Your correspondent noticed the changes on his way into work, early as usual of course, with the grindstone ready for his nose and the wheel expecting his shoulder.
I was groggy from Thanksgiving leftovers, but something was different about my usual path into downtown Raleigh, east on Hillsborough Street, to Dawson, where I turn right and then circle around to McDowell and so forth. Normally, I stick in the right lane on Hillsborough, watching to avoid car doors swinging open.
Then, it’s into the right turn lane on Hillsborough, where I make my turn.
But on Monday the right lane had been divided into two thin lanes. They appeared to be bike lanes, anyway. There were new lines elsewhere near downtown. Bright lines, lots of lines.
Why had this happened all of a sudden? Your aforementioned correspondent put in calls to City Hall. Alas, Mayor Nancy McFarlane wasn’t in, and likewise with council member Mary-Ann Baldwin (she did call at day’s end), but thankfully, Russ Stephenson, at-large council member, was around and was entirely up front in saying he wasn’t sure what the “striping spree” was all about, either. I was certain at that point that Stephenson had been left out of the loop intentionally while other council members and officials were engaged in some kind of conspiracy with the “bicycle community,” which is known to be aggressive in pursuit of bike lanes.
A little Watergate, perhaps? I could imagine the conversation in the back room of the Players Retreat restaurant: “Look, council member, I can’t stay long because this stretchy bicycle suit is pinching me, but we want this to be a green city and that means bike lanes. And speaking of green, you’ll find a little something for the campaign kitty between the slaw and the chili on your burger.”
Alas, my dreams of Pulitzers presented by Jennifer Aniston and summers on Long Island with Manhattan swells were dashed by a doggone honest and entirely competent public servant. Hate it when that happens.
Eric Lamb, transportation planning manager for the city of Raleigh, explained that the additional bicycle lanes and what’s called “shared lanes,” which encourage motorists to be mindful of bicyclists, are part of a citywide plan involving 26 streets. Some streets, he acknowledged, will be changed to accommodate bicyclists and to slow traffic.
Lamb also said the city would have a campaign to make people aware of the bicycle lane changes, and to make bicyclists aware of the need to obey laws as if they were driving regular vehicles. It is a point of contention with some drivers that bicyclists sometimes switch lanes or snake up in lines of cars at traffic lights when they should stay put, though they’re entitled to their share of the road, of course.
Lamb acknowledged everything might look a little strange for a while as lines are drawn and other subtle changes are made, but he’s sure the end result will be safer roads and less traffic. He did say that at some intersections there would be, for the first time, some green paint to designate parts of biking lanes.
Wait. Green paint? Fresh white paint for bicycle lanes on the streets? Yellow paint for other street markings? It sure is a lot of paint. If we follow the paint, just where might it lead us? Hold on, Jen. I may yet see you at the Pulitzers. But if anything happens to me, and remember the bicyclists can play rough ... make sure to tell the story.
Jenkins: 919-829-4513 or firstname.lastname@example.org