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Carrboro is going for gold status as a cycling-friendly town

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A bicyclists traverses the East Weaver Street and East Main Street intersection in Carrboro on August 25, 2019. 

The Town of Carrboro recently submitted an application to the League of American Cyclists’ Bicycle Friendly Communities program — and it’s going for gold. 

Town officials, such as Board of Aldermen member Damon Seils, knew when the town received a silver-level designation in 2010 that they wanted to continue working on their bicycle programming and facilities.

“Achieving gold status should really be a reflection of the work that we’ve done to make cycling a better option for people in Carrboro, but of course having that gold status is also a good way of just telling the world what a good job we’re doing,” Seils said. 

The League of American Cyclists evaluates applicants using a number of criteria, including the 5 E’s (engineering, education, encouragement, enforcement and evaluation and planning) and census cycling data. Some of this data is collected via a survey, which is open to community members. 

In the league’s most recent evaluation, Carrboro received an average score of 3.4 out of a possible 10 points in the 5 E’s. Some recommendations listed in the evaluation included improving bicycle infrastructure, establishing a formal communication channel between the Carrboro Police Department and the cycling community and expanding cycling education programs.

Josh Heaps, a new Carrboro resident and Ph.D. student at UNC, said he thinks Carrboro lies somewhere in the middle as a bike city compared to other places he’s lived, like Minneapolis and New York City.

“I think that there are bicycle lanes, but there don't seem to be any bicycle lanes that have real separation from the street, so all that’s protecting you from a car is a white line,” he said.

Heaps cited Hillsborough Street as an example of a place with less-than-ideal cycling conditions.

“I’ve noticed a bunch of sidewalk bikers, which I don’t like because the sidewalk is not for a bike, but I also understand that people are doing that because they feel a little unsafe maybe being on a major street,” he said.

Seils said the town needs to improve barriers between cars and bicycles and create bike lanes on streets that currently don’t have them, like East Main Street.

Charlie Hileman, a member of the Carrboro Bicycle Coalition’s board, said while Carrboro was ahead of the curve in establishing bike lanes and has made improvements since then, the town is somewhat stuck. He said this is partially a result of the pervasiveness of car culture. 

“Carrboro hasn’t made the leap that a lot of other communities have in this last decade and is still dealing with some of the same kinds of conditions and infrastructure that they had in the past,” he said.

Hileman said he thinks cycling infrastructure changes are often impeded by concerns of inconveniencing others.

“Those concerns always take the forefront, but the cycling issue is something that, if we want to make a big change, if we want to make a big difference, we’re going to have to stand up and make those changes,” he said.

Seils said feedback from the league has been the most helpful part of the application process.

“At the end of the day, this is really about making cycling a safer, more comfortable option for more people, and if working to achieve gold status helps do that, then I’m all for it,” he said.

Community members can access the survey here. The deadline to respond is Sept. 22.

@SLesnewski

city@dailytarheel.com

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