In his recent state of the city address, Mayor Steve Schewel reaffirmed his commitment to ensuring the streets of Durham are bicycle and pedestrian friendly and now his vision is coming to life.
Bike Lanes are in our Future
by: Josh Factor
Every year the Durham Transportation Department receives a list of roads that require repaving. Additionally, they look for opportunities to make the streets of Durham safer for all commuters by installing new sidewalks and/or bike lanes.
At the moment, there are four major areas of Durham with new bike lanes and traffic flow for the streets on the horizon.
The first area to hold a meeting to discuss these potential changes was South Roxboro Street. The Hope Valley Farms community came together on March 7 at Southwest Elementary School to discuss the possibility of adding bike lanes to South Roxboro Street. The proposal would turn one of the driving lanes into a bike lane, thereby reducing the road from two driving lanes to one and would run from Shady Creek Drive up to Juliette Drive.
Prior to the meeting, an online poll was taken in which approximately 75% of Hope Valley Farms residents who took the poll voted against this new proposal. However, there were people at the meeting who spoke out in favor of the proposed changes to South Roxboro Street. One of the main arguments in favor of the restriping plans is that it would help make the streets more accessible for bicyclists. Many of the attendees believe the road is unsafe for bicyclists and pedestrians alike due to the high speed at which motorists drive.
Others in attendance, however, thought these plans could lead to more accidents between bicyclists and motorists. As someone as who’s lived in this area for a long time, I could go either way on this debate. While I do think it would be nice to have a bicycle lane, I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary, especially if it’s at the cost of one of the driving lanes. I’ve gotten around South Roxboro just fine without bike lanes for over ten years. This is in part due to the sidewalk that runs along the road which, for the most part, isn’t heavily trafficked. However, for those who aren’t quite as experienced or adept at biking, I do think this would be a benefit.
A decision regarding the installation of the bikes lane will be made in the coming weeks. Regardless of whether or not the restriping proposal comes to fruition, South Roxboro Street will be repaved either late this summer or early this fall. Considering the staggering number of potholes on that road, it certainly could use a fresh coat of asphalt. While the City of Durham does hope that these potential bike lanes will decrease the average speed of drivers, it has no plans, currently, to officially lower the speed limit.
Another area where the City of Durham is looking at the potential to add sidewalks and/or bike lanes to the road is Morreene Road. A community meeting was held on March 14 at the Durham Public Schools Staff Development Center Cafeteria to discuss the prospect of modifying the Morreene Road area to make it more pedestrian and bicycle friendly. I interviewed Bryan Poole of the Durham Transportation Department via email to learn more about the project and find out why they decided now is a good time for this project.
He stated that this particular road was chosen due to the access it provides to Erwin Road, Duke University, and because it provides improved multi-modal connectivity for those living along Morreene Road and in American Village. Also, the changes discussed would provide improved access to existing bus stops, offer pads for future bus stop improvements, and enable connectivity to the long imagined Durham-Orange Light Rail Project. Unlike South Roxboro Street, however, the City has yet to officially discuss whether this bike lane should be paved over one of the driving lanes. Poole did state it would be less costly to pave over the center turn lane.
The City of Durham has already decided to move forward with these new additions to the road. The project will involve adding 1.5 miles of bike lanes and a sidewalk from Erwin Road to Neal Road. It will, however, be a while before we see these plans come to fruition as this project is not scheduled to be completed until August of 2021.
The City of Durham is also debating the possibility of adding sidewalks and bike lanes to a 0.75 mile stretch of Carpenter-Fletcher Road. A community meeting was held on March 27 to discuss the possibility of adding bike lanes and sidewalks to the road. The project would stretch from Woodcroft Parkway to Alston Avenue and would be constructed in accordance with the city’s existing bicycle and pedestrian plans. I interviewed Ellen Beckman, a senior Transportation Planner, via email and she informed me this particular road was selected for bike lanes and sidewalks due to the connectivity it will provide on Woodcroft Parkway and farther West to the American Tobacco Trail.
The project is funded with approximately eighty percent federal transportation funds and a twenty percent local match. The ultimate goal of this project is to improve safety for all road users including pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists, and to encourage more people to walk or bike as an alternative to driving.
Finally, the City of Durham is also discussing the possibility of adding bike lanes and sidewalks to Cornwallis Road. A meeting was held at Rogers-Herr Middle School on March 21 to discuss the details of this project. I interviewed via email Ed Venable, a contract Management Supervisor of the project, who said the project has already been given the green light by the Durham City Council. Unlike the previous projects, these facilities and changes will be implemented on the entire length of the road from Old Chapel Hill Road to South Roxboro Street for a total of 1.2 miles. What also makes this project different from the others is these bike lanes will not be paved over existing hardtop. Instead, the City of Durham will be widening the road to accommodate these new lanes. This is how all bike lanes should be added, whenever possible.
It’s good to see the city investing in a future that makes travelling accessible for drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians alike. So regardless of how you get around, just remember how important it is to be mindful of others and share the road. This will help to ensure a friendlier, safer Durham for everyone.
*April is distracted driving awareness month. Is that text really more important than someone’s life?