Open mind, open thread

We haven't had an open thread in a while. What's on your mind?

Issues: 

Total votes: 200

Comments

A few things.

1) Budget. Meeting @ 4pm today if you're interested [agenda]. I'm a bit disappointed in both this years budget and budget process. Last years election promises of formalized citizen participation went nowhere. We're relying on some financial quackery (relaxation of State requirements, one time sales tax mini-windfall) to balance the budget. Long term strategic proposals to rightsize the vehicle fleet, have targetted energy reductions, deploy cost-saving tech, etc. are missing. We're overspending on a number of items.

2) Economic development officer. I led the way last year calling for a town-wide effort to improve both the consumption and production side of business activity. I thought having a full-time professional to monitor, maintain and expand Chapel Hill's economic footprint was a great idea. Today, at the budget meeting, we'll hear more of what kind of job profile and tasks this person will take on. I'm looking for some out-of-the-box, orthogonal thinking on Chapel Hill's independent economic future.

3) NextBus. What more to say? We're squandering $1M opportunity "to have our cake and eat it". Easthom is the only Council member rising to this challenge. To wisely and STRATEGICALLY allocate funds - to get double bang for the buck (something we should be doing more widespread).

4) Stormwater. They have the fees. Now they're casting about for ways to spend them. I still think we should repeal the fee-based system and have the cojones to fund this important program out of general revenues. Fee-based funding is profligate with opportunities for abuse - as shown be program after program.

5) Muni-networking. Will Council form a task force before summer to really go for the gold or will they drag this out and hope UNC or someone else (maybe Clearwire ;-) ) comes to the rescue?

6) UNC's predictable planning summer surprise. What will it be this year? More disappearing residence halls? First School on the HWA property?

7) An updated justification for Carolina North. With Kannapolis on the way, what is the newest detailed justification for CN? Will NC's taxpayers get a fact-based study of ROI on CN before the 1st shovel-full of dirt is turned there?

8) The role of the arts in Chapel Hill. Will Chapel Hill expand the one-and-pnly hands-on Lincoln Arts Center arts program or will it cede all "creative class" development to our friends in the West?

9) BRT. Light rail is not going to make it, is it time to really take up the BRT challenge?

10) BOCC elections. Will any of the "presumed inheritors" engage in political discussion before the Nov. election? I'm curious about how the candidates plan to deal with our swelling county budget. I tend to keep it local, but this year I reviewed the current county budget and was a bit horrified. There's some good strategic thinking going on in some programs but others seemed mired in yester-year approaches. How can we take on the county budget beast?

HOME OCCUPATION FEE

Recommendation: Should be lowered for all, low volume shippers should file form and be exempt from fee, liars should be fined. Should be funded out of general budget given trivial revenue from fee.

http://townhall.townofchapelhill.org/agendas/2006/06/07/8/home_occupatio...

I was considering starting a small side venture which involved selling an item which would be delivered electronically and would involve no shipping. If we did ship later, it would be occasional shipments of CDs.

In doing some research a couple of months ago, I determined that I needed to file sales tax returns, get a privilege license from Chapel Hill for $25 and then found out that I needed to pay a $100 fee so that the town could process a form to make sure that I wasn't creating too much visitor or shipping traffic. I was pretty shocked at this fee. It seems to me that with all of the talk about economic development that our town would try to minimize roadblocks, particularly for people who are starting low impact businesses.

Here is what I propose:

* If someone is shipping no packages or a small number of packages and will have no public visitation, then there should be a form and no fee.
* If you have to do a visit to the site, then $100 is too much. $25 or $50 is more reasonable
* If people lie on the form, then fine them

The bottom line is that this fee is too high and seems to encourage people NOT to follow the process. The current fee is excessive.

Crime.

Southern Village is experiencing a mini crime-wave. There is graffiti all over the retaining wall near the pool, the park & ride shelters also have graffiti all over them. My neighbor had a recycling box smashed over her car last night. Another person had a large planter smashed on the sidewalk recently. A close friend had over $1000 in equipment stolen from his garage this year, and saw another neighbor chasing (barefoot) a teenager that had attempted to steal things off his front porch. These are the stories that I have heard about since my own incident a few days ago.

Two nights ago, as I jogged down one of our paved paths, I came across a bicycle pushed down over a hill into some briars. It looked like a really nice bike and from the looks of it belonged to someone in the 9-12 age range. So, I went into the brambles and got it out, in the process leaving a fair amount of blood behind. I finished my run and went to the Police Substation that is located at the Lumina Theater in Southern Village. I couldn't find anyone out back, so I went into the theater and asked where the cops were.

Anyone wanna guess?

They leave at 5pm most nights is what I was told. In other words, they are securing the neighborhood during that high-crime period of 9-5. Meanwhile, vandals and thieves seem to have the place to themselves at night.

Where is the logic in this?

From Will's list:

4) I agree. It is my understanding that the town charges stormwater fees to the schools. Schools are taxpayer-funded and if this were funded by town property taxes, the schools which be exempt. Further, where there is water reclamation occuring, like Smith Middle School, the schools don't get credit for *not* creating stormwater for that roof area. It all seems kind of silly to me. Is the town able to charge UNC and churches, etc. by using a "fee"?

10) I doubt you will hear anything from the BOCC primary winners. I would think that campaign finance would be a discussion point, but I doubt it will come up. The press have almost completely ignored it. I would like to know more details about the origin of contributions where PACs gave money directly to candidates, which I think happened for the very first time in this BOCC primary.

M

Mark, as I understand it, consultants who work out of their home are also required to get a privilege license from Chapel Hill for $25 and to pay the $100 fee. With as many consultants as we have in this town, I wonder how many are. Is it the same in Carrboro?

What is the current plan to change the way BOCC is elected? Anyone know? Has it been finalized?

Mark, sorry for the tardiness but I'm still working on #10 vis-a-vis campaign financing. I have copies of all the BOCC candidate reports for those that filed (got them 3 weeks ago - they've been sitting on my desk under another TODO pile). Anyone pledging to run a campaign under $3K was exempt from detailed filings (Franklin, Cutson and Battle).

BTW, the SBOE has cross-county, State and Federal reports on-line.

I checked Price's after the primary and noted some gaps on the web site. I sent the SBOE an email and now the reports end in 2000!
There's some stats for him at OpenSecrets and some more detail at the FEC site here - search on PRICE, DEMOCRATIC PARTY, NC.

James Protzman made a call for activism in today's Chapel Hill News. For interested folks, the FEC, OpenSecrets, etc. are incredible resources.

How else would I know about Price's Tyco, outsourcing Accenture, CSC (Comp. Sci. Corp.), Raytheon, Lockheed Martin,etc. contributions? Hey, aren't those companies all part of the war machine and the faux security-industrial complex? I'm not even going to bring up all the pharma or telecom (Bellsouth, Verizon) contribs.

Mark, as I understand it, consultants who work out of their home are also required to get a privilege license from Chapel Hill for $25 and to pay the $100 fee.

If we are talking about consultants who exclusively travel to clients and telecommute, then the fee is a do-wrong.

Mark,
Agree 100%. I was told by the folks in the Planning Dept. and Finance Dept. that if you use your home address as your business address, then it doesn't matter whether or not you actually do the work in your home.

Maybe Ruby has more info on this.

Robert,

I've been saying that tune for far too long now...

Neither Chapel Hill or Carrbor have enough police officers, and at night certain areas become devoid of any police presence. The current string of break-ins in proof of this. Yes, the recent break-in attempt at my residence fit the m.o. being reported in the papers to a T. Basically it time to flood the police with calls, complaints and the likewise.

Chapel Hill PD spends most of its efforts on students, while Carrboro spends most of its efforts at the station. (Anyone else ever notice how no matter what time you drive by the Carrboro Police Station it is always full of partol cars? I pretty certain that there should be a cop in every car out patrolling...not wasting resources with the cars sitting at the station.)

I'd love to see more cooperation between the Chapel Hill and Carrboro PDs, but doubt eith town can work out a mutual jurisdiction agreement to make the entirety of each town the full jurisdiction of both departments...a roundabout way of combining the departments.

I, on the other hand, am moving from the Northside/Lloyd St area (or as I refer to it...the Chapel Hood/Crackboro section) to the lower crime statistics of Coker Woods.

Chapel Hill and Carrboro need more graffiti. There's been a slight increase in the number of simple tags and stenciled pieces in recent years, but no one seems to be doing much creative spraypaint work around here.

I swear one of these days I'll learn to type!

As a bicyclist, motorist, and tax payer I'm disguisted at the politiking with S Columbia St. $4.15 million dollars (say that agian!) for the stated explicit purpose of improving bicyclist (and pedestrian) safety. This is proposed to be 4' bike lanes. However, at 5.7% grade the road far steeper than the 4% max grade specified for bike lanes, which itself is far too liberal and should be 2%. The Town has requested these bike lanes and ignores the danger they create. Either the NCDOT and FHWA is ignorant of this, or they are complicit. They won't be ignorant when I tell them. The report for the project does not mention the grade, nor does it examine bicyclist operating parameters. Quite a "study" of bicyclist safety, eh?

Further, there has been only one bicycle collision on So Columbia in a 10 year period, hardly a safety problem. And that was not a hit-from-behind collision. The report for the widening project says, "Bike lanes prevent bicyclists getting hit from behind." So, we have a made up safety problem with a countermeasure that prevents the non-existent problem. Of course, legally operating bicyclists very very rarely are hit from behind no matter the road.

Bike lanes are a real danger at high bicyclist speed. Of course, everyone knows the project isn't really about bicyclists or bicyclist safety.

Wayne

(Terri Tyson's bumperstickerphobia was on my mind, but I've commented on that thread.)

A small but abiding issue: the traffic pattern on S. Estes at the post office entrance and in the post office parking lot.

I wonder how many accidents have happened there between 1) southbound cars using the center lane as a traveling lane (on their way to turn left on Willow) vs. cars using it as a staging lane waiting to get into the driveway; 2) cars turning left out of the USPS lot vs. cars coming south on S. Estes and using the turning lane as a travel lane; and 3) cars in the lot waiting for the VERY FIRST parking slot to empty (instead of going on into the lot to clear the driveway) vs. cars trying to get out of active traffic on S. Estes.

This is part of a larger CH problem of people cruising in the turning lanes AND people planning to turn left across traffic who zip into the turning lane even though traffic from the right is still heavy and STOP there until on-coming traffic provides a break.

It's also part of USPS's problem with a poorly designed parking pattern in front of the town's busiest office.

There has to be a better way (yes, I know some people pull into the drive to the RBC drive-through -- efficient and a good way to get to Willow without turning left on Estes, but not what the RBC people had in mind, I suspect.).

I'm sorry to say the $100 for the home occupation fee has been decided by council to remain. I made the motion to reduce the fee to $50, which it was the year before, and got no second. I feel like we should support and reward those who can work at home, and thus not contribute to increased traffic, air pollution, etc in their commuting. To me, it is simply an environmental issue, and also seems to be a trend across the nation--more and more individuals are able to work at home with their companies' blessing. I wish I could work at home, but some vocations are impossible for that! With the $100 fee in place, the revenue to the Town this year was $2500. So the Town would have been short roughly $1250 this upcoming year to keep it affordable to work at home. I guess the argument is what is affordable, and what it costs the Town to process the application, which in my opinion, doesn't justify the $100. You can't win'em all.

Laurin, I'm putting together a post on tonight's approval of the ED officer (thanks, BTW) and am adding a few points that Council overlooked as far as other effective uses of this position.

One point, Chapel Hill has a thriving and growing at-home entrepreneurial workforce. We should be encouraging the continued growth of this type of "low wear" cottage industry. Just as Foy argued that waiving the fees for downtown improvements "sends a message", lowering or abolishing this fee would do the same - and, if presented correctly, have an arguably greater PR impact. The new ED officer should be working this new economy angle.

Oh well. Thanks again Laurin for trying to inject some strategic thinking into the governmental process.

On my mind these days:

- My understanding is that Greensboro St. is getting sidewalks this summer, and I am so glad. North Greensboro already has sidewalks on one side, but the sidewalks on the other side will be a great addition.

- Race and the local public schools. What are some children of color doing worse than white students? And how can this change? It was suggested to me recently that the schools are fine; the problem is what's happening at home with the families. That seems too broad a generalization to be true. What are other theories?

So the Town would have been short roughly $1250 this upcoming year to keep it affordable to work at home.

You know, it really wouldn't surprise me if the town actually made close to the same revenue from people choosing to stay compliant with the fee if it were lowered. Making reasonable amounts in taxes from business is one thing; creating an unreasonably high bar to even start a business is another. Between incorporation fees, a permit to operate under a ficticious name, privilege licenses, etc., those who seek to try their hand at a small home-based business end up in the hole before they even get started.

We estimate that Saturday parking ticket fine receipts could be reduced by half, resulting in unrealized revenues of $24,500.

Jason, that $1250 looks stranger in light of the $24.5k we'd lose by people NOT getting fined during free Saturday parking (strangest yet that we count on folks getting parking fines to make the books balance).

It's a push-pull situation. Last year, I'm sure you remember how Mark K did a Council mea culpa for the Chamber as far as the privilege license fee increase. I'd argue that the same arguments used then go triply for the home occupation fee.

1) I haven't seen the specific costs its collection is supposed to defray.
2) I get a sense it's not equitably applied (as the privilege tax).
3) Collection is contingent on folks even knowing and understanding the fee (as the p. tax)
4) At $2500, you almost have to believe the cost to collect /administer/etc. exceeds the actual collection (though maybe not - haven't seen the figures).

Yes, we need to check on types of home-based businesses that could be inappropriate. I imagine we could classify those types and not apply a broad-brush.

Will's point #4 regarding the administrative costs of docking home-based business operators really says it all. My factory makes words. My product goes out via the Internet, rarely on paper. The Town of Carrboro hired me to do some writing and sent me a bill for $200 when the invoice came from my home address. That's a huge waste of staff time. I wasted a little more staff time pointing out that my business generates no traffic, no parking, no noise ... so they wrote it off. Pun intended.

Every type of home-based business is a factory of some sort.

Catherine DeVine
DeVine Write

So all of 25 people complied with the home occupation fee in Chapel Hill? Conservatively, what is that--a 5% compliance rate (indicating 500 people working at home in an area well known for being dense with writers and high tech)? Lots of people have written about the foolishness of laws that are almost totally ignored. They erode the significance of laws in general.

I've been thinking about summer. It's almost here. We have a mark where the sunlight hits the bedroom wall on the first day and today I noticed how close we are.
I've been thinking about all those folks Down East who are about to get crowded right out as their "quaint" little villages are sold off piece by piece.
Here's the N&O package on it.
http://www.newsobserver.com/1233/http://www.newsobserver.com/1233/
Here's some of the blogging I'm doing on it.
http://www.capefearmercury.com/?cat=2

Ethan,
Call me old, but graffiti does nothing for me. Perhaps those with the urge could join in the mural projects, unless being punks is what they are actually looking for and not an artistic form of expression.

Priscilla,
The post office has one of the worst entry points in town.

Wayne,
What exactly is the project about then?

NextBus:
I think we should accept these signs and plant them all downtown (again, the idea of putting them at the park & ride is illogical to anyone who has ever actually USED a bus). Litter Franklin St. with these signs from Whole Foods to the PTA thrift shop and from the medical school library down MLK. Get people to notice them. Get people to notice that the NS bus is coming in two minutes and they could ride instead of walking. Get them in the bus. Then, when the signs begin to break down, have the company come and remove them.

Suck in users with the free signs, then once they die off, replace them with a system that doubles as a wireless network.

Kirk, I've often wondered what the effect would be of eliminating the mortgage deduction for second (and third?)homes. Has worse chance of being accepted than keeping the estate tax, and wouldn't apply to those whose vacation property isn't treated as a residence. But in lieu of the insurance companies making insurance for such coastal investment properties prohibitive or a sudden pop in the vacation real estate bubble, we sure can't count on common sense, let alone stewardship.

PS: re: 'nextbus' signs. Will some of them say "Next bus: Monday" for the routes that just stop over weekends?

Robert interesting idea on the signs ;-).

Unfortunately, I don't think we'll get another $1 million opportunity anytime soon.

Priscilla, that's hilarious! Probably not considering, as Mark K pointed out last night, we don't have the automated parking lot units configured to alert folks that its after 8pm and they no longer have to pay.

Glad to have an open thread. Thanks!

The thing on my mind is the sorry state of leadership in the North Carolina legislature. We have Jim Black scuzzing up the ethical works and putting Dems statewide on the defensive . . . with nary a peep from a single Orange County representative.

From Mark Barroso:

Lee Moore Oil and NC DOT are close to finalizing a deal that would put the intersection of their big-box development, possibly a Wal Mart, at Smith Level Road and 15/501, according to Tim Johnson, Division 8 Engineer for NC DOT. The two parties are meeting next week to finalize the details of the plan.

When completed, Kirk Bradley, dba Lee Moore Oil, will then be able to present his plans to Chatham County for approval. To date, details of the plans are not known, although in one document he refers to it as a "Wal Mart development." Bradley has built several Wal Marts in other parts of the state.

One of the obstacles for Lee Moore Oil has been the fact DOT moved the intersection into Orange County during recent roadwork. DOT insisted that Lee Moore Oil negate with Orange County to put the entrance to their development at Smith Level Rd. Orange County officials said they would not allow it. This forced Lee Moore Oil to propose building a new intersection, which DOT objected to.

In the new deal, Lee Moore Oil will give DOT the Orange County parcel as a right of way to DOT, which was where the old ALR building once stood, in exchange for putting the intersection where DOT wants - at Smith Level Road. This effectively bypasses the need for Lee Moore Oil to negate with Orange County. Lee Moore Oil will also agree to pay for other improvements to the traffic signal, turn lanes, etc.

I spoke at length with Johnson about how DOT measures capacity of roadways, objecting to conclusions they have made in the past about that road. He tried to assure me that they are adding up the traffic totals of all the commercial and residential developments that are coming to Chatham, but I remain unconvinced.

NC DOT does not have a process for involving the public in these negations. I suggest if you want to influence this deal, or any aspect of it, like if a rich developer or us taxpayers should widen the road to accommodate their traffic, contact your elected representatives.
(End Barrosa email)

Thanks Terri.

Last I looked, NC-DOT hadn't factored in Briar Chapel and the other new major sources of traffic within spitting distance of the new development.

I guess there's a bit of a landrush going on down South now that Bunkey is on the way out...

I for one am going to be ticked off if a Wal-mart ends up a mile from my house. Why doesn't anyone have any vision for that parcel of land, why do they always have to fall back on a Wal-Mart?

Robert,

I surmise that the project is about doing "something" on the road to make it appear that progress is being made. UNC Hospitals and NCDOT want the road 4 or more lanes. Chapel Hill wants to keep it quaint so as to not generate more traffic and keep the character of the road. Somehow it came out to three lanes with bike lanes.

Bean counters want bike lanes because they are an identifiable feature showing something has been done for bicycling. It doesn't matter that the last fatality within CH occured in a bike lane: Cameron Ave.

If the project was about bicyclist safety as stated in the report, then an objective analysis of bicycling would have been conducted. Instead, nil. Anybody with any competence would know that bicyclists hit 35 mph on that hill. $4.15 million is a lot to throw at a road with 1 bicycling collision in 10 years.

Wayne

"Further, there has been only one bicycle collision on So Columbia in a 10 year period, hardly a safety problem."

I would suggest that this is because most cyclists actively avoid S. Columbia. I certainly did when I lived on Coolidge St. -- it was much more enjoyable to get to downtown by biking through Westwood up to Ransom St. That said, I agree that placing bike lanes there doesn't make much sense. I think cyclists will continue to avoid S. Columbia, simply because it is a narrow road on a steep curving hill, full of speeding cars; and, alternative routes are available in the neighborhoods on both sides. Making the road wider certainly isn't going to slow down the car traffic.

This also assumes that all bicycle collisions are reported. An SUV hit me while I was on my bike in Carrboro last year (he was on his cell phone and pulled out from a parking lot without double checking traffic to his left), and I have to say that in the shock of the incident, I didn't call the police, in part because I was scared the driver would freak out on me. He ended up paying for my bike repairs, and I wasn't injured, but as far as accident reporting goes, it didn't happen. I suspect other incidents like this may happen all the time.

Ripped from today's headlines:

A proposal for a big box retail store in a planned development in northern Chatham has nearby residents claiming they were misled by the developer and saying they'll rescind their endorsement of the project.

When M. Travis Blake first pitched the idea of Williams Corners -- a 500,000-square-foot, mixed-use development off U.S. 15-501 and Lystra Road -- residents in adjoining neighborhoods helped him persuade the Chatham County Commissioners to give their approval.

HeraldSun

15-501 is going to be the new Independence Ave. or Capitol Blvd. of the North/South Chapel Hill-Pittsboro axis.

I wonder if this is the beginning of the "big box" wars along that corridor? It won't be long before 15-501 is smothered.

THE LETTER IN WEDNESDAY'S CHAPEL HILL NEWS:

Why haven't we heard more about the hostage situation that took place at East Chapel Hill?

I don't know John, but I suspect if the accused was Arabic it wouldn't have been forgoten as easily.

John A and Ruby:

As to the hostage situation at East--

I don't think anyone has forgotten. I know those of us with HS aged children haven't.

Some things everyone should consider:

No one was physcially injured.

The accused was a minor who is STILL in the hospital. Since he sustained no physical injuries during the incident, I think it's safe to assume that he's there for psychiatric reasons. It would be against several laws for the hospital or schools to comment. His parents aren't talking. (And really, why should they? ) What would you have the press do, sit around and speculate, ala CNN or FOX News? Even the HS kids have stopped talking about it...though the theories as to what triggered the young man flew fast and furious for several days afterwards. (One hears a great deal when one provides an open refrigerator.)

Unlike the Sapikowski case, there is little PHYSICAL evidence for the media to feed on. For once I think the media is behaving as they ought. I'm certain, if there is ever any substanital evidence, or a trial, the case will resurface in the paper.

melanie

East Chapel Hill High:

Melanie believe me, I am grateful there is not the media overkill a la Sapikowski: it was really disconcerting arriving at the Sportsplex on a friday afternoon and being confronted by someone from the Associated Press.

What I'd like to know is... how did this happen? what is the school going to do to ensure it won't happen again? It's not enough for the school to simply deal with these questions to members of the school. I think they owe some answers to the community, and I think the local press should be focusing and pressing them on that.

Southern Village crime and punishment.

I got calls from several reporters last night after they saw my post here on OP. I think it is interesting that the focus seems to be getting teens out of the square late at night. All of the things I have heard about have happened elsewhere. I know that the crowds are not beloved and they probably lead to the problems elsewhere, but I still can't help feeling that the problem is the lack of police presence AFTER 5pm.

This weekends action is the equivalent of a breathalizer stop. It might change one or two parents, and it might get one or two kids in trouble, but next weekend it will be back to normal.

Here is a thought, based on this from the Herald Sun

They say there's nothing for the middle- and high-school students to do past 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights in the area -- yet parents drop them off anyway. And the teenagers, say police and business owners, are beginning to cause trouble.

How about giving them something to do? I know the skatepark is coming to Southern Community Park, but last I heard it will have no lights, right? And, it is out in the middle of nowhere, maybe not the safest place to let them congregate.

How about having late-night functions in the square for the kids? Where I grew up we all hung out at the bowling alley or in the stripmines doing ... well, you can probably guess what people were doing. My wife and her friends hung out at the mall. Where do we expect teenagers in Chapel Hill to hang out? Durham?

If someone is looking to make money, perhaps here is an idea for the old hardware in Carrboro. Turn it into a teen-club with supervision. A place the kids would find cool and parents would consider safe.

I find it interesting that media attention is being put on teenagers in Southern Villiage while drug dealing in the Northside and Lloyd St area goes unmentioned. Does constant police presence go only to the economically advantaged areas?

Theresa,
I think the drug dealing on Northside has just been mentioned, by you. It's a pity you chose to do it in an antagonistic way, instead of making a constructive argument. We might have actually had a real conversation about it.

I'm a daily bicylist on South Columbia and live on Coolidge.
I'm not going to get into the dispute about which is
better -- wide outside lanes or striped bike lanes, but
please recognize that the improvements in this road
are important in so many ways that an argument over
a detail like this could have a potential to further
postpone the project. Because UNC and UNC Hospitals
don't really support the project, the DOT is just looking
for an excuse not to do it.

We badly need to stabilize that road, to define and build
its final form (at least for the next 30 years),
so that homeowners along the road will invest more in
their homes, some of the sloppy rental houses will be
replaced by better ones, so that sidewalks will allow
people to walk easily and safely to bus stops, to Merritt's,
and to campus.

I agree with the town's position not to convert S. Columbia
into a four lane plus median cross section, as UNC and
the hospitals have wanted for years. Finally after years
of negotiaions, UNC agreed to the town's desires, and
we need to get that road built. Please don't give the
DOT another excuse to postpone the construction by
arguing about a detail. If the DOT wants to be able to
credit itself with another mile or two of bikelanes, let
them do it. And remember that I write this as a
daily S. Columbia bicyclist.

Wayne, ask yourself which is better: Bike lanes on the
rebuilt S. Columbia, or 10 more years with no improvements
at all?

Joe,

The placement of bike lanes or not is not merely a "detail" as you dismiss it to be.

The North Carolina Bicycle Facilities Planning And Design Guidelines says, “Bike lanes are not advisable on long, downgrades of 4 percent or more...”

They are "not advisable" because bike lanes at high speed are dangerous, and I've described the several reasons why in great detail at:
http://www.humantransport.org/bicycledriving/library/High_Speed.pdf

However, this 4% specification is unjustified, is far too liberal, and should rightly be 2%. Clearly, the 5.7% slope of S. Columbia St. far exceeds the limit for bike lane use. A slightly wider bike lane does not remove the dangers.

S. Columbia needs to have a narrow lane on the descent (like the current 11 ft) so that bicyclists use the full width of debris free pavement and motorists are discouraged from passing. On the ascent the lane should be 15 feet wide so motorists can pass easier and some bicyclists can feel better about not delaying those poor motorists. Extra timid bicyclists can ride on the sidewalk.

In contrast to what most people "feel," high speed motoring counterintuitively is NOT a significant contributor to alleged lack of bicycling safety. It is far less important than high bicyclist speed and motorists' misjudgement of bicyclists' speed.

The NCDOT will not want to create a facility that is "not advisable." Neither will the FHWA. First, Do No Harm. UNC is ignorant of the non advisability of bike lanes. The Town of Chapel Hill (rather the planners, engineers, and decision makers) knows that it is not advisable either, because I've told them, but it is ideologically driven and apparently doesn't care about bicyclist safety so long as it can brag about more bike lanes and hold the line on 4 lane widening.

The report on the project is so full of B.S. it makes me want to barf. NCDOT is getting a full report and analysis from me, and I'm doing a media blitz.

As a bicyclist you should want the best facility. As a person who is opposed to 4 laneing the road (for ideological reasons?) you should want it as narrow as possible. My treatment accomplishes both objectives.

Personally, as a bicyclist I like narrow lanes everywhere. I don't suffer irrational Fear From the Rear. There is more shade and I don't feel the need to enable motorists to pass me faster. I only advocate for wide lanes as a superior alternative to bike lanes as demanded by those who are afraid of motorists or afraid of slowing them. Wide lanes preserve bicyclists' rights and expand our space whereas bike lanes reduce our rights and contract our space.

Wayne
Sunshine is the best disinfectant.

Wayne, you make some good and interesting points but I continue to wonder about this "irrational Fear From the Rear".

Maybe I worry because my fundament is excessive, but having biked around town for decades, the blanket characterization of being concerned about traffic overtaking from the rear seems rational. I ride my bike as if I suspect every motorist a loon - it seems to have worked so far...

On a completely different tack, have you ever plotted bike journies around town based on the lowest energy approach?

For instance, it used to be (before the trails were screwed up) the "lowest energy" route to Downtown from Umpstead Park was a trail that roughly paralleled Bolin Creek and then veered SW into Northside. The grade, at worst, was maybe %3-4. Approaching UNC from the South long S. Columbia, I've tried various routes through the Purfoy, et. al. to "beat the hill". I bet I'm not the only "casual" biker that has thought about this... I think you could increase bike usage by publishing such a map.

Whoops! Hit enter accidentally.

Try this "but having biked around town for decades, the blanket characterization" of concern about traffic overtaking from the rear as irrational goes too far. Though I understand your rationale, it's at odds with my and others experience and undercuts your other arguments.

Will,

Fear From the Rear is irrational because lawfully riding bicyclists very rarely get struck from behind. Turns out, motorists are not that inept. That said, I understand bicyclists' concern. It is natural to worry about what is behind you, even if walking. It's not pleasant to have large and loud motor vehicles barreling down on you.

The problem with overly worrying about getting hit from behind is that it distracts attention from the real hazards in front. Moreover, the typical bicyclist responds to Fear From the Rear by doing the exact opposite of what should be done. They typically ride as far right as they possibly can, which creates multiple problems including "inviting" motorists to try and squeeze by at high speed. And they do! What bicyclists should do is move further into traffic to compel motorists to slow down and move over.

I think there may be a few opportunities to minimize grade change, but the tradeoff is that the route is longer. So the energy cost is the same, its just spread out differently. One could simply go slower in an easier gear up the steeper grade. Further, more direct routes often have right-of-way priority over minor roads. Less stops equals less energy expenditure. Constantly stopping can easily be shown to have a huge energy cost to bicyclists, not to mention the increase in time and the absence of a cooling effect once one stops.

Chapel Hill is very hilly, and you don't fully realize the extent of it until you ride a bike around. It's cold in winter and sticky in the summer, and there is often a detrimental wind. You've got to really want to ride to do it on a continual basis. I've been doing it daily here for 20 years.

Wayne
Be the Engine

Enjoying this discussion on Biking.

Question: Who cut the bower on the Bolin Creek trail? (over by the beaver dam). It was my favorite and now it's gone.

Well surprise! I just received description from NCDOT of the 1 bicycle-motor vehicle collision that allegedly occurred on So Columbia in the 10 year study period. Turns out the collision was actually on Manning, 10 feet east of S. Columbia. The bicyclist (pedestrian-on-wheels) was southbound (wrong way) on the sidewalk on S Columbia crossing Manning in the xwalk and the motorist was making a right turn on red from Manning northbound onto S. Columbia.

The pedestrian-on-wheels was going downhill, and although it is unclear, it is likely that relatively high bicycle speed (especially for sidewalk riding) was a contributing factor.

The "wrong way" operating pedestrian-on-wheels got a boo boo on his ankle and refused treatment.

Wayne

John--not certain what you mean by "the bower"--but there were a number of folks out working to remove non-native, invasive plants awhile back. If your "bower" was honeysuckle, or rosa multiflora, or bittersweet, or somesuch, that is what happened to it. And a good thing, too.

melanie

Here's a couple of interesting transit programs:

Bike Smartsz
The Bike Smarts program was introduced in Lochside Elementary School to educate students about bicycle safety and to encourage them to travel by bicycle. As part of the program, parents of the students became involved in cycling to school with their children and participated in a cycling field trip.

The Walking Bus
The walking bus is the latest safe, fun and healthy way to travel to and from school. Each walking bus had an adult 'driver' at the front and and an adult 'conductor' bringing up the rear. The children walk to school in a group along a set route picking up additional 'passengers' at specific 'bus-stops' along the way.

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