Cary News

August 1, 2014

Cary seeks feedback on Harrison Avenue bike lanes

The town has a small window of opportunity to test the popularity of bike lanes on North Harrison Avenue for free.

The town has a small window of opportunity to temporarily add bike lanes to North Harrison Avenue for free.

But before doing so, Cary leaders want to hear from residents who live on the road or use it frequently.

The Cary Town Council plans to schedule a public hearing for later this month so residents can weigh in on a plan to temporarily realign North Harrison from Maynard Road to Chapel Hill Road.

Cary staff want to temporarily add bike lanes to that stretch of Harrison by reducing the road to two lanes from four lanes and reducing the speed limit from 45 mph to 35 mph.

The realignment could become permanent if it’s supported by the community after a four- to six-month trial period.

Cary plans to host a public meeting at some point after the realignment to gather feedback. It also plans to measure the popularity of the bike lanes by installing electronic cyclist-counters.

The town could conduct the experiment for free because the state Department of Transportation plans to begin repaving that section of road by early October – regardless of what Cary decides to do.

If Cary waits to add the bike lanes and realign the road some other time, it would likely cost the town hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“We didn’t want them to repave it this fall and then have to go back and mill it up at a later date,” said Todd Delk, a Cary engineer.

More than 70 percent of Cary residents who participated in a town-wide survey last year supported the idea of adding bike lanes to that part of Harrison. Only 8 percent of survey-takers opposed it, Delk said.

But Cary Town Council members hesitated to green-light the project on Thursday, saying the road is busier than traffic studies suggest.

“I drive it several times a day in rush hour. … It backs up at least a block,” Mayor Harold Weinbrecht said. “I just can’t imagine what one lane (each way) would do.”

An average of about 15,000 vehicles use North Harrison each day.

Council members said they worry reducing the number of lanes on the road would worsen traffic back-ups and endanger cyclists.

“A lot of people don’t feel safe on this part today on their bikes,” said Councilwoman Lori Bush.

“I don’t feel safe in a car,” Weinbrecht said.

Councilman Don Frantz questioned support for bike lanes on the road.

“There are no bikes on that road,” he said. “Harrison Avenue is how people get to their businesses on the other end or get to (Interstate) 40.”

Residents who initially opposed bike lanes on Lake Pine Drive and Kildaire Farm Road later changed their minds, Councilman Jack Smith noted. He said he was willing to approve the project.

“We have a lot of projects we need to work on,” he said. “Is this where we need to focus our energy?”

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