itself over the years. Five years ago, it consciously transitioned from building a network of trails in its parks to concentrating on neighborhood walking paths. The village acknowledged its population of younger families was growing and those folks needed — and wanted — sidewalks for moms pushing strollers, joggers, young children on bicycles and walkers of all ages.
Around much of the village, its roads are twisting and narrow. While the speed limit is 25 mph, residents frequently complained about speeding. And so a natural pathway was added to Linden Road. Almost $400,000 was spent on 1.2 miles of concrete sidewalks in Village Acres. Another $433,000 was budgeted to extend sidewalks from Linden Road down St. Andrews and Lake Forest Drive, in the Lake Pinehurst area.
That last project was never done after the council got conflicting signals from residents. Nor did the village pursue sidewalks down Burning Tree Road, a job it had planned for last year.
During its massive comprehensive plan overhaul last year, the council committed one of its priorities to a village-wide, neighborhood-specific sidewalk and street lighting plan with neighborhood input. But there is no timeline associated with that.
Desperately Seeking Solution
There’s no question more sidewalks are needed at some point but location, route and composition are open questions. Should the village build conventional concrete pathways or pathways of compacted sand, like what’s in the central historic district?
But is the council squirreling away money for that? No. Councilmembers instead want to spend more money on resurfacing roads. But isn’t that counterproductive if better-quality roads encourage more speeding, thus further endangering pedestrians?
More police enforcement might reduce speeding temporarily, but the greater impact and higher need for speed enforcement is on major roads like N.C. 5, Midland Road and N.C. 211.
How about stop signs? Four-way stops at two intersections along Monticello Road offered a little relief to residents on the cut-through road a few years ago. Now the residents who live along streets near Pinehurst Elementary School and Cannon Park are looking for the same attention.
“We are just coming to you for a solution, to see what can be done,” said Lee Pittman, one of two spokesmen for the group of residents. “We are not sure what the solution is.”
Neither does the village, but if it wants to keep that safety score high, it’ll move this issue up the priority list.