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The Daily Tar Heel

Chapel Hill and Carrboro to observe National Bike Month, address safety concerns

DTH Photo Illustration. Bikes are parked along the bike racks outside of Lenoir Dining Hall on Feb. 12, 2022.

May is National Bike Month, and the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area is holding several cycling events to promote the activity and improve safety for cyclists and pedestrians.

Go Chapel Hill, a local organization that supports alternative modes of transportation to reduce air pollution and traffic congestion, will be hosting several of the local Bike Month events. 

A "May the Wheels be With You" event was held in UNC's Polk Place on May 4, offering free bicycle checks and registration. Carrboro Mayor Damon Seils will be cycling with the community on May 10, and a youth artist workshop on May 14 will feature electric bicycle demonstrations and helmet fittings.

“I encourage residents to add biking to their transportation routines; to become advocates for biking, bicycle infrastructure, and bicycle-friendly laws and policies; and to take delight in every bike ride,” Seils said in a press release.

The Chapel Hill Mobility and Connectivity Plan, which was adopted in 2020, aims to make cycling and walking more comfortable and convenient on main thoroughfares. One of its stated goals is that 35 percent of all commutes in Chapel Hill would be via walking, cycling or busing by 2025.

Michael Parker, a member of the Chapel Hill Town Council, said encouraging cycling helps to combat climate change and promote a healthy lifestyle.

“We want to do everything we can to get people out of cars and using anything else,” Parker said. “Assuming it’s done safely, it has great personal health benefits. It’s great cardiovascular exercise and it's a great way to see your town.”

Local Business Involvement

Several local businesses will be providing free bicycle inspections throughout Bike Month, including Back Alley Bikes. Owner Jason Merrill, who got into the bicycle business about 20 years ago by fixing his own bike, said the world could be a better place if more people were to cycle and walk than drive.

Merrill said he believes cars cause a lack of social interaction among people.

“When (people) see each other every day, whether they’re walking or riding a bike or riding a scooter, they interact with the environment and with each other in a different way,” Merrill said. “They’re more polite. They’re kinder. I think that’s a community-building thing.”

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro area promoting small businesses and cycling through Bike Month provides a great opportunity for Back Alley Bikes, he said.

“There’s this kind of snowball effect where people riding makes it a bike-friendly place, and people knowing it’s a bike-friendly place draws people here that are more inclined towards bikes,” Merrill said.

Event details can be found here.

Cyclist and Pedestrian Safety

As a part of its plan to end pedestrian- and cyclist-involved crashes, Chapel Hill has implemented its Vision Zero strategy, which aims to eliminate traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2031 and prioritize vulnerable road users — like pedestrians and cyclists — when making transportation decisions.

Parker said eliminating right turns during red lights at nearly 20 intersections, gauging traffic and painting designated bike lanes have been crucial for improving pedestrian and cyclist safety in recent years.

Despite these efforts, several people have been injured in pedestrian- and cyclist-involved crashes since the beginning of 2022.

The Chapel Hill Town Council will be voting in its May 4 meeting to adopt a resolution against “dooring," which is when a parked car opens a door into the path of another road user, usually a bicyclist. A cyclist on Franklin Street died in February after being struck by an opening car door.

“When we are assessing traffic for new developments, the number one concern is bicycle and pedestrian safety, not congestion,” Parker said.


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Ethan E. Horton

Ethan E. Horton is the 2023-24 city & state editor at The Daily Tar Heel. He has previously served as a city & state assistant editor and as the 2023 summer managing editor. Ethan is a senior pursuing a double major in journalism and media and political science, with a minor in history.