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Promoting safer streets for everyone

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The white ghost bikes parked along Hillandale Road and Duke University Road in Durham mark where cyclists have been killed by motorists within the last years.

These tragedies have renewed Bike Durham's resolve to make cyclists and motorists feel safer and more confident on the road.

"The fact is that cyclists are not seen and respected as users of the road," says current board member Jack Warman. "We're just trying to foster a great bicycle culture in Durham, both around enjoyment and safety."

The all-volunteer organization began in 2012, based on bicycle coalition models that had already begun in other bike-friendly cities like San Francisco. Bike Durham's work includes several approaches: political advocacy with city officials, educational programs, and public outreach.

"I think that having confident, well-educated, and visible cyclists who cause drivers to notice them more is the first step," says board member Christin Lampkowski.

The past year was a huge year of growth for the nascent organization. Bike Durham members have participated in design reviews with transportation officials and neighborhood associations, and in a bike safety seminar with the DATA bus operators to help drivers understand how to drive alongside cyclists.

This year, they are pushing to begin implementing "complete streets," a transportation design concept that would make roads suitable for buses, bikes, pedestrians, light rail and cars. Durham's Comprehensive Plan, a vision for how the city wants to grow and develop by 2020, includes provisions for complete streets throughout the city, though these proposals have yet to be implemented.

Bike Durham also hopes to expand public resources and educational programs for beginner and experienced cyclists alike. "We know there are people who would like to bike but don't know how to get started," Lampkowski says

Lampkowski also detailed plans for a crash resource center, especially in light of the deaths last fall, which would be a one-stop resource for how to report and handle crashes and provide a space for cyclists to share their crash experiences.

Although their membership has risen to "one or two hundred" in the last year by Warman's estimate, Bike Durham's goals often exceed the manpower they can marshall because they remain an all-volunteer force. Currently, Bike Durham needs the most assistance in planning the organization's public outreach events, and is looking for a volunteer coordinator. Says Warman: "We're so eager to have folks join in and help."

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