Will Chapel Hill/Carrboro Ever Be Bike-Friendly?

I very nearly bit the dust this morning on Dairyland, about 1/2 mile west of Old 86.

While on my morning bicycle ride, minding my own business along the road's virtually nonexistent shoulder, a driver whipping past me clipped my left hip and the edge of my left handlebar. Miraculously, I was not injured physically, although I am pretty shaken up. Two more inches and I wouldn't be here to type this right now.

I mention this out of a growing frustration with the gaping disparity between the image that this area has of itself (as a place that facilitates active, healthy lifestyles and encourages alternative transportation methods) and the reality of our local roads, which are for the most part very unfriendly to bikes and pedestrians.

I think of the often-expressed desire to limit parking spaces at Carolina North in order to encourage other modes of transport, and then I think of my experience this morning, and I ruefully laugh. The truth is that we do not have the road infrastructure to support anything other than cars and buses on our roads, and, so far as I know, no comprehensive plan to change that.

Total votes: 376

Comments

Eric,
You are comparing a county road to city streets.
I think Carrboro especially has moved in the proper direction of making it'self more bike friendly, and Chapel Hill, while bigger and more congested, is trying to do the same.
I would like to see roads such as Homestead and Estes add bike specific lanes sooner than later, so as to be in position for the Carolina North Expansion.
But it's also up to individual drivers to share the road. I yield to bikes whenever possible and pay attention to things around me and NEVER talk on the phone while driving. A quick look around on almost any street or road in this area will show distracted drivers who do not share my caution.
I'm not disagreeing with you about bike safety, just pointing out that some city streets are better for bikes than winding county roads, some of which have only recently been paved.

Eric, I'm glad to hear you are OK! I agree that there is a lot more we can and should be doing to make biking safer and more appealing and more generally inviting. There is also a lot that the towns are doing, like like bike lanes (go Carrboro!), greenways (go Chapel Hill!), and bike racks on buses, etc.

But also, I think your criticism is a little too easy...

A. Dairyland Road is not in Chapel Hill or Carrboro. I'd much rather see improved biking facilities on city streets that we frequently use to get to work, school, shopping, and play than on scenic country roads that are used mostly by recreational cyclists (although they should be at least SAFE for cyclists and other non-motorized vehicles).

B. Part of the problem is that so many of us live on cul-de-sacs and winding circles that don't go anywhere. These streets are not contributing to the overall transportation network of the community, and as result cyclists (& pedestrians) are forced to use dangerous arterial streets to get around.

I think that a well-designed connective street network would also serve bikes and pedestrians as well as getting cars around more efficiently.

If my family wants to take a bike ride we have to place all of the bikes on the car and drive to Durham! The tobacco trail is nice and safe and ends up at the ball park, but we rarely do it since its such a hassle to load the car up with three bikes.

I used to live in Marin County, California where I could ride out my back door and into a gigantic trail system. Since moving here in '92 its mostly gathered dust since its a 25 minute drive to a legal and safe place to ride them.

I've never even attempted to ride my bike on the roads around here because they are obviously too narrow to safely support both cars and bikes and the same time and there's no apparent effort to put in minimum standards for berms, let alone bike lanes.

For what it's worth, the piece of Dairyland I was on is in every way indistinguishable from the piece of Homestead on the opposite side of Old 86 from where I was. What happened to me on Dairyland could just as easily have happened on Homestead two minutes later. The conditions are in every way identical.

I agree, of course, that the top priority should be, as Ruby says, those streets in town that would carry the most bicycle traffic to work, shop, etc.

Carolina North will, however, be a new traffic magnet, and will redefine what counts as a "city" and a "country" road.

Michael's point about Marin is a good one. Note that in my post, I commented on the contrast between the image we try to project of ourselves and the reality. The image, as I see it, as that we are a town (or towns) like, say, Boulder, Colorado. But if you go to Boulder, you find a town that facilitates bicycle and pedestrian traffic all over the place, and not just in areas near downtown that bring people in to shop and work. That's not even remotely who we really are right now. It's something to aspire to, I think.

I could not agree with you more Eric - and I'm glad you are OK!

The situation, to me, was summed up by the work done on Estes Dr. We passed a bond, work began and bike lanes were added.... except where they were most important!! Up the hill to the intersection with Greensboro. On good days its hard to pedal up that hill - with a Hummer breathing fire down your neck its suicide.

Why did we put bike lanes on only a portion of the road - those lanes are unaccessible to other bike lanes!

Dave, the Town of Carrboro is currently planning to do those lanes on Estes Extension. They are hardest part because they don't have big suburban buffers like the Chapel Hill side.

I don't think the bike lanes on Estes are actually intended to be bike lanes. Wasn't that a regular DOT road expansion and not a bike lane addition? My understanding is that that work was not connected to a bond project. (But I hasten to add I would love to see bike lanes the whole of Estes, connecting North Greensboro to the U Mall.)

Michael, I think you could do a bit more exploring in your own backyard. There are some nice bike areas around Chapel Hill and Carrboro. A friend of ours takes his 3 year old on single track near Wilson Park (okay, so this friend works in a bike shop, but still!). And there's the path along Bolin Creek.

There is some progress: the bike lane change to Cameron was a huge improvement, I think, even though many people didn't want it to happen. Having 24 hour bike lanes, with lots of space and clearly marked lines, is great.

But it could all be better--I was hit by a car (actually big ole SUV driven by a local real estate agent who was talking on his cell phone!) a couple of years ago leaving the Carrboro bike lane near Armadillo Grill. If I had not ceded my right of way, I would have been smushed like grape in road.

And Ruby makes a good point that we need more options. I used to drive to campus at night from Carrboro because the bus ended too early for my evening classes and I didn't want to bike home because I didn't feel safe on the bike lane at night and the bottleneck in front of the Arts Center and Cradle is a terrible place for bikes. I wonder if this will be improved with the new development?

Eric,
I also am happy that you are OK and that you brought this up. The biggest impediment
in Chapel Hill to having safe bike lanes in that the major
roads here, the ones with the most commuting bike traffic, are owned and (poorly) maintained by NCDOT, who
collectively do not understand that bicycles and feet are valid means of transporation. We daily bicyclists can, of course,
recite many bike-car horror stories caused by bad design and
maintenance of our DOT roads.

The NC Highway Safety Research Center is currently (I think)
conducting a bicycle safety study to identify
and remedy our local bicycle hazards. This group carries
enough respect and clout to actually make (small) waves
within the DOT.
I would ask you to contact Bill Hunter at the
NCHSRC and tell him your story. He can advise you on how
you best can actually help. You can get his contact info
from the on-line directory at the UNC home page.

Thank you, Joe. I will do so.

CH/C will never be bike-friendly as long as it forces a large number of people to drive while simultaneously encouraging people to bike.

And it'll force a large number of people to drive as long as it continues to develop the way it has, which forbids a large number of people from living near the place they work.

And it'll forbid a large number of people from living near the place they work as long as number of jobs in CH/C is much larger than the number of places to live in CH/C.

And considering that the number of jobs in CH/C has been increasing more quickly for a long time than has the number of places to live and that there is no apparent end to the trend, CH/C will not be bike-friendly for the forseeable future.

maybe the bicyclists will get some respect, and more bike
lanes in the county, when the riders are treated equally
under the law as car drivers. for the past 26 years, i have
never witnessed bike laws being enforced. routinely,
i see all the various violations that you probably see, too.
No helmet, two/three/more abreast, failure to come to
a complete stop at regulated intersections...blahblahblah.
of course, auto drivers don't wear seatbelts, pass on the
double yellow line, don't come to a complete stop......
but they get citations of some form, insurance
payments increase, and it remains on record for 7 years.

Eric,

As a general rule I don't post to this board, but I am compelled by your brush with a motorist (which is sadly so common) and your eloquent observations on cycling in and around Chapel Hill.

At the Sierra Club forum Bill Strom said that the Council had made Chapel Hill “pedestrian and bike friendly”. That speaks directly to your eloquent and absolutely correct observation about ” the gaping disparity between the image that this area has of itself (as a place that facilitates active, healthy lifestyles and encourages alternative transportation methods) and the reality of our local roads, which are for the most part very unfriendly to bikes and pedestrians.” At the same meeting I asked how many members of the Sierra Club rode their bikes to the forum (I had). The answer was none! Only one even rode the bus. I made the commitment to ride my bike to all Town Council meetings when I am elected and encouraged all council members to do the same. Needless to say the Sierra Club endorsed Bill Strom and all the other incumbents running for office. How many of them do you think actually ride their bikes with any regularity?

A key element of making Chapel Hill bike friendly is to get as many cyclists on the road as possible so that it becomes harder and harder for motorists to behave aggressively. It's great to know the Town Council and the Sierra Club are leading by example!

I'm sure this post will be met with lots of scorn and parsing -- but the indisputable fact is that it the only realm in which Chapel Hill is bike friendly is in some people's minds!

Try to stay safe!

I just returned from CNC Struday traveling from West Jefferson NC to Currituck with approximately 1000 other riders of all ages, sizes, abilities. I saw all kinds of bad driving and bicycle riding but I also saw an equal amount of considerate driving and riding. Here is a link if you are interested.

http://ncsports.org/cncevent1.php

When people find out I commute and ride a lot I usually get bombarded with stories of bicycle riders not sharing the road with examples ad nauseum. I have my own stories of brushes with motor vehicles. My stock reply is that their are jerks in cars and jerks on bikes. If you venture out into traffic on a bicycle I wish you luck. I go out of my way to avoid Estes and other roads to reduce my chances of being on the wrong end of a drivers poor abilities and consideration, but even that doesn't always work. From what I have read you are most at risk from someone dragging a trailer, they make it past you but the trailer clips you when they compensate for passing you. Just something to keep in mind.
Not enough jerks out there to keep me off my bike.

THe forthcoming improvements on Estes Drive Extension will be primarily for the benefit of cyclists, but they will not technically be bikelanes - the widened shoulder will be just like the recently widened shoulder between MLK and Seawell School Road in Carrboro.

I am really proud of the spriti of cooperation that the Carrboro Board of Aldermen and the Chapel Hill Town Council showed in making this funding decision. I understand that that state DOT will now have to bid out the project as the next step.

Carrboro is also working on a plan to create a bike path that will connect Estes Drive Extension to Wilson Park and then to Williams Street in Carrboro to allow cyclists to get off of Estes more rapidly.

Additionally, somewhat longer term, we are planning a greenway that will extend from the Bolin Creek Greenway in Chapel Hill all the way to Homestead Road and from there tow Elementary School #10 on Eubanks Road in Carrboro (much of that greenway will be part of either private developments such as Winmore or the Carolina North Development). This greenway will also have spur connections to Seawell School Road and Carolina North itself.

I believe the adopted Chapel Hill greenway plan calls for the eventual connection of these greenways by passing underneath Estes Drive Extension so that cyclists and pedestrians would not necessarily have to compete with cross traffic on Estes.

The entire plan would connect from Elementary School #10 in Carrboro to the Chapel Hill Community Center across from University Mall. And I think Chapel Hill is looking at how to connect from there to still other bike/ped corridors regionally.

Matt C,

I'm not sure what you've been doing for the last eight years (or for the last one or two for that matter) but I and many others have been serving on Town advisory boards and working with the Chapel hill Town Council to make Chapel Hill more bike and pedestrian and transit friendly. And while it is very easy to complain and point out deficiencies, I can assure you that it is a lot harder to actually work to change those deficiencies. Change involves (1) money, (2) time and (3) citizen willingness. As a Council candidate I would hope that you are aware that the majority of roads in CH are NCDOT-maintained and thus making changes to them involves securing NCDOT permission. NCDOT has been traditionally automobile-centric and reluctant to include bicycle facilities in anything it is involved with. Getting bike lanes on the new section of MLK Jr. Blvd. was difficult as what getting NCDOT to agree to bike lanes on the S. Columbia St. improvements and the Weaver Dairy Rd. improvements.

Every development project that comes before Council is required to include bike lanes (where appropriate), sidewalks and roadway designs to allow transit. Where possible (and affordable) the Town tries to fill the gap every year from its operating budget or bond monies.

I apologize if my tone is less than amicable but as someone who has been involved with trying to improve the facilities you so readily criticize and who has watched the Council work extremely hard to do the same I find your criticism of those efforts to be both unfounded and self-serving.

Jose,

I found myself reading this thread and wondering, "Okay, so how long will it take Jose to connect this issue back to the lack of housing in CH/C?" Answer: it didn't take long.

I hadn't thought about the direct connection between bike safety and housing/zoning policies. Thanks.

-ken

At the risk of droning on about all this, let me add that Carrboro is also working on a Morgan Creek Greenway that will run along the various neighborhoods along the bypass (the greenway will be on the other side of these neighborhoods, away from the highway).

The Carrboro Morgan Creek Greenway will connect with the Chapel Hill Morgan Creek Greenway which has already been approved and funded (I think). That greenway will run from Smith Level Road to 15-501 I believe and may allow for some interconnection with some existing trails in Southern Village. Can someone from Chapel Hill correct me or back me up on that?

Matt C, I am glad you did post here and I am glad I read it. Cycling-friendliness is my #1 request for any town official. You got my vote right there. I hadn't heard of you before, but then I don't follow a lot of politics until right before an election. I read the blurb in the paper that week and then go cast my vote. Make sure cycling is in your blurb.

So none of you has those stickers that say "Calvander" next to a picture of a bike with a ghostbusters-slash through it?

Having lived way out in the western part of the county (and then chatham) I can tell you that a lot of folks don't like having their neighborhoods treated like parks. Of course, I'm in town now and feel the same way - hundreds of folks act like gimghoul is some kind of recreational facility. You learn to deal with it.

In both cases, though, the problem is when neither party is willing to share. The only time I got truly upset driving the long way home was when a critical mass occupied a 300 yard stretch of road, allowing not a single passing opportunity for 12 miles. That was annoying, but rare. In town, the joggers who don't recognize the difference between a sidewalk and the road...they take their lives in their hands.

d

Lots of ill will towards bicyclists. Last issue Bicycling magazine had an article on the history of Critical Mass. As an avid cyclists it doesn't bother me to be delayed by that type of demonstration, but I also know I don't need much help in nurturing motorists hatred of bicycles. Share the road to me is a good way to try and nurture better relations, but some people just don't see it that way.
Kudos to Mark Chilton who I have seen riding his bicycle up Estes to N. Greensboro, a ride I avoid. It is encouraging to know in Carrboro we have a mayor who rides his bike, one of many reasons I support him, that said because I learned long ago not to vote for a canddiate on just one issue.

d siler--As someone who likes to walk in the Ghimgoul neighborhood in the spring...are you saying you'd rather we stayed in our own neighborhoods?

Perhaps you should ask the Sisters to quit planting such a lovely garden.

Oh, and I have an OWASA easement that runs through my backyard that many people seem to think is part of the Bolin Creek Greenway. I don't object to sharing. And my yard really IS private property. OWASA has an easement, but we own (and pay taxes) on the property. I just wish people would keep their dogs leashed.

As to bicycles...I always give them their space. They have as much right to the road as I. Irritates people behind me on occasion...I won't pass unless there is REALLY room.

I try to bike as much as possible. And I'm a big advocate for commuter rights. However, I must admit, I do get frustrated with recreational riders at times. (Of course, I always give as much space as possible, or just wait until I can turn off).

I give bikers as much room as possible. I've been buzzed a number of times and suffered a lot of verbal abuse from folks who yell at me on my bike (it's puzzling, but it's something about a big yellow cruiser that sets people off).

As a biker, I also respect basic rules of traffic (stop signs, etc), which is a rarity in CH/C.

But, if someone is using a road as a recreational facility, then I do get a little irritated. Some roads are too narrow to share. I'm not sure of the solution. But the debate should differentiate folks who use bikes as a means of functional transportation and folks who use bikes as a hobby/exercise/etc.

Jeremy, I'm glad you're reading this site (and perhaps others) to learn about local candidates. Just make sure to evaluate what they can DO (or have done) in addition to what they SAY.

I hope all you bicycling enthusiasts will take some time out to think about how the development process for schools could be modified to ensure that children can bike and/or walk to school. For example, Carrboro High was sited on the edge of town with the majority of school age children on the opposite side of a major roadway that has no sidewalks or bikelanes. The new elementary school under development on Eubanks Road is in the same situation. Please tell your elected officials and candidates that schools need to be sited close to where children live and where there are safe, non-vehicular routes to school.

That really is a good point, Terri. The county and the school system do not seem to be taking walkability and bike-ability into account adequately in selecting some of these sites.

Fortunately a greenway is in the works from Lake Hogan Farms and Homestead Road to Elementary School #10, but the question is what priority the county will place on building the path through Twin Creeks County Park to get there.

Also, we are close to having a deal worked out with NCDOT to get bicycle lanes and sidewalks along Smith Level Road from Morgan Creek up to the road leading to Carrboro High School. Chapel Hill and Carrboro are both working on building the Morgan Creek greenway that will connect many neighborhoods along Culbreth Road and the bypass to the forthcoming bikelanes and sidewalks on Smith Level Road.

I'm very hopeful that Smith Level Road will become more bicycle friendly for school kids and recreational bikers Mark. I appreciate the Board of Alderman's support for the Smith Level Road Task force and for the Morgan Creek Greenway. But from our task force's research, we found that the single greatest need in terms of getting kids to Carrboro High is a greenway from Southern Village to Smith Level Road (Chapel Hill jurisdiction). Southern Village has the mass volume of school kids in southern Orange County. Unfortunately that greenway is nothing more than a passing idea at this time.

A key element of making Chapel Hill bike friendly is to get as many cyclists on the road as possible so that it becomes harder and harder for motorists to behave aggressively. It's great to know the Town Council and the Sierra Club are leading by example!

I'm afraid to tell you this, because it will burst your bubble, but if bicyclists get more agressive, motorists will too. And the motorists will always win in a pushing contest. Perhaps you should accept what you cannot change and be a better traveler on area roads. It will reflect on your character and you'll have more "allies" on the road than "enemies".

Yes, and from Heritage Hills/Star Point to Carrboro High School would also be great.

I thought one of the key points of the siting Carrboro High School was that the kids from Southern VIllage would all walk/bike to school? Wasn't that one of the selling points?

I know that one kid bikes to Carrboro High from Southern Village and there is a safe, easy path (don't know the details).

With regard to this issue and any other issue, you need to differentiate between (a) how things are now and (b) how you want them to be someday. Many people here are basically saying “bike, bike, bike” but simple observation tells you that it is dangerous to bike in certain circumstances. In fact, in the first post in this thread the poster says “While on my morning bicycle ride, minding my own business along the road's virtually nonexistent shoulder, a driver whipping past me clipped my left hip and the edge of my left handlebar,” which is an admission that for practical purposes s/he was in the wrong (since if a road's shoulder is virtually nonexistent then it is not safe to bike there) and yet nobody took him/her to task on it. The POV of “people should bike under any circumstances” that some people take here does nothing but endanger bikers and increase stress amongst drivers (which in turns endangers bikers even more).

Saying “We need to provide safe biking options” is another topic entirely. There is a separate set of issues that go along with that. But that involves changing existing conditions in town, whereas just saying “bike, bike, bike” tells people to bike now regardless of current conditions.

Someone actually wrote “A key element of making Chapel Hill bike friendly is to get as many cyclists on the road as possible so that it becomes harder and harder for motorists to behave aggressively.” That is just crazy. And apparently that person is actually running for office. I hope that anyone that makes such reckless statements is not elected to any office.

I almost hit a biker with my car on South Columbia St on Saturday night. I was coming up the hill, making the rightward curve, near Mason Farm Rd. The stretch of South Columbia St from Mason Farm Road down to the overpass is too dangerous for anyone to ever bike on and yet this person was biking in the dark with no reflective clothing nor reflective gear on the bike. (The topic of how things will change when South Columbia St is widened is a separate thing that I'll save for another post.) If I had hit this person with my car it would have ruined my life even though I would not have been my fault and I'd have felt no legal repercussions. And part of the reason people don't hesitate to bike in such conditions is that the ethic promoted is “Bike, just bike, no matter what.”

There are three possibilities. They are:

1. Have a safe place for biking and encourage biking.
2. Have an unsafe place for biking and discourage biking.
3. Have an unsafe place for biking and encourage biking.

Numbers 1 and 2 are good. Number 3 is bad.

Okay, so there is a fourth possibility too, that being having a safe place for biking while discouraging biking, but I don't think we're in danger of that happening around here.

Jose,

Thanks for your excellent post. I think there is also another possibility (good) that hasn't been addressed: We have a bike and pedestrian plan for Chapel Hill (which was created several years ago by the hard work of advisory boards, citizens, and Council) which addresses those areas which have suitable bike facilities and those areas which are recommended to have suitable bike facilities in the future. A more suitable statement by a candidate for office who is a declared advocate of bicycling would have been to present a plan for increased implementation of the existing bike and pedestrian plan. I suspect that this candidate is unaware that such a plan even exists.

Jose says:

"In fact, in the first post in this thread the poster says 'While on my morning bicycle ride, minding my own business along the road's virtually nonexistent shoulder, a driver whipping past me clipped my left hip and the edge of my left handlebar,' which is an admission that for practical purposes s/he was in the wrong (since if a road's shoulder is virtually nonexistent then it is not safe to bike there) and yet nobody took him/her to task on it."

Please explain where you get the idea that, as either a formal or a practical matter, when a bicyclist is hit by a driver on a road with little to no shoulder, the bicyclist is the one in the wrong.

This was certainly not the position taken by the woman who clipped me, Jose. She pulled over immediately and, through teary eyes, apologized profusely, saying that she had not seen me on the road at all. This is in fact how most auto-bicycle and auto-motorcycle accidents occur: drivers of cars scan for other cars but do not scan as effectively for other vehicle profiles, like bikes and motorcycles. That is the fault of the car driver who does not look attentively at the road, as the woman who swiped me recognized. It is not the fault of the bicyclist.

I'm sorry you had a bad experience the other night, Jose. But that doesn't mean that every car-bike interaction is like the one you were involved in.

I used to live in Davis, California - renowned for its bike friendliness. One writer mentioned that a lot of developments here are dead-end cul-de-sacs. Davis had this same type of issue many places, but more times than not they would put in short pedestrian/bike connectors to alleviate the situation. I think this is a great solution, much better than better networked roads which would just encourage more shortcut driving through neighborhoods.

Davis required newly built neighborhoods to include greenways/bike paths in them, and then did an admirable job of interconnecting them. Of course, Davis isn't quite as old as Chapel Hill/Carrboro, so they were able to begin this policy much closer to the start of their build-out and hence it was very effective. It's encouraging to see developments like Winmore incorporating greenways that, although they might currently seem a bit pointless since they don't go from/to anywhere, will provide the private resources to be already in place for the towns to connect in the future.

One other question for folks I had about the Critical Mass ride - I had also seen the article in Bicycling and had attempted to make a post here about Critical Mass in CH/Carrboro. I have seen legacy web sites mentioning a Critical Mass in Chapel Hill in the past. I was wondering if it has dissolved for any particular reason? Do you think it is something worth resurrecting, or would it just cause more driver angst against bicyclists? I've asked a number of acquaintences and have gotten responses either way.

- John

I live out in the country and am often put in dificult positions with bike riders out here on roads that were designed for cars and not bikes. That's just an unfortunate fact. I wish the roads all had bike lanes.

Mark M,

I think a lot of us feel the same way as you do but unfortunately the only asphalt/cement that NCDOT is usually interested in putting down is that traversed by cars. Getting DOT to respond to a request to widen the shoulders of some of our country roads to give cyclists even a modicum of space is almost always a lost cause. And it is usually too costly for a municipality to take over the maintenance of such roads which would then allow them to make such changes on their own.

Mark Marcopolis writes, "...roads that were designed for cars and not bikes"

This is a mis-characterization of the roadways. Please re-read chapter six of your drivers handbook. The abstract paragraph on the DMV website regarding chapter 6 states...

"Our streets and highways are becoming more crowded every day. Therefore, it is necessary that you, as a driver or pedestrian, know and practice the rules of the road. You should always be aware of the traffic around you and be prepared for emergency situations."

http://www.ncdot.org/dmv/driver_services/drivershandbook/#Chapter%206

The chapter goes on to make clear that the roads are to be shared. Exceptions to this idea are imagined. Those exceptions may also be prudent. But the exceptions do not absolve a motorist of being aware of their surroundings. (Of course, they also do not absolve a cyclist of being a good driver. Cyclists must also follow the rules of the road.)

Crowded roads mean all citizens must share more. It does not mean roads are designed for cars only. Although crowded roads are a reality, all drivers civic responsibilities remain the same.

George, I know that's the way it is. I just think some bike riders reaction to that reality is that they deserve to have the road shared with them. Trouble is, there's often not enough to share. The roads were designed for cars period. Now what do we do?

Mark:

Simple. Share the road. It's not hard and it's the law.

--Bob

Isn't the main problem here one of remaining realistic about the possible role of biking in the overall transportation picture?

I am a casual, recreational biker hoping to be fit enough one day to get around and over the hills here. I try to get my kids thinking this way and look forward to an expanded greenway system.

But with the hilly nature of this area, I don't see how biking will ever be a means of routine transportation for a significant number of people here - especially with the free bus service. How then can bikers demand such expenditures when such a small proportion of taxpayers will use them? It makes the strongest advocates seem like just another lobby for the interests of a very small group at the expense of the many.

Carrboro is somewhat different because it is relatively compact and level along Greensboro. Since Chapel Hill has built out in such a sprawling fashion due to the terrain, bike commuting will always be for the few, the hardy, the brave.

Speaking of which - Eric, did that driver even stop or know he clipped you?

Mark,
I personally believe (and state law states) that cars must share the roads with cyclists. Although this can be very difficult (as well as inconvenient for car drivers and probably somewhat scary for bike riders) it works if a driver slows down, determines if it is safe to pass (i.e, can the car swing out into the other lane to give the cyclist enough room) and also makes sure that the sight-line allows them to know that another car is not coming from the other direction (i.e., don't pass on hills or curves). What we really need to do is beef up driver education regarding the rights of cyclists and to incorporate this education into driver license renewal processes that involve more than simple eye exams.

> she had not seen me on the road at all. This is in fact how most
> auto-bicycle and auto-motorcycle accidents occur: drivers of cars scan
> for other cars but do not scan as effectively for other vehicle profiles,
> like bikes and motorcycles.

Cyclists can makemselves more visible by riding closer to the center of the lane. Hugging the curb, or the door-zone, causes other problems too: gutter areas are often full of debris, broken pavement. Such obstacles tend to cause a curb-hugging cyclist to make sudden lateral moves, unexpected by a following motorist.

> I don't see how biking will ever be a means of routine transportation for a significant number of people here - especially with the free bus service.

Bus, and rail, service is symbiotic with biking. A rule of thumb for transportation designers is that each stop or depot serves about a half-mile radius. Even the most casual of cyclists will bike ten times that radius--that's one hundred times the service area. The single-occupant, oversized, fossil fuel burning vehicle has a dubious future as a means of routine transportation for a significant number of people everywhere, especially in a nation fast depleting its petroleum reserves and with a decling domestic vehicle idustry.

> How then can bikers demand such expenditures when such a small proportion of taxpayers will use them?

The expenditure needed is for sufficient lane width to allow motorists to safely pass cyclists within the lane. A large proportion of taxpayers benefit from having sufficient lane width to safely overtake a cyclist.

I don't know how to do quotes on here but David above said "But with the hilly nature of this area, I don't see how biking will ever be a means of routine transportation for a significant number of people here - especially with the free bus service."

I have lived in Carrboro, Chapel Hill, and out South of town past southern village and I have always biked to work at UNC almost every day (except rain and snow days) in all of these places, even when 15-501 south didn't have bike lanes or sidewalks. It was faster for me to bike from south of town (even with the monster purefoy hill) than it was to drive to the SV park and ride and take the bus, on most days. I can't speak for the northern areas of town - but is it realistic to think that biking is possible for a significant number of people? If they live nearby, yes. I think the problem is that many of the people who work here don't live in town. You see how the park and ride lots are full all the time, I don't think those people are driving from in town to go park there and ride the bus in, but I may be wrong.

Hills are not a problem - they just take some getting used to. If you are out of shape or unwilling to ride the hills, it will be a challenge then, but I might suggest a bike with better gear ratios that are better for hills. Right now I am going up the Pritchard Avenue Extension hill every day to go to work and I cannot think of a steeper hill in town. I am in the lowest gear on a mountain bike and it feels like it would be faster to walk it up sometimes but it is a heck of a lot faster than waiting for the bus down there.

I ride the bike not just for work commuting but for going out in the evenings, visiting a store for less than a pack's worth of stuff, etc.

There is a long bike rack behind my building that can hold 30 bikes or so and it is almost always full in the morning. There are several other long bike racks around the corner that are also highly populated when I get to work. What is a 'significant number' to you?

While my experience from the north of town (i.e. it's faster to bike than to wait for the bus and ride) is the same as Jeremy's, I know I had trouble getting started with the whole bike commuting thing.

When I moved to an apartment complex off of Piney Mountain back in '96, I was a novice cyclist. I was really scared of the hills on Airport (MLK), and it took me a while before I felt comfortable even trying it. Yes, after a week of commuting I was fine with the hill, but then again, I started out in decent non-biking shape. While to you and me the hills are manageable, I know from experience that they really scare the novice.

(BTW, if you think Pritchard is bad, try going up/down "Lone Pine Road" sometime.... I never lived there, but it's a part of a friend's "hill intervals" route.)

Mark M.,

You said: "There's often not enough [road] to share."

That's only true if the car driver does not care to slow down for the bike and pass the bike when it's safe to do so.

Jose, I bike up the stretch of S. Columbia that approaches
Mason Farm every day. It's dangerous
and confusing for bicyclists even in broad daylight.
Going straight thru that intersection on a bike requires
the most defensive maneuver and requires making eye
contact with the motorists turning right.
Of course it's stupid for a bicyclist to navigate it at
night with no lights. That stretch has an added wrinkle,
namely that a number of its drivers are patients driving
to the ACC who aren't Chapel Hill locals, and aren't
as sensitive to bicyclists as most local drivers are.
The DOT knows about this, and DOT's design for the
roads improvement will help the situation a great deal.

Just as an aside for those of you talking about S. Columbia - if you are coming from south of town then you can go up purefoy at merrit store, take a left at the end and come out behind the parking deck. I feel like that is a much safer route to take but if you are already biking in that area, you probably already considered alternate routes.

Although many of CH/C's road are maintained by NCDOT, could we possibly get permission from NCDOT to build separate lanes to the sides of the road, like sidewalks but made of continuous media so biking is easier? Perhaps the towns could provide some tax motivations so that individuals would allow their road-side land to be developed into lanes by the towns?

Jeremy, that kind of shortcut seems like a great, lower cost solution: get the town to work on easements for bike routes that take bikers off heavy car routes like S Columbia and Estes.

Rather than spend so much to add lanes in these tight spots, spend the money on cobbling together a wider network of alternative paths and publish them widely.

Doesn't address the rural areas, of course, but could help with commutes closer in.

BTW, the Estes alternative is to go up Village Dr and cross the RR tracks behind Estes Park Apts, then to Pleasant Dr to Greensboro - tho Estes Park owner isn't too crazy about this, I gather.

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