Should Raleigh's Hillsborough Street have bike lanes?

December 7, 2009 

Build a bike lane or two


If any Raleigh road needs bicycle lanes, surely it's Hillsborough Street in front of bike haven N.C. State University.

So it's no surprise bike-lane advocates are asking Raleigh's City Council to add lanes to the street's $10 million reconstruction, now under way.

They're a year or 10 late, perhaps, given than Raleigh officials began talking about redoing the street in 1999.

In 2001, a city feasibility study proposed what's now being built: wide, unified lanes for both cars and bikes instead of separate lanes for each.

After construction ends, the city plans to mark the wide lanes with bicycle images and shared-use arrow markings called "sharrows."

City officials understandably are annoyed by the 11th-hour push for bike lanes after years of public input. On the other hand, who can be surprised that some of the many people who bike on and near Hillsborough Street think it would help to have designated bike lanes?

The relatively dense corridor is home to a great many students, residents, workers and consumers who get around on bikes.

Admittedly, I went to one of them writin' institutions, not an engineering school for math marvels. But it would make sense to me to split the difference on this one.

A bike lane on the north side of Hillsborough Street, along its shops and restaurants, could pose a hazard when bikers collide with the opening doors of parked cars.

But on the south side, alongside State's campus, I suggest building a dedicated bike lane in lieu of less-helpful on-street parking.

That way we'd have a Schwinn-Schwinn.

Matthew Eisley is editor of The N&O's North Raleigh News and Midtown Raleigh News.

Skip the designated bike lanes


Adding bicycle lanes to the stretch of Hillsborough Street being rebuilt would not be worth the city's money.

As a bike commuter, fixed-gear culture participant and member of the N.C. State University club cycling team, I believe that the Hillsborough Street renovation is more than sufficient to solve the current qualms.

From a cyclist's perspective, Hillsborough Street is a hyperactive beehive. With narrow, potholed lanes and parked cars, the street promotes speeding, lane-changing, swerving and racing against the red lights.

When the street's traffic builds, the danger only increases. Cyclists become faster than the cars and try to pass by brushing against them or by crossing the double-yellow line during a break in oncoming traffic. Yikes!

And yet Hillsborough Street is a major east-west biking artery, because Glenwood Avenue, Wade Avenue and Western Boulevard are essentially off-limits to cyclists.

Hillsborough Street has the slowest traffic, the fewest hills, the most direct path and the greatest driver acceptance of cyclists.

Furthermore, when the students are on break, or during early weekend hours, Hillsborough Street can be nearly deserted.

By rebuilding the street as two lanes, swerving will be eliminated. The wider lanes will ease passing, eliminate potholes and provide a buffer between cyclists and parked cars.

In retrospect, maybe bike lanes should have been added. But let's be happy that the most important dangers have been addressed and the situation is drastically improving.

So let's save the money for a rainy day.

Harris Bassett, 20, is an NCSU sophomore from Raleigh majoring in biochemistry.

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