What's in Store for Bicycling in Durham? A Quick Chat with Bryan Poole, Bicycle and Pedestrian Planner for the City | News

What's in Store for Bicycling in Durham? A Quick Chat with Bryan Poole, Bicycle and Pedestrian Planner for the City

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The City of Durham is in the process of updating its bicycle and pedestrian plan. That means right now is a good time to formally complain about the lack of sidewalks in your neighborhood or the lack of bike lanes on your route to work.

There are a couple ways to do this. One is to head over to the Durham Bike+Walk Implementation Plan site, where you can identify and comment on specific biking/pedestrian issues by drawing on an online map. You can also view others’ comments. For example, at Roxboro and Trinity, a citizen has noted:

“2 lanes that are Much, Much too wide. Cars speed up really fast at Trinity St. crossing sue to wide lanes that could be shortened with bike lanes. This intersection is especially dangerous because the slight hill in the road limits sight distance. When a child crosses, halfway through cars will suddenly come barreling along the wide streets and you have to run, race to the other side of the street. Very scary in what couldbe a quiet neighborheed. Just put in bike lanes. Slow the traffic that way. Curb extensions. Everyone East of N. Roxboro St is effectively cut off from enjoying downtown because it is so hard to walk/bike.”

Or:

“I wish I could avoid biking through downtown from Geer St to Durham Station during rush hour because drivers are aggressive. A safe (on the sidewalk or with a divider between the lane and traffic) bike lane on Mangum or Roxboro would solve this problem and serve the many folks that live east of Roxboro and need to access public transportation.”

Alternatively, you can show up at the Durham County Main Library (300 N. Roxboro St.) on Monday, June 6, from 4 to 7 p.m. At this public meeting, residents can “provide feedback on current bicycle and pedestrian conditions and meet the team of city staff and consultants working on the plan update,” according to a city release.

We called up Bryan Poole, who works on bicycle issues for the city’s transportation department, to discuss what the future holds for biking in Durham and how the planning process will move forward from here.

What will happen at this meeting next month?

It’s an opportunity for the community to come and talk with consultants and engineers about bicycle and pedestrian issues citizens are having. We’re trying to crowd-source solutions to problematic intersections and corridors. Right now, with the plan site, we’re doing the same thing—trying to get an understanding of where priorities are and what kind of projects people would like to see.

Using the results of the survey and looking at the problem areas identified, we will then develop a weighted list that will be presented to the public for comment in the fall. This list will include both low-cost, minor bicycle/pedestrian projects and high-cost, major corridor projects and intersection projects.

What would be an example of a minor bike project?

Something like resurfacing a road and narrowing a lane width so we can add a bike lane—for a length less than 500 feet. A more major project would be a whole corridor that currently has no bike lanes or sidewalks and would require road widening, curbs, gutters. In a case like that, we’d have a consultant give us a funding strategy as to whether we should pay for it with local funds or try to get state or federal funds. There are pros and cons to both.

The last pedestrian plan the city did was in 2006, and there were something like 300 streets slated for sidewalk construction. And I think we got to maybe thirty of those in ten years. So rather than do something like that, we’re trying to have a smaller list of projects that are feasible in the short to medium term. And with a shorter list, a consultant can give a higher level of detail.

How many miles of bike lanes are there in Durham currently?

There are forty-five miles of bicycle facilities—bicycle lanes and wide shoulders—and thirty-nine miles of shared-use paths [such as Ellerbee Creek Trail, American Tobacco Trail, etc.].

Are there other bicycle projects that have been approved or are in the pipeline?

We currently have funding programmed for twenty-two additional bicycle and pedestrian projects that will add more than twenty miles of bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. These projects are in various states of design and current construction start estimates range from this fall through 2020.

Additionally, we plan to add bicycle facilities on Broad Street from Guess Road to Stadium Drive, and East Woodcroft from Barbee Road to Carpenter Fletcher Road, as part of the city's resurfacing projects. That will occur this spring and summer, adding approximately 1.8 miles. 

What have you noticed so far in terms of citizen feedback? 

If you zoom into that map, you can get a pretty clear sense of the issues people are having. For example, West Chapel Hill Street has bike lanes but there are lots of comments from people saying they don't feel safe biking there. Or US 15-501. We have protected bike lanes there now, but people say they wish there were sidewalks there, or a street crossing. So, as an example, that's a case where a consultant could come in and tell us the cost of adding those things, and what they would look like. Then we would take those options to the public in the fall. 

What other amenities or developments could bicyclists reasonably expect from Durham in the near future?

We'll be looking at cycle tracks and analyzing how those could work in Durham. We're hoping the final product will have traditional bike lanes, protected bike lanes, and cycle tracks. We'll be taking a fresh look at all types of cycling facilities and trying to expand our toolbox to try to address the issues of safety and comfort for everybody. 


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