Staff from the University, Town of Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill Transit, Go Chapel Hill and the Town of Carrboro met in the first-ever Community Transportation Talk last Thursday to discuss creating a more bicycle-friendly community.
Transportation Talk is a new resource that provides an outlet for community members to ask questions regarding transportation. Transportation specialists from the community plan to meet on Zoom the third Thursday of every month to answer the community's questions.
In the Jan. 20 meeting, town and University leaders discussed biking as a popular means of transportation in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area.
Chapel Hill and Carrboro are working to ensure that they remain as bicycle-friendly as possible, staff at the meeting said.
Zachary Hallock, the former Carrboro Transportation Planner, spoke about the August installment of a protected bike lane in the eastbound lanes of Jones Ferry Road in Carrboro.
Because most public roads are owned by the North Carolina Department of Transportation, Carrboro had to get the department's permission to install the project.
“We were looking for a way to make it safer and help people feel more comfortable, so what we ended up working through with NCDOT was a series of these flexible white posts that our Public Works Department was able to go out and install,” Hallock said.
Amanda Simmons, manager of Transportation Demand at UNC, said she hopes to add more bike lanes to campus as well.
“I am working on this to see if we can get bike lanes added, but we don't have a lot on campus right now because our road infrastructure on campus is mainly NCDOT roads, but they are also very low speed,” she said. “Hopefully people feel relatively safe biking once they get to the campus.”
Both Chapel Hill and Carrboro are considered "bike-friendly communities" and UNC is a "bike-friendly university," according to lists from The League of American Bicyclists.
The league rates communities, universities and businesses on their bicycle-friendliness based on equity, diversity and inclusion, engineering, education, encouragement and evaluation and planning. If a group is committed to these statutes, they are put on the bike-friendly community, business or university lists.
“You have to fill out a very detailed application in order to get recognized through this bicycle-friendly community, university or business,” Simmons said. “This is really prominent in the bicycle community. The League is known for being very specific on what you need to do in order to earn this designation.”
Although Chapel Hill, Carrboro and UNC are all considered bicycle-friendly, community members still want to see more action being taken to make these places even safer.
Heidi Perry, a board member of the Carrboro Bicycle Coalition, and John Rees, president of the Bicycle Alliance of Chapel Hill, said they want to make the roads safer for bikers and promote biking as an alternative to driving.
They are advocating for the local government to prioritize bicycle-friendly infrastructure. Perry said there are areas in Chapel Hill that have installed bike trippers, which will trigger a green light if a cyclist sits on it.
“Carrboro has a couple of intersections that are pretty major that do not have that feature," Perry said. "We’ve asked the Town for years if we can get bike-sensitive trippers on those roads.”
Rees said there is no bike-friendly route that connects UNC to the Town of Chapel Hill for students who want to bike.
“We had a webinar and asked students to reach out and say where you are trying to come from on your bike and we’ll have some expert work out a route for you,” Rees said. “It was a sad number of actual routes that we were able to put together.”
The next Transportation Talk will be held on Feb. 17 at noon.
Interested community members can sign up for Transportation Talks here.
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