by Bob Geary
[Update 2, Monday, 11:30 p.m. So if you had Option 3 in the pool, congratulations! Option 3 — see below — calls for bike lanes, a center-turn lane and parking on one side of Hillsborough Street. That would be the south (the YMCA) side. The City Council's Comp Plan Committee, meeting this afternoon, decided unanimously that a center-turn lane is needed and so are bike lanes. So parking on the north side had to go. Good call. The committee's decision is in the form of a recommendation to the full Council,
which meets tomorrow which has since met and approved the compromise 8-0..
[The committee also wants the Council to consider — i.e., find some money for — a pedestrian refuge of some kind where folks cross the street from the YMCA's parking lot on the north side to the Y on the south side. A refuge could be as simple as a small, raised hunk of concrete with a sign in it, something like what's in front of Oberlin Village on Oberlin Road. I know the city can spend lots of money on such things. Or, somebody could get out their wheelbarrow, mix up some cement and bolt it to the road.
[Lest I be accused on traffic engineering w/o a license — I'm kidding :) ]
[Update, Thursday, 9:30 a.m. The Comp Plan Committee didn't decide the question at yesterday's meeting. But there seemed to be a consensus among the three members — Russ Stephenson, Bonner Gaylord and Randy Stagner — that H'boro Street must have bike lanes. That would suggest Option 3, which puts parking spaces only on the south (YMCA) side of the street. A variation would move the parking to the north side. The idea of a hybrid solution is still on the table. That would give you bike lanes and parking on both sides in some places, while in other places a center-turn lane would displace the parking on one side or the other. Picture curves in the two car-travel lanes to make room for a short center-turn segment at intersections such as Woodburn Road, Park Drive and at the YMCA entrance.
[The committee scheduled another meeting for 3 p.m. Monday. They're trying to wrap this up before the next full Council meeting on Tuesday, where a final decision could be made.]
What follows is the original post from 3/14:
It's a beautiful day in the Cap City, which means it's a great day to talk about — oh, good lord, not this again — bike lanes on Hillsborough Street.
No, not bike lanes on H'boro Steet up by the university. That's sort-of settled, with lanes added belatedly to the big street re-do up there and working OK or not OK depending on who you ask.
No, it's worse than that.
This time, the issue is whether to have bike lanes on H'boro Street between the roundabout at Oberlin Road and the roundabout at Morgan Street. In the stretch in front of the Velvet Cloak and the YMCA, in other words.
The issue is up for discussion today at 5 p.m. in City Council chambers by the Council's Comprehensive Plan Committee. The committee chair is Russ Stephenson, who favors bike lanes.
Below, I've posted pdf's of the options the Council is considering, including one developed by Stephenson himself. Some of the options have bike lanes. Some don't.
Bicyclists are gathering at the N.C. State Bell Tower at 4 p.m. to ride to the meeting — en masse, which is the only safe way to ride a bike down Hillsborough Street now. There's a Facebook page for their mission, naturally.
They want bike lanes.
The issue is triggered by the fact the the city is getting ready to resurface this stretch of H'boro Street, which would allow for re-striping at little or no cost. So, the question is, do we want a pair of bike lanes striped in? Parking on both sides? S-l-o-w the cars?
Yes. To all of that.
But here's the problem — or people are making it a problem: The street is 54 feet wide. It's wide enough to have two travel lanes, a center-turn lane, two bike lanes and parking on one side.
But it's not wide enough to have all of the above and parking on both sides.
If you want parking on both sides, you either have to give up the center-turn lane or give up the bike lanes.
(And remember, you can't have just one bike lane, any more than you can have just one travel lane for cars. Unless you want to make Hillsborough Street one-way, that is.)
So if you give up the bike lanes, that means bikes must "take the lane" and travel with the car traffic.
Take a look at the eight options developed by city transportation planner Eric Lamb and presented to the Council in January: Hillsborough_Street_Resurfacing_Council_Agenda_Packet_1-30-12.pdf
You'll see what I'm talking about.
Lamb recommended two of the options, one with no bike lanes and parking on both sides of the street (option 2 in the pdf) and one with bike lanes and parking on one side (option 3). His rationale was that you can't do without a center-turn lane given how much traffic (18,000 cars a day) use this stretch of H'boro Street.
Without a center-turn lane, any time a car wants to turn left — going in either direction — all the cars behind come to a halt.
Since then, Councilor Stephenson put together his own "hybrid" option: H-St_Hybrid_Restripe_Diagram_v3.pdf
It has bike lanes, no center-turn lane per se, and parking on both sides, but only in some places. In other places, the parking disappears on one side to allow for a short center-turn lane in places where left turns are most common. Stephenson's not a road designer and he acknowledges that what he's depicting is conceptual, not exact. Lamb is looking at it to see if something like that can work.
Now, a word from your sponsor.
I live in Cameron Park*, which adjoins this part of Hillsborough Street. I drive it all the time. Especially going east — toward downtown, which is also downhill — cars fly down the road. Asking bicyclists to ride with the traffic is asking them to risk their lives.
And in the other direction, which is steadily uphill, bikes riding with the traffic will s-l-o-w the cars to an angry crawl.
Hillsborough Street connects a university with thousands of bicyclists to a downtown that wants to grow but can't grow as much as it wants if it remains as car-dependent as it currently is. Downtown needs "complete streets" that are pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly.
Step one is to make Hillsborough Street pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly.
I've heard the arguments against bike lanes and in favor or "taking the lane." I once wrote a story called "Take the Lane" about how bicyclists can and should ride with traffic — in some places. In places where the traffic is slow-moving. In places where there are lots of bicyclists, and you're not the only bike out there. Tragically, the guy who helped me write that story, Bruce Rosar, was later killed riding his bicycle in a place where too many cars go way too fast for a bicyclist.
Some day, there may be so many bicyclists riding up and down Hillsborough Street and "taking the lane" that bike lanes will be superfluous. When that day comes, bicycles will rule. Cars will travel at bicycle speed. They'll have no choice.
That will be another beautiful day.
But to get from where we are now to that glorious day, we need a transition period. We need to get the first bicyclists out there and riding safely on H'boro Street so other bicyclists will see that it's safe and join them.
When there's so many bicyclists that the bike lanes are jammed — get rid of the bike lanes.
So here's the good part. We are re-striping Hillsborough Street. There's nothing permanent about striping in a pair of bike lanes that can be removed later.
Eventually, we may want to put a raised median in the middle of the street, with openings where cars can turn. Raised medians are great for pedestrian safety.
We may want to bury the utilities and repeat the kind of bold street re-do of Hillsborough Street Phase 1 ... but Phase 1 cost millions of dollars.
So far, there's no plan for a raised median, no plan for underground utilities and no millions of dollars for this stretch of Hillsborough Street.
But we can plan to invite bicyclists onto the street by striping in a pair of temporary bike lanes.
Let's do that, and not repeat the mistake we made in Phase 1, where the median went in and the parking went in (both sides) and the bike lanes were left out and then shoe-horned back in when enough people squawked.
And just to say more thing: The traffic in front of N.C. State (in the Phase 1 stretch) moves very slowly anyway, so it wasn't completely insane to think — as those of us who participated in the original Hillsborough Street Partnership planning thought — that bicycles could be comfortable there sans bike lanes and riding with the traffic.
But in front of the YMCA, the cars fly — and it is insane to think bicycles should just get out there and ride with them.
* Eagle-eyed readers of the Eric Lamb's pdf will note that the Cameron Park Neighborhood Association does not agree with me — or didn't in January, anyway. Since then, I think the CPNA has moved back to a position of open-mindedness. But somehow, the leadership of CPNA rates parking on both sides of the street over bike lanes if it comes down to that. I don't.