Paving the way for change

Group aims to help bicyclists

Staff WriterApril 28, 2006 

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CORRECTION

In some editions, a report on an area bicycle plan on Page 1B of the City & State section Friday incorrectly listed the date of a public meeting on a draft of the Durham Bicycle Plan. The meeting will be from 5 to 7 p.m. May 30 in Durham City Hall Council Chambers, 101 City Hall Plaza.

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RALEIGH -- On a good day, Richard Pressley rides his bike about 30 miles. On an average day, about 12 miles.

"I've had cars, but I like this better," said the Jamaica native, pointing to a red and black bike. "Automobiles make you lazy."

The trim 52-year-old with waist-length dreads and a peppery beard knows where hills make for easier riding and which routes from Raleigh to Garner and Cary are safest. He also is savvy about traffic-heavy intersections to avoid.

A planning organization hopes to encourage more bicyclists like Pressley. As gasoline prices creep toward $3 a gallon and a regional commuter rail remains in limbo, finding alternative transportation becomes more urgent.

But are the streets safe enough to coax out more two-wheelers?

In 2004, North Carolina had a reported 972 bicycle crashes with motor vehicles.

From now until June 7, the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization -- CAMPO -- is seeking input from residents on improvements to streets where they would like to bike to school, work or the grocery store. It is collecting surveys from residents in Wake County, northern Harnett County and western Johnston County.

The feedback will help the organization set priorities for future bike lanes, wider shoulders and designated bike routes. The input also will shape a larger plan for roadway, pedestrian, transit and other transportation improvements for the next 50 years.

Cycling groups such as the Selma Cyclepaths and Tarwheels are weighing in. As of last week, CAMPO had received about 350 survey responses.

But the organization also wants to hear from folks whose bikes may be gathering cobwebs in the garage. What keeps them from taking a spin around town? Narrow roads? Too few bike racks?

Pressley thinks more bike lanes like ones he has seen in Durham would make the area less scary for novice bicyclists. But he is already sold on his main form of transportation.

"As long as I have that [bike]," he said, "I'm going to be just great."

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