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Saturday, November 5, 2011

Safety on the American Tobacco Trail

Posted by on Sat, Nov 5, 2011 at 12:30 PM

During the day, the scene at the 2-mile mark on the American Tobacco Trail is occasionally dicey, but rarely dangerous. I once had to sidestep a scrum between an angry man and woman to avoid a wayward punch, but in general, I just smile at the guys getting lit on Stack at 11 in the morning. I mentally note the colorful bikini underwear lying trailside as if it were an exotic leaf. It's the city. I expect a certain grit. No big deal.

Saturdays are usually my day to hit the trail, walking (briskly—I’m trying to preserve my knees) seven to 13 miles, depending on my level of hydration. Yet lately, I've backed off from the ATC, and not because of anything that has happened at Mile 2, which is near Fayetteville and Pilot streets. I question the overall safety of the ATC.

I'm troubled by the recent reports of a man exposing himself, again in the daytime, on the ATC—a weenie waver, as my mother calls such people. He's been spotted, in one case, wearing only a small hat, farther south, down by Woodcroft between Mile 5 and 6.

And in late September, I had to call the police from Mile Marker .25, at the bridge downtown. This was at 5:30 in the afternoon when a guy on a trick bike yells, "Goddamn bitch." I didn't answer. So he biked in front of me and continued to accost me, "Hey, Goddamn bitch, why didn’t you answer? Why are you getting all white on me?"

Silence. But I was thinking, "I didn't answer because my name's not Goddamn bitch."

So after an unpleasant exchange of words, I finally had to dial 9-1-1 because this guy just wasn't going to let it go.

Now I know it's impossible for police to surveil the entire trail; from downtown to Southpoint mall it's essentially a 6.5-mile linear park. And if you choose to travel the trail at night, then don't complain when you are relieved of your wallet. But Durham boasts of the ATC being among its crown jewels, and if people are to enjoy its beauty, then they need to have a basic sense of security, even by urban standards.

Should it have call boxes like Duke University has installed on the Al Buehler Trail—in case, for example, you should be robbed of your cell phone? Are beefed up police patrols enough? I urge the City Council and DPD to address the issue.

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