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Raleigh plans two-way street within a street for bicycles downtown

A cross-section of the planned West Street CycleTrack. The two-way dedicated bicycle lane will run five blocks along the west side of West Street from Jones Street south to Martin Street.
A cross-section of the planned West Street CycleTrack. The two-way dedicated bicycle lane will run five blocks along the west side of West Street from Jones Street south to Martin Street. City of Raleigh

The city of Raleigh has been creating bike lanes on streets all over town, but they’re nothing like what it has planned for five blocks of West Street downtown.

This spring, the city will build Raleigh’s first “cycle track.” It will essentially be a two-way street just for bicycles running down one side of West Street, set off from car traffic with signs, traffic tape, flexible posts or planters.

The cycle track is a joint project with Oaks & Spokes, a cycling advocacy group that has pledged to contribute as much as $20,000 toward materials. It will be in place for six months as a test, and can remain or be removed afterward depending on the outcome.

A preliminary design of the West Street CycleTrack will be presented at a public meeting from 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 23, at Citrix, 120 S. West St.

Despite its modest length, the cycle track will serve a practical purpose, says Trung Vo, the city’s bicycle and pedestrian program manager. Running from Jones Street south to Martin Street, it will connect the Glenwood South and Warehouse districts through some busy intersections.

But the larger goal is to introduce the idea of the cycle track to Raleigh and show how it works. People may be inspired to suggest other places in the city where cycle tracks might be a good fit, Vo said.

“It’s intended to be sort of a longer-term demonstration project,” Vo said. “There have been a number of these types of demos across the state, but most of them have lasted either a day or two or a week.”

The city’s long-range bicycle plans call for creating a cycle track on West Street, but not for several years. Members of Oaks & Spokes approached the city to propose doing it sooner, as a pilot project.

Harry Rybacki, the group’s spokesman, said several board members attended a bike summit in Asheville and saw a presentation on “tactical urbanism,” which includes the use of spray paint and other low-cost tools to create crosswalks, bike lanes and other features to help pedestrians and cyclists safely navigate a car-centered environment. Those kinds of guerrilla tactics have led to efforts done in cooperation with local governments.

The cycle track will mean the loss of 22 parking spaces on the west side of West Street as well as the relocation of a loading zone across the street. Rybacki said so far there’s been little opposition.

“Most everyone seems to be on board with it,” he said. “Most of the spaces are coming out of Citrix, and Citrix is one of our largest sponsors.”

Oaks & Spokes will encourage bicycle riders to use the cycle track and seek their feedback. In addition, the city will have researchers from N.C. State University conduct traffic counts for pedestrians, cyclists and cars to gauge its use and review crash data to see if the changes have made the street safer or not. Vo said the city will also go back to business owners along the street to see what they think.

“If it’s not successful, we have the option to remove it altogether and put our heads together and see what’s next,” he said.

Oaks & Spokes has raised about $12,000 toward the cycle track, Rybacki said. For more information or to make a donation, go to oaksandspokes.wildapricot.org/Projects. For more information about the open house, go to http://bit.ly/2mKVGa1.

Richard Stradling: 919-829-4739, @RStradling

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