A workshop full of news for Triangle cyclists

“Attending meetings so you don’t have to”

That’s just one of the services provided in this space by GetGoingNC: sitting through five-hour meetings of city planners, DOT engineers, committee members and elected officials to sift out the nuggets of information useful to you, the recreating public. In this case, the bike riding public.

Friday, I spent the morning with the braintrust of Triangle cycling at the fourth ever Triangle Bicycle & Pedestrian Workshop held at RDU. Representatives from most of the local municipal bicycle and pedestrian advisory committees were in attendance (Cary was absent; oddly, this Bike Friendly Community doesn’t have such a citizen advisory group), as were NCDOT engineers, the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization Bicycle & Pedestrian Stakeholders Group, Triangle J Council Of Governments, the Chapel Hill-based Highway Safety Research Center, the N.C. Metropolitan Mayors Coalition.

Here are the highlights of the five-hour gathering:

* The American Tobacco Trail bridge over I-40 This is the most anticipated bike/ped project in the Triangle, especially among cyclists. Once complete, the bridge and about a mile and a half of connecting greenway will link the 7 miles of ATT finished north of I-40 (from NC 54 north into downtown) and 13.5 miles finished to the south (south from Massey Chapel Road to near New Hill Hill in Wake County). Completion of the bridge and adjoining greenway will create, at 22 miles, the longest multi-use trail in the Triangle. When will that happen? Drum roll please: Bidding goes out in February, contract should be awarded in March, construction begins April/May, the whole shebang could be completed by year’s end, though winter 2012 is more likely. That according to Dale McKeel, Durham’s Bicycle and Pedestrian coordinator.

* Durham, in fact, was full of good news. In addition, according to the Durham Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee’s Scott Carter:

  • Durham’s recently revised (summer 2010) Bike/Hike map went through its initial printing of 2,500 lickity split, prompting a second printing of another 2,500. (It’s available online as well.)
  • A for a few hours last summer, a section of downtown Durham was closed to motor traffic. Four such "ciclovias" are planned for this year.

    Last summer, Durham held its first “ciclovia,” closing off a section of off-downtown to all but bikes and pedestrians; this year, a total of four ciclovias are planned. (Carrboro reported it likely will hold a ciclovia as well.)

  • In case you missed it, Durham earned bronze status last year as a Bike Friendly Community from the League of American Bicyclists.
  • This is a bit of a bummer, but Durham has compiled a map showing where most bike accidents occur in town. The upside: With the map, planners can look at the why and hopefully make these hot spots bike friendlier.

* In Carborro, according to Heidi Perry of that town’s Transportation Advisory Committee (Carrboro includes its bike issues in its overall transportation plan), in addition to the aforementioned ciclovia, the town has, after nearly three decades, achieved a bike- and pedestrian-friendly plan for Smith Level Road. Initially, the plan was for a five-lane road from the Morgan Creek bridge to Woodcrest Street. The approved, $3.5 million project will instead have two lanes, a median, bike lanes and sidewalks.

* Raleigh announced it plans to apply for LAB Bike Friendly Community status. As  Spongebob Squarepants said to Plankton upon the latter’s declaration that he planned to take over the world: “Well, good luck with that.”

* Chapel Hill reported that last week it adopted a “Complete Streets” policy, meaning that from now on they will take into account more than four-wheel-and-up motor vehicles in its transportation planning. (The NCDOT adopted a Complete Streets policy in July 2009, according to NCDOT engineer and workshop presenter Joey Hopkins.)

* John Hodges-Copple, Regional Planning Director for the Triangle J Council of Governments, suggested the audience Google “Ronald Reagan” and “bicycle” when they get a chance. He especially liked the photo of the former president and Dorothy Lamour on a tandem.

* Jennifer Baldwin, senior transportation analyst with City of Raleigh, said to expect a more helpful Google Maps when plotting bike routes through Raleigh. (When Google first announced its bike route mapping feature, intended to take you on the bike-friendliest route possible from Point A to Point B, I entered a crosstown trip from my house in Cary to northeast Raleigh; Google had me taking Capital Boulevard a fair bit of the way). “We’ve been working with them to improve their database,” Baldwin, whose been on the job less than a year, told me during a break.

* In one of the more curious developments announced, Hopkins, the NCDOT engineer, talked about the Triangle Commuter Bicycle Initiative. General goal: to create several transportation routes friendly to bike commuters in the Triangle. Specific goal: to build the initial commuter route from Chapel Hill to Research Triangle Park. This is the curious part: This particular stretch would be underwritten, to the tune of $1 million from the Davis Wealth Management Foundation of Chapel Hill. DWM is the doing of Joe Davis, chairman of Davis Wealth Management Advisors. Joe Davis is also an avid cyclist.

Anyone who’s ever made the ride from Chapel Hill to RTP (I did it — once) will appreciate the TCBI. Under Phase I of the program, 5-foot-wide shoulders would be added to 4.6 miles of roadway — Barbee Chapel, Stagecoach and Massey Chapel roads — from Chapel Hill to the American Tobacco Trail. That project would cost $3.3 million, 60 percent of which has been raised. Phase II is still in the works, but simply getting to the American Tobacco Trail would be a big step: Go north on the ATT to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, which has bike lanes, hang a right and you’re almost to RTP. (And, as mentioned earlier, the 1.5-mile missing link of ATT over I-40 should be done within the year.)

* News that the DWM Foundation is prepared to fund bike-specific transportation programs helped cushion the blow when Julie White took the podium. White is the director of the N.C. Metropolitan Mayors Coalition. As such, she represents 27 of the largest cities in the state, and one of her biggest roles right now is representing them to the N.C. State Legislature, which reconvened in Raleigh last Wednesday. One of her biggest challenges is trying to make sure those 27 municipalities fare as well as possible in light of the state’s projected $3.7 billion budget shortfall. At stake, she says, will be money to fund even the most basic of municipal services. As for leftover money to fund bike projects in the coming year, she was blunt: “The news is not so good.”

Fortunately, she was preceded by plenty that was.

Photo at top: The American Tobacco Trail bridge over I-40 could go from artist’s rendering to reality by year’s end.

5 thoughts on “A workshop full of news for Triangle cyclists”

  1. Joe- thanks a bunch for attending and sharing what went down. I really wanted to attend (work got in the way) and your post saved the day. See you on the road- Branson

    1. Hey Branson! They should hold that meeting annually; it’s a great forum for getting a Trianglewide view of two-wheel transportation developments. Makes you realize there’s a solid effort to get us headed in the right direction.

  2. I mentioned Cary’s absence as well, and someone pointed out to me that some of the speakers did have Cary ties, but still no one specifically spoke on Cary issues. Although there was the mention of a planned (funded?) bike route around Lake Crabtree and alongside Aviation Parkway, which would be most welcome as that’s the route I used to get there (my plan to use the norther mountain bike trails being thwarted by a locked gate), and it was as unpleasant a bike route as I’ve ever been on, especially the narrow stretch of Aviation Parkway where it skirts the edge of the lake.

    As for Raleigh BFC application, from attending the the BPAC meetings I believe that they have no illusions on getting a glowing rating from the LAB. Rather I think they are looking to get a laundry list of items to work on in hopes of a good rating in the future. I’m hoping that Durham and Carrboro’s successes in that area will spark a nice competition and maybe light a fire under Raleigh’s backside.

    1. I live in Cary and with the possible exception of Durham, I think it’s the best city for cycling in the Triangle. I live near Cary Town Centre and can get out into the country on busy roads, but all with extra wide outer lanes. The town has a good cycling plan in place; maybe there’s not a need for a citizen’s advisory group?

      Re: Raleigh, that well could be. I didn’t mean to come down that harsh on Raleigh; Eric Lamb is a definite believer and has done a lot in a short amount of time. Until his arrival, though, there appears to have been very little consideration of bikes in the transportation planning process.

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