Some Cary residents don't like proposal for bike lanes

08/10/2014 10:00 AM

08/11/2014 11:06 AM

A proposal to add bike lanes to North Harrison Avenue is drawing opposition from residents, according to Town Council members.

On Thursday, the council will consider a plan to temporarily add bike lanes on North Harrison from Maynard Road to Chapel Hill Road. As part of the project, North Harrison would be reduced from four lanes to two lanes, and the speed limit would drop to 35 mph from 45 mph.

If approved, Cary would ask the state Department of Transportation to realign the road when the agency repaves it in October.

If residents and cyclists like the new traffic pattern, Cary would make it permanent.

But some council members seem to be leaning toward scrapping the idea altogether.

“The majority of what I’ve heard so far has been, ‘Leave it alone,’ ” Councilman Don Frantz said.

Mayor Harold Weinbrecht, who drives on Harrison Avenue to work at SAS, said he doubts the pilot project is worth the trouble it would cause. About 15,000 vehicles use the road each day.

“I have strong reservations about losing traffic lanes,” Weinbrecht said. “It just seems to be a lot for very little benefit.”

Cary staff recommended the temporarily realignment for two reasons.

The first is to save money. If Cary realigns the road in coordination with DOT’s repaving project, the town won’t have to pay thousands of dollars to realign the road at a later time.

The second reason: Many Cary residents want expanded cycling opportunities.

More than 70 percent of 400 residents who participated in a town-wide survey last year supported the idea of adding bike lanes to that part of Harrison.

However, that survey had a major flaw, Frantz said. It did not ask residents if they supported the addition of bike lanes at the expense of traffic lanes.

Recent accident

Nancy Brawley, who lives on Smiths Knoll Court, called the idea “ridiculous” in an email to council members.

“I am in favor of bike lanes when the road can be widened to accommodate them, but not at the expense of already busy traffic lanes,” she wrote. “There are so many reasons why this is a bad idea.”

Reducing the number of traffic lanes would also make it harder for drivers to turn left onto Harrison from Kingswood Drive, according to Bob Alger, who lives on Beasley Court.

“The last thing we need to do is to cut it down to 2 lanes and make this left turn impossible,” he wrote to the council.

Thursday’s meeting, which will feature a public hearing, comes two weeks after a 17-year-old bicyclist was hit by a vehicle and hospitalized while riding down that stretch of Harrison Avenue on July 31.

Police believe the teen was struck by a Chevrolet Suburban with a model year between 2000 and 2005. The incident is being investigated as a hit-and-run.

Some people say the danger posed by the road’s current alignment is exactly why bike lanes are needed.

During rush hour, “Drivers encounter traffic suddenly slowing in the left hand lane in preparation to turn, and the right hand lane is too narrow to pass bicyclists without changing lanes,” Steven Goodridge wrote in an email to the mayor.

Sadie Lang, who lives off of Chapel Hill Road, said she believes more drivers would ditch their cars for a bike if bike lanes were added.

“As a commuter cyclist who uses that road many times a week, I can attest to the fact that bike lanes would greatly improve safety and increase the number of cyclists,” she wrote in an email. “Make the road safer, and more people will leave their cars behind.”

 

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