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Wilmington plans for future of transportation

READ MORE: Wilmington plans for future of transportation
WILMINGTON -- Earlier this month we told you New Hanover County roads are rated the most dangerous in the state for drivers. It's a problem that could get worse as our area continues to grow. Taxi driver Joe Brown said, "I see people driving with road rage. It's impatient out here, its a mix of the northern folks and the southern folks. It's a bad combination." Our roads may not be as dangerous for walkers and bikers as you may think, though. For eight years running New Hanover County has been rated the state's most dangerous county to drive in. But according to the Wilmington Planning Organization, of the nearly 6,000 auto crashes in 2006, less than two percent involved pedestrians or bicyclists. Still, local leaders say there's work to be done. "What we need to do is start looking at this as sharing the road for everyone," Cape Fear Breeze Coordinator Lawless Bean said. Cape Fear Breeze is a grass roots organization that's teamed up with the city of Wilmington to promote alternative modes of transportation. Bean said, "We currently don't have sufficient sidewalks for people to walk. We don't have sufficient bike paths for people." Whether it's for exercise or simply to get around many say the safest place to walk is the loop at Wrightsville Beach. Rocky Point resident Joyce Greer said, "It's a nice place to walk and we can talk and not have to worry about traffic. It's the safety of it more than anything." Wilmington resident Missy Bohan said, "We just feel safer here. But other than that there's really no other area that you can feel safe to, to walk." There are initiatives in place to change that. In November the Department of Transportation and the city of Wilmington finished the long-awaited widening of Military Cutoff Road, including a 1.2-mile-long mixed use path for walkers and bikers. Last year Wilmington also started work on a cross-city trail, connecting parks and schools from Halyburton Park on South 17th Street to Wrightsville Beach. Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo said, "We need more places where we can walk and run and bike. And this ties in to that initiative to provide that for our citizens, so we can keep that quality of life in our community." Bean says we also need to look at mass transit and carpooling, anything to get people to use footpower instead of horsepower. "It's a dominance of the car. And what we need to do is look at it as, that's just one piece of the solution, he said. As we head toward 2020 Bean says possible solutions include carpool and bus lanes as well as more road access for cyclists. Planners have also received a grant from the DOT to analyze crossings and gaps in sidewalks that need to be closed in order to effectively get people out of their cars and on to their feet. For more information on some of the other plans in the works to improve auto and foot traffic in our area visit: http://wmpo.org/wmbpc/

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