There are good things on the horizon for those who want to walk, bike and run Raleigh in 2016, including a (half) day for carless streets and the long-awaited bike-share program.
At a meeting of Raleigh's Bike and Pedestrian Advisory Commission on Monday, downtown resident Molly Stuart pitched her idea to take a half day next October and close city streets to cars, beginning at Chavis Park and running through downtown and down to Glenwood South. That would give joggers, cyclists and families a chance to enjoy streets they might normally avoid.
"To make the streets for one half of one day a place that isn't scary can be pretty magical," Stuart said. "It's just fun to walk or ride at your own pace, and at a place that we've been taught to fear since we were kids."
Other U.S. cities have versions of open streets under different names, like Atlanta's Streets Alive or Austin's Viva Streets (and you know how Raleigh hearts Austin). Stuart emphasized that the streets would only be closed to cars, so people wandering around would still be able to visit shops and eat at restaurants (unlike during road races).
Stuart already has support from advocacy group WakeUp Wake County and local health care organizations. The commission seemed receptive to the idea—though, because this is Raleigh, you can bank on a whole lot of red tape that will need unraveling.
"There would be a high level of logistics associated with this," said Eric Lamb, Raleigh's transportation planning manager. Still, he said October 2016 would be a realistic time frame.
Then, Wake County Commissioner Sig Hutchinson gave BPAC an update on the bike-share program. Hutchinson said private and federal funds are already in place, or at least will be soon; now it's just a matter of convincing the City Council to match those private dollars, about $250,000.
Lamb said the city still has grant money it can put toward a bike-share program, even though Council chose not to fund it during its last budget cycle. Raleigh has until April to get a plan in place before the city loses the federal dollars.
"This really does speak to the coolness that [Raleigh is]," Hutchinson said, "and also, it really speaks to a 21st-century concept of wellness and healthy communities which is so, so important to us."
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