If you drive on Cameron Street through the heart of the Cameron Village shopping area this holiday season, you’ll be helping the city determine how many lanes the street should have in the future.
The city is testing a new traffic pattern that includes a center turn lane and bicycle lanes on both sides of the street.
Cameron Street has had four lanes — two in each direction — for years, and the shopping center’s owner, Regency Centers, wanted it to stay that way. The company thought four lanes worked well, particularly for the city buses that stop at various points along the street.
But when the city repaved the street earlier this year, it had intended to make Cameron a three-lane street with a center turn lane and two bike lanes. City traffic engineers have found that three-lane streets are safer, particularly where drivers are making left turns at intersections like the ones in Cameron Village.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The News & Observer
After Regency Centers objected, the city agreed to put in the new pattern with temporary paint and then measure traffic for a couple of months to make sure it works, said Michael Moore, the city’s transportation director.
“We’re just looking to make sure we have good, safe flow, for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists,” Moore said in an interview.
December may not be the best time to measure the use of bike lanes, Moore conceded, but as a “worst-case scenario” for traffic the Christmas shopping season is a good time to assess the movement of cars.
“There’s no better test than right now,” he said.
Some cyclists are worried that a winter testing period might underemphasize use of the street by pedestrians and riders of bikes and electric scooters. Dan Boehl of the advocacy group Oaks & Spokes worries about how the city might measure success or failure of the new pattern.
“It seems like the whole trial process might be skewed toward car traffic,” Boehl said in an interview.
Moore said the city will use traffic counts and video to measure congestion and points at which drivers get hung up. After a couple of months, city planners will then meet with interested parties, including cyclists and the owners of Cameron Village, to talk about whether to make the pattern permanent in the spring.
Boehl said Oaks & Spokes members are happy the city has gotten around to putting the bike lanes in place, even temporarily.
“We see it as a success for sure, to go from nothing painted on the street to having pedestrian crossings and bike lanes,” he said. “But we’re apprehensive about what happens next.”