EDITORIAL: Cherokee needs bicycle lanes.
By ROBERT JUMPER
ONE FEATHER EDITOR
I don’t know if anyone has noticed, but the pedestrian crosswalks have been getting some new signage as summer turns into fall. And, many people and I are saying, “Thank you and it is about time”. Those wide white strips on the road are simply not enough identification for walkers or drivers to be reminded to the use of those crosswalks. In fact, there were at least two fatalities while walking in the streets of Cherokee over the summer season.
In the downtown area, both drivers and pedestrians alike play a game of vehicle roulette as foot traffic darts across main street, some adhering to the marked crosswalks, others either ignoring the markings or just deciding to take a walk on the wild side. Either way, it is a dangerous game to play in that many drivers ignore the 20 mph town speed limit and some don’t really pay attention to those in the process of making their way across the road.
Kudos to the Cherokee Indians Fairgrounds and their efforts to create some additional safeguards on Tsali Boulevard during events by acquiring additional lighted signage and putting up flood lights at the crosswalk between the Fairgrounds and Welcome Center while events are in progress. More of the big, green reflective message signs at each of the designated crosswalks will further reduce the risk of tragic events like those that happened in our town over the summer. Some might argue that those signs distract from the aesthetic beauty of the Cherokee streets, but I think visitors and community members alike will know that the Cherokee leadership is showing responsibility and showing that they care more for the safety of the public than personal preference.
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on streetscapes and greenways. In my opinion, it is money well spent. Like much of America, many of us could afford to lose a few pounds. Our doctors and others remind us frequently how a sedentary lifestyle may have very negative effects on health, so creating and improving our walking areas is a great thing that may entice us to get out and move more.
An added value to foot-friendly areas is that eco-tourists, or travelers who will travel to a destination for their outdoor activities, continue to increase. So, those things we do to improve our drawing power to appeal to outdoor tourists adds to our tribal income and will ultimately provide more resources to give community services to our people. A properly-designed streetscape will make pedestrians more visible and less like targets.
It is time to focus some energy into making the Qualla Boundary biker-friendly. I am speaking of the kind of bikes with no motor. Many municipalities are coordinating streetscape projects with transportation plans that incorporate bike lanes into and around their towns. While we do have some bicycle lanes along the Soco Road, those end before you get to the Harrah’s property. Designated bike lanes throughout Cherokee would provide our community members with another incentive to enjoy the great outdoors and take up another healthy activity that is good for their personal health and contributes to the betterment of the environment. There is an entire niche segment of the tourism population that is specifically interested in bicycle-friendly destinations.
These are very simple fixes and improvements that will enhance the quality of life in Cherokee and further the cause of economic development on the Boundary. I hope the leadership of the Tribe will devote more resources to providing these pedestrian and cyclist enhancements.