Car-Free in 2033

OK, maybe not, but a bunch of folks have been spent some time thinking about how you will be able to get around Chapel Hill and the Triangle area more efficiently and healthily (is that a word?) in the future without having to park your butt on I-40 for two hours daily.

The Town of Chapel Hill's draft Bicycle and Pedestrian Action Plan will be discussed at a public hearing at the Town Council Meeting on Spetember 20. Some of my initial impressions:

  • It groups improvements by "packages" so that they fit into a useable network. This is a nice improvement over the previous piecemeal approach to building sidewalks and bike facilities.
  • Complete sidewalks on both the north and south sides of Rosemary Street are a top priority! I have been harping on this for years, especially regarding West Rosemary Street which is a major artery. It's currently not possible to walk on a sidewalk from the IFC shelter to Carrburritos without crossing the street three times.
  • I'm glad to see some improvements planned for West Franklin, but they need to be spaced out better to fill in the huge gap between Keenan and Graham Streets.
  • It has some great maps, like this.

Check it out, and then let Chapel Hill Town Council know what you think about the plan at their hearing on September 20.

The Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro metropolitan planning organization (DCHC MPO) is working on it's seemingly-perpetual long-range planning effort - the 2030 Long Range Transportation Plan. The good news that our region (Orange, Chatham, and Durham counties in this case) is making an effort to improve air quality and our quality of life by making significant investments in mass transit*, while also maintaining the road network. The bad news is that the region to our east-south-east is planning to double in size with no apparent change to it's current pattern of thoughtless sprawl. The number of SUVs coming from Cary, Apex, north Raleigh, Knightdale, etc. could easily eclipse our effort to get RTP commuters to ride transit and to give them a way to get around without cars when they get there.

The DCHC MPO TAC (Transportation Advisory Commitee, made up of elected officials from around the area) will be holding a public hearing on this plan at Durham City Hall on August 25. You can also submit comments on the plan by e-mail until September 22.

* Mass transit does not neccesarily equal trains! There are a wide range of possible alternatives from light rail, to bus-dedicated lanes in I-40, and so on. The big key is that it be a "fixed-guideway" meaning some kind of permanet infrastrucure (unlike a typical bus system which can be rerouted or defunded later).


Learning From Other Regions

During the 80s, I attended some city planning meetings dealing with the problems of Harvard Square, and the solutions they devised were emulable and wise. And may provide some guidance for Orange County as it tries to ensure that growth doesn't destroy quality of life.

Amsterdam is another city where the ratios of vehicles to pedestrians is really quite wondrous. First pedestrians, then bicyles, then rail, and only And small ones at that.

The police are just walking helpers, not road sharks. The ambience is much to be preferred to, say, Atlanta or Charlotte. Car, nay, SUV Hell.

By studying success stories, the world over, and then picking from the best ideas, North Carolina can reverse this opprobrious trend which is choking our air and killing our trees and lakes.

But the battle is also for our minds...

On public transportation, one can relax and thus improve one's health. One can also read books, and improve one's mind.

In a car, one is virtual slave of the rightwing radio. One cannot read a book and improve one's mind. And one destroys one's own health, either by stress or by accident.

Oil, Pharms, Cars, Rush...all of a package. All bad for your health.

Dodge the animal in the road. Find a wise detour. Preferably scenic.

Peace & Love
Mr. Anonymoses Hyperlincoln IV

I have "car free day" written on my calendar for September 22, but I no longer recall who is organizing that effort. Anyone have any more information about this?

Also, regarding the draft B&P Plan circulating among the advisory boards, and slated for Council hearing September 20, some people in my neighborhood (Greenwood) have a concern: on page 16 the Plan recommends that the Battle Branch Greenway be changed from a woodland trail to a "hard surface" to accommodate bicyclists. Not sure how wide this would have to be or what kind of surface this would have to be.

The Battle Branch Greeway is a wonderful and very rare in-town woodsy path used by many through-hikers (good link to campus) and residents of several neighborhoods (Gimghoul, Glendale, Greenwood, etc.).

On one hand, I'm aware that paving would lessen the erosion and track marks that trail bikers leave on the trail, and that a hard surface would make it easier for people in wheelchairs to commune in the Battle Branch woods as well as others who have difficulty handling the roots, rocks, and mud (which for some of us add to the trail's charm). I support the Plan's overall goal of lessening the number of cars on the road: a paved surface could lead to bike commuters rather than car commuters.

On the other hand, I wonder if it is wise (it will certainly be less beautiful) to install a hard surface so close to the creek, especially when we are trying to keep as much ground unpaved for stormwater management . The Town usually discourages developers from building in this sort of environment.

More emotionally, I and several neighbors are saddened by the thought of losing this natural trail, this little piece of wilderness, and wonder if there might be good alternatives for achieving the Plan's Bicycle and Pedestrian goals without paving this paradise, which connects Battle Park with the Community Park. Can we just leave it alone and route bikes along another trajectory? Would a boardwalk do the trick? Or parallel routes for bikes (paved) and hikers (natural) in these woods?

Andy- Car Free Day is indeed September 22nd!

The Village Project is sponsoring the event in partnership with a variety of other local organizations.

For more information about The Village Project, please visit

Preparations for Car Free Day are in full swing, and you will be hearing A LOT more about it very soon.

I've just moved back into the area and am delighted to use my bike and the bus system to get around town, specifically from my house in Carrboro to campus every day. And as long as I'm going during the day, I'm all set. But even a newly dedicated no-car gal like myself has stumbled across problems with the current system. Unless I'm willing to bike home after a class at 9pm or after a campus work shift at 10:30 pm, I'm going to be in the preposterous situation of leaving campus some afternoons on bike or bus to go get my car at my house and then to turn around and drive back to campus. The bus just doesn't get within a half-mile of my house in the evenings. I could probably bike home, but then I have some concerns about my own safety (especially at 11pm), both because of cars and ... well, bad-intentioned people. More bikes on the road could help this situation, I suppose.

Anyway, I'm sure everyone has their particular challenges with public transportation, but it seems like it should be easier to get from campus to my home in a relatively dense area of Carrboro. I'm all for car-free, of course, but wonder what it's really going to take to get there. I hope this process finds some solutions.

Yet another study came out today showing a trend towards much worse traffic as each year passes in our metro area . We're not as bad as Charlotte or Austin, TX, but we're getting there. Seems like we're already too late to avoid the worst growing pains, but I wonder if there is still time to lobby the legislature for the ability to have a local tax that would support our transit needs. Is anyone working on this?


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