Cyclist’s widow pleads for safer streets in Durham after bike injuries, deaths
Allison Simpson wore black to City Hall in downtown Durham on Monday night, the calmness of her voice belying the devastation in her words.
“I am the widow of Matthew Simpson,” she said.
“In July, Matt was killed on his bike by a speeding car in front of myself and our young children,” Simpson explained. “The car kept going, only to stop a couple miles away to rip my husband’s bike out from under the car and discard it on the side of Gregson Road.”
Simpson said she is now intent on turning her pain into something productive.
She and six others spoke during the city’s first public hearing on the upcoming budget to call for safer streets for bikers and pedestrians — protected bike lanes, sidewalk repairs, better traffic calming and citywide connectivity.
“We need to do more,” Simpson said. “Today I ask that the Durham City Council budget reflect a stronger commitment to Vision Zero in order to make progress to the goal of zero fatalities and serious injury.”
Vision Zero is an international campaign to eliminate traffic fatalities.
Durham signed on in 2017 but hasn’t seen traffic deaths come down.
Council member Javiera Caballero requested $90,000 from the budget for a coordinator position.
Noah Goyette was seriously injured recently when he hit a pothole after swerving into traffic on Main Street to avoid hitting a car parked in the bike lane. His right arm was in a brace as he spoke.
“The city is a shared space and we need those spaces to be easily and freely movable for everybody: people on bikes, wheelchairs, walkers; people with or without legs, sight, hearing. I want big-bodied people and small-bodied people to be able to move through all those spaces safely,” Goyette said. “I almost didn’t make it the other day, and Matthew didn’t.”
Bike Durham organized a rally of about 50 people a mile from City Hall before the public hearing.
They estimate every 16 days, a person walking or biking in Durham is killed or seriously injured.
The group rode together to the meeting in a self-protected bike lane, where the bikers take turns riding in the space between the other riders and the curb, shielded from car and truck traffic.
The group’s executive director John Tallmadge said their petition has more than 140 signatures. He also encouraged the city to continue paying to provide fare-free buses.
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