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Tuesday April 13th

Bike plan sparks debate at Carrboro Board of Aldermen meeting

Two bikes sit outside of Weaver Street Market in Carrboro, propped against a policy sign on Aug. 25, 2019.
Buy Photos Two bikes sit outside of Weaver Street Market in Carrboro, propped against a policy sign on Aug. 25, 2019.

The Carrboro Board of Aldermen heard an update on the Town's comprehensive bike plan at its meeting Tuesday.

The Town’s transportation planner, Zachary Hallock, presented the update and included figures detailing the effects the bike development plan would have on the community.

The figures showed the mission of the bike plan is to “enhance connectivity, create a positive economic impact, protect the environment, promote equity, enhance health, increase safety and increase livability.”

Hallock said the bicycle steering committee is in the process of discussing multiple factors, including whether or not every street needs a bike lane and what alternatives to bike lanes would look like.

The update also included multiple comments on the connectivity and equity of the development process, as well as the potential economic impact an increased presence of bike accessibility would have on the Town.

Board of Aldermen member Bethany Chaney said she thinks the plan is tackling easy-to-solve problems and ignoring some more challenging ones that should be addressed.

“I think the plan is lacking a little bit of strong vision, and I think it’s related to that there seems to be a lot of pressure put on staff and the consultant and even the committee to not talk about certain issues, to not be bold, to not be controversial,” Chaney said. “Any plan that has multiple moving parts in it like this is going to have some parts in it that people don’t like and that not everyone agrees on.” 

Chaney also read an email from Board of Aldermen member Damon Seils, who was not present at the meeting, that said he thought other important issues were missing.

“The identified projects are very important, but other important things seem to be missing: the campus-to-campus connector, improvements linking downtown to Old Fayetteville Road and North Greensboro, which connects lots of neighborhoods and school kids, and improvements to Hillsborough Road between North Main and Greensboro,” the email said.

The plan caused the board to debate whether or not the Bolin Creek Trail should be discussed in the report. The possible addition of this path is controversial because it would serve the need to connect the north and south ends of town together and making the forest and other bike paths more accessible to community members. However, it would also require cutting down trees in Bolin Forest to create a paved path, which some board members and community members oppose because of possible adverse effects on the climate.

The board discussed the Bolin Creek Greenway back in 2009 but did not come to a firm decision.

Mayor Lydia Lavelle said there should at least be some mention of the Bolin Creek Greenway in the bicycle plan.

“When we talked to Zach about (the Bolin Creek Greenway), there was the idea to put in a narrative section saying that there is a report out there that the board did adopt in 2009 knowing that we were going to come back to it,” Lavelle said. "To not have it even mentioned in the plan I think is ingenious."

In the midst of a heated debate, Board of Aldermen member Jacquelyn Gist urged the board to remember that, in the grand scheme of things, the issue could be a lot worse.

“We are so damn lucky. If this is the most divisive issue, we are so damn lucky. We could be Flint with lead in our water,” Gist said. “There are so many problems that we could have.”

Chaney, who didn’t seek reelection and sat in her last board meeting Tuesday night, urged the board to take action and come to a decision on the plan. 

“It’s shameful that the board has not come to a decision in 10 years,” Chaney said.

The meeting ended with the passing of a motion 6-1 to have staff members address emails and comments from the public about the Bolin Creek plan and to note that the Bolin Creek Bike Path plan needs to be addressed by the board again at a later date.

The next steps for the bike plan are to complete the final draft, review it and conduct hearings by the advisory board and the public.

@CBlakeWeaver

@ElizabethEganNC

@DTHCityState | city@dailytarheel.com

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