It’s a relief to hear that Sixth Street in front of Crystal Towers — the residence for some of our disabled and elderly neighbors — will be altered in an effort to improve safety for residents who are now at risk. It should have been done much sooner, but we’ll take it now. There’s every indication that the city’s action on behalf of residents of the 11-story structure on the northern edge of downtown Winston-Salem will be successful.
The change comes after three Crystal Towers residents spoke to the city’s public safety committee about the unsafe conditions at and around their home in December.
“They don’t stop, they don’t even slow down,” Deborah Watkins, who uses a wheelchair, said of drivers in the area. “At any crosswalk, they don’t pay attention to you. The people in that building don’t know how to get across the street. They have to really duck and dive to get to the bus stop. It is really scary.”
“Crossing that street is a problem,” Sarah Middleton said. “I walk with a walker. We have to act like we are on an expressway. They won’t stop for you. They speed up.”
The technique the city will use is called a “road diet.” The number of lanes on Sixth Street, from Spruce to Spring streets, will be reduced from four to three, with a central turn lane most of the distance. But that middle lane will end in front of Crystal Towers, where a concrete island will provide a place for pedestrians — and residents in wheelchairs — to pause while crossing the street.
The work will likely be done this summer. Before then, we ask all drivers to be aware and stay alert.
Currently, conditions are not optimal. A crosswalk crosses the street directly in front of the building, but it has no signal to stop traffic. Yellow warning signs instruct drivers to yield, but that doesn’t always happen.
Residents need to cross Sixth Street to get to the bus stop on the south side of the street or to downtown locations like the Central Library or a drug store. Those in wheelchairs are at a lower height that makes them difficult for drivers to see, and not just in front of the building. Accidents have occurred.
This is only one challenge for residents of Crystal Towers, who sometimes also have to deal with unhealthy living conditions in an old, decrepit building — and who have to find new places to live now that Crystal Towers has been sold. That won’t happen quickly. There’s just not enough public housing available.
Wherever residents go next, city officials will need to be sure that they can move about safely.
We appreciate the city’s quick response to the concerns expressed by Crystal Tower residents; this demonstrates local government at its best.