The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Tuesday May 17th

Chapel Hill aims to improve safety on Estes Drive

Concerns have been high when it comes to cyclist and pedestrian safety along Estes Drive. Now, the Chapel Hill Town Council must choose one of three proposed plans to increase bike and pedestrian friendliness within this area of Chapel Hill.

David Bonk, long range and transportation planning manager for Chapel Hill, said the three alternatives are different in their own ways. The first includes buffered bike lanes that increase the distance between cyclists and cars, along with a 12-foot multi-use path on the north side of the street.

“That’s the consistent element of all three plans, the path on the north side of Estes,” Bonk said.

The second alternative consists of raised, separated bike lanes behind the curb and next to the sidewalk and a multi-use path.

Bonk said the third alternative is an attempt to address some of the concerns from the public about the extent of the widening through the whole corridor. Instead of bike lanes, there would be a multi-use path on both the north and south sides of Estes Drive.

Bonk said overall, the preferred option seems to be the second.

“(The public's) preference would be to get bikes off the road if they can,” Bonk said. “By the same token they do want to have separate facilities for experienced bicyclists and then separate inexperienced bicyclists and pedestrians on a multi-use path.”

Not everyone prefers the second option, though. 

Chapel Hill resident Mara Saskin said she likes the buffered bike lanes and a separate multi-use path, since she has concerns about cyclists and pedestrians colliding on a multi-use path.

“People should understand as a cyclist that you are a vehicle, you are not a pedestrian,” Saskin said. “Comingling bikers and pedestrians, I think, is a worse idea than comingling bikers and cars.”

Saskin said children and families are the ones on the walking paths, and that’s why cyclists need to have a separate place to ride.

Improving cyclist and pedestrian safety on Estes Drive will also allow children to be able to walk and bike to school safely. Saskin said getting kids to school safely should be the priority.

Chapel Hill resident Chris Berndt said she also agrees that the first alternative is the best option because it accommodates on-road bicyclists and includes a multi-use path.

Bonk said the feedback from residents on the matter will be considered.

“We’ll certainly look at the feedback we get tonight and see if anything we get tonight changes our approach,” Bonk said. 

“If it does we’ll reassess where we are. If it doesn’t, then we will go forward with the recommendation to the council on the 22nd of February.”


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