Carrboro is one of just 28 cities across the country hailed as a silver-level community by the League of American Bicyclists — but some bikers are saying they still face dangers on the road.
In its ranking by the League of American Bicyclists, Carrboro was evaluated on a scale of one to 10 in five categories: engineering, evaluation and planning, education, encouragement and enforcement. The city earned a score of four on engineering and evaluation and planning, and three in each of the other categories.
“It’s basically a recognition of what we currently have in our network,” said Damon Seils, a member of the Carrboro Board of Aldermen.
He said that ongoing greenway projects have been a step toward improving safety.
“The new segments of the Homestead Road-Chapel Hill High School Multi-use Path were completed in the last couple months, and it’s already being used by a lot of people going to or from school,” he said. “I think it’s turned out great.”
Off of the greenways, however, bicyclists say they have to combat many obstacles.
Ryan Byars has lived in Carrboro for four years, has a history in competitive bike racing and lived car-free for almost a decade. Still, he says, he faces a hostile environment when getting his kids to and from school.
“Even with generally cautious drivers, the environment is not inviting,” he said. “I’m sure that some parents who pass me in the morning think I’m crazy being out on the road with my kids on a bike, which is precisely why they take their kids to school in a car.”
Byars said speed limits and narrow, unprotected bike lanes are some of his major concerns, especially when it comes to his children.
“A driver is well within their right to drive 35 miles per hour on Hillsborough Road within four feet of my kid, and in reality, folks drive between 40 and 45 on that road often,” he said.
Many locals have taken to Twitter to voice their concerns, including Byars, who posted videos of his bike ride to school with his children.
Others, such as Kurt Štolka, chimed in with their experiences. Štolka has lived in the area since 2010 and said he also uses bikes to take his children to school.
“Every two to three months, I have a close-call experience with a car,” he said. “I ride with my son to school each day and take my daughter in a seat. However, I still don’t feel comfortable riding to either Carrboro or Chapel Hill’s downtown with them, as there are no safe bike paths.”
Štolka, like Byars, said he would like to see curb-separated bike lanes on roads with speeds over 25 miles per hour.
“A line of paint for a bike lane offers no protection,” he said. “Focus needs to be put on reducing vehicle speeds through road design rather than putting a sign up. Drivers don’t pay attention to signs, they pay attention to how safe they feel driving a certain speed. If the Towns are serious about making biking safe for every age, this is a must.”
Seils agrees that there’s still a long way to go for bike safety in Carrboro.
“I think there’s a lot of work for us to do to improve our pedestrian and bicycle safety in Carrboro,” he said. “I think we need better sidewalks and bike lanes, and giving people more options is going to be key in supporting those goals.”
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