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Chapel Hill's getting a new bike-friendly bus line, and cyclists are pumped for it

2011Fall bus stop loading.jpg
Courtesy of UNC Transportation and Parking

Community members gathered in Chapel Hill on Tuesday to learn about how bike paths will factor into the North-South Bus Rapid Transit Project.

The 8.2-mile line stretches from Eubanks Road to Southern Village and aims to provide more frequent rides, shorter travel times and more reliable service by providing multi-use paths for bus riders, cyclists and pedestrians. 

Matt Cecil, transit development manager for the Town of Chapel Hill, said only 53 percent of the 8.2-mile corridor is accessible for bike lanes, 19 percent is shared roads and 28 percent has nothing for bike riders. Now, he said, the Town is trying to create a friendly environment for all modes of transportation. 

“What we are proposing currently is to have a multi-use path for bicycles and pedestrians to be separate from the roadway as part of the project, and we can maybe encompass some bicycle riders not as comfortable riding on the roadway,” Cecil said.

However, Cecil said the plans will also consider experienced bike riders and pedestrians with the goal of providing opportunities for people to travel in ways other than using a car.

 “We are looking at doing the multi-use path on both sides of the road,” he said.

Brian Litchfield, transit director for the Town, said the BRT project will help more riders utilize Chapel Hill Transit because of the increased service. 

“We’ve heard pretty good support from the project," Litchfield said. “We currently do about 3,500 to 4,000 rides already, so there’s a lot of folks that are using the bus already."

Rich Giorgi, founder of The ReCYCLEry N.C., a Carrboro nonprofit organization that teaches people in the community how to repair their own bikes, said Chapel Hill and Carrboro have done an excellent job in providing infrastructure for cyclists.

He said he hopes more areas can be included in the future. 

“I know it’s going to the Park and Ride. From Park and Ride, it’s going to town and other major areas up to the Southern Village," Giorgi said. "I would love to see it go to others areas of the town that are not as affluent as the Southern Village."

John Rees, president of the Bicycle Alliance of Chapel Hill, said Chapel Hill will be the first in the region to have an operating BRT line. 

“They are great solutions for dense areas for getting people around, so we got to be very proud of Chapel Hill for working on this for years to try to make this be a complete project," Rees said. “It’s not fully funded at this point, so they are still working on that aspect, but they are going on with the design, and we’ll see what happens.” 

The funding for the project will likely come from a combination of federal, local and state funds. The Town is determining the project's eligibility for a Federal Transit Administration Small Starts fund.

The next public meeting for the project is on Monday, Feb. 4 at 6:30 p.m. at the Chapel Hill Public Library.


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