Tag Archives: greenways

Update: The Triangle’s evolving bicycle-pedestrian Scene


Progress never comes fast enough.
That was evident at this morning’s Fourth Annual Triangle Bike and Pedestrian Workshop, where local transportation planners got together to talk about progress made in 2013 and share what’s on the drawing board for this year and beyond. Nothing like getting a look under the tree a year or more in advance.

Still, presents are presents. One of the less tangible gifts was the presence of NCDOT Secretary Tony Tata, who seems keen on the idea of an inclusive NCDOT.
“One of the reasons people move here at such a high rate is the standard of living issue,” he said, noting that greenways, sidewalks and safe roads for bikes — non-motorized transportation, that is — is a big part of that package.
In the progress department, there were the usual front-runners.

Cary Transportation Planning Engineer Todd Delk kicked off the morning workshop at The Cary, the newly renovated Cary theater on East Chatham Street, with the town’s bike/ped resume:

  • 70-plus miles of greenway, more than 50 miles of which is paved
  • 400-plus miles of sidewalk
  • 25 miles of striped bike lanes or lanes with sharrows
  • 89 miles of signed bike routes
  • Most roads, and all new roads, have extra-wide outside lanes
  • read more

    Charlotte ranks 36th among 50 largest U.S. cities

    On the plus side, Charlotte has the all-in-one National Whitewater Center.

    I wrote the following for the Charlotte Observer, where it appeared Aug. 20, 2013. It appears here with links. A report on Raleigh’s ranking ran in this spot on Tuesday, Aug. 20.

    According to the American College of Sports Medicine, Charlotte wheezes in at No. 36 in the recent fittest ranking of the nation’s 50 largest metro areas. (Raleigh trotted in far better at No. 15.)
    The American Fitness Index, introduced in 2007, ranks cities in 30 categories ranging from acres of parkland and number of farmers markets, to number of smokers and people with heart disease, to the percentage of residents with health insurance.
    On the newest ranking, released in May, Charlotte was cited as lacking in 19 of the 30 categories. Compared to the nation as a whole, it’s got an excessive number of smokers and obese residents, a higher number of residents with diabetes and heart disease and not enough primary health care providers.
    It’s also lacking in playgrounds, dog parks, ball fields, rec centers, swimming pools and tennis courts, according to the index.
    On the plus side, it has more farmers markets and acres of parkland per capita and fewer people who die from diabetes. The area evaluated was the Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill Metropolitan Statistical Area.
    The findings didn’t surprise Hall Rubin, who moved to the area three years ago. Rubin previously lived in the Triangle, where he founded and headed a 400-member Meetup group that hiked, biked and paddled three or four times a week.
    “There are opportunities in Charlotte,” says the semi-retired Rubin, “but you really have to look for them.”
    For instance, he says, “There are a few long, linear greenways in Charlotte, but they aren’t connected. You have to put your bike on the car and drive to them.”
    Ken Tippette, the manager of the Bicycle Program for Charlotte’s Department of Transportation says it’s no surprise Charlotte took a hit in the ranking for having a low percentage of residents who bike or walk to work. Years of planning have conspired against residents making short commutes by bike or foot.
    But Tippette says efforts are underway to change the situation.
    The city is planning the Cross-Charlotte Trail, a nonmotorized passage that would run 26 miles, from Pineville on the south side of town to UNC Charlotte.
    The $35 million project is expected to take 10 years to complete. He adds that the city has come a long way in a decade: In 2003, Charlotte had 1 mile of marked bike lane; today it has 75 miles and another 44 miles of greenways.
    And the city’s new B-Cycle program that lets people rent and ride bicycles parked in uptown Charlotte and other sites just turned a year old. Nearly 500 annual memberships exceeded the program’s expectations by 40 percent, and the more than 11,000 one-day riders surpassed expectations by a whopping 1,600 percent, program officials said. The bikes have made 32,000 trips in a year.
    And, there’s the Carolina Thread Trail, an effort to build a trail network in 15 counties linking 2.3 million people.
    Charlotte’s presence in the heart of tobacco country also weighed against the region. Nearly 19 percent of residents smoke, about 6 percent above the national average.

    N.C. Prevention Partners, a nonprofit that works to reduce early death from preventable illness, says the tobacco situation is gradually improving.
    A growing number of tobacco-free facilities – public schools, acute care hospitals and restaurants among them – is helping to discourage smoking. The nonprofit continues to push for a $1 increase in the state cigarette tax, which it believes would keep more than 89,000 children a year from taking up smoking.
    Charlotte also struck out for having an overweight population: 27.8 percent of residents qualify as obese, compared with the national average of 21.3 percent.
    N.C. Prevention Partners isn’t quite as optimistic on the obesity front, noting that statewide, the figures are even higher: 2 of 3 Tar Heel adults are overweight or obese, while 28 percent of high school students are likewise.
    “For the first time in 200 years, today’s generation might not live as long as their parents,” the nonprofit notes on its website.
    Tippette, the Charlotte Bicycle Program manager, says the American Fitness Index also fails to take into account the new bike share program – Charlotte B-cycle – launched last year, or the fact that an increasing number of commuters are using their bikes and the city’s Lynx light rail system to get to work.
    Says Tippette, “You can hardly ride the train and not see a person with a bike on it.”

    A perfect weekend taps our resources

    Umstead State Park, Raleigh

    The forecast for this weekend could not be better. Early morning lows in the low to mid-40s, daytime highs in the mid-60s to 70. Sunny.

    Perfect fall weather — but you never know how long it will last. Thus, you are obligated this weekend to take advantage. A reminder about some GetGoingNC.com resources to help you plan your fun.

    Hiking This forecast, coupled with the onset of fall color, makes this weekened perhaps best suited for taking a hike. A reminder that we have teamed with Great Outdoor Provision Co. to create a collection of five great places to hike in and near seven of North Carolina’s largest metro areas. You can find that guide here. You can find more information on hiking destinations at our sister site, NCHikes.com.

    Paddling Again, our collaboration with Great Outdoor Provision has resulted in five great places to paddle in and near seven of North Carolina’s big cities. Find out about those paddles here.  And if you’re in need to a boat, check out our list of 41 Places to Rent a Canoe or Kayak in North Carolina.

    Greenways A walk? A run? A bike ride? A trip with the family? You can do it all on North Carolina’s greenways. And you can find greenways throughout the state on our Greenway

    Guide, accessible on left sidebar on our home page.

    Climbing If you want to take advantage of the perfect weather in a somewhat diabolical manner, check out your neighborhood climbing gym. During the day this weekend, it’s likely to be deserted.

    Update: House Creek Greenway 75 percent paved

    Raleigh’s highly anticipated 3-mile House Creek Greenway is scheduled to open in March. Sunday, I took a little inspection tour. More about that in a sec. First, about that “highly anticipated” description.

    In Raleigh’s rapidly expanding greenway network, 3 miles isn’t a lot. The system consists of close to 70 miles at this point, and this 3-mile stretch is dwarfed, sizewise, by another stretch also under construction: the 28-mile Neuse River Trail, which opened its first 6.5-mile stretch in October and expects to be completely done — from the Falls dam south to the Johnston County line — in 2013.

    House Creek is being closely watched because it will link the 11-mile Crabtree Creek Trail to the north with the Reedy Creek Trail and 22 miles of connected trail to the south. That southern stretch runs from Southeast Raleigh through the N.C. State and Meredith campuses, through the N.C. Museum or Art, through Umstead State Park and into Cary — almost to Bond Park. Completion of House Creek will create 36 miles of connected greenway. Hence, “highly anticipated,” “closely watched,” “eagerly awaited,” “drooled over” — your pick.

    So, will this 36-mile connection happen this spring? Looks like it.

    From the northern trailhead, at Blue Ridge Road and Crabtree Valley Avenue, where it joins the Crabtree Creek Trail, the House Creek Greenway is paved for a mile and a half to the south.

    Note for liability purposes: “paved” does not equal “open.” No signs are up, for one, and the bridge over House Creek lacks guardrails. There are, no doubt, other little things discernible only to the keen eyes of the contractor and the City of Raleigh that need to be finished before the greenway is deemed open for public use. This caveat applies to all subsequent mentions of trail being “paved.” We resume our post, in progress.

    The trail remains unpaved for the next 0.6 of a mile south, through the box culvert tunnel under Lake Boone Trail up to where it crosses Horton Street. Pavement resumes at Horton Street and continues for 0.6 of a mile. The last 0.2 miles to House Creek’s southern trailhead, where it Ts into Reedy Creek Trail, also is unpaved.

    The vital connection House Creek makes between Raleigh’s two longest stretches of existing greenway isn’t the only reason to eagerly anticipate/drool over this stretch of trail. Though it’s always within earshot of busy I-440 — and frequently within eyeshot, especially in winter — it has stretches with a wild, escapist charm. Between Horton Street and Lake Boone Trail the greenway snuggles up to a rocky stretch of House Creek where exposed rock defines much of the creek bottom. Three stretches pass through forest dominated by cell-tower-straight poplars, there’s a nice passage through grassy Glen Eden Pilot Park and a surprising number of hills help House Creek avoid the monotony common to many greenways, which tend to follow floodplains. A nice escape for walkers, a challenging 6-mile out-and-back workout for runners, a good urban bike ride for families, considering there is only one street crossing (albeit a busy one, across Blue Ridge Road at the north end).

    Another quick caveat: Tempting though it may be, do not access the House Creek Greenway by parking in the Ridgewood Shopping Center lot at Ridge Road and Wade Avenue, and picking up the new Ridge Road spur. Signs in the QR parking lot warn against greenway users using the lot; from what we’ve heard, there’s some bite behind those words. A better bet: park at the N.C. Museum of Art off Blue Ridge Road at Reedy Creek Road and take the Reedy Creek Trail east.

    Again, that is, after the trail officially opens.
    View House Creek Trail in a larger map