The city of Durham is planning 10 miles of new bike lanes, but some cyclists are concerned the city is simply painting new lines and not providing them with enough protection.
“More bike lanes are going to incentivize new bikers, which is great, but many of them won’t be prepared for conflict zones,” said Landis Masnor, chair of Bike Durham, at a public meeting Saturday.
Bike Durham is an advocacy group for affordable transportation and bicycle safety. The group sent several representatives to the meeting, which sought input on the proposed bike lanes.
“Our goal with this project is to fill out gaps in the network,” said Bryan Poole, a bicycle and pedestrian transportation planner for the city. “We’re expecting bike advocates to come, look at our plans and tell us their personal concerns.”
Many cyclists said painted lines aren’t enough and that they were worried about the lack of physical barriers such as plants or poles separating them from cars. But Chris Allen, an engineer with Alta Planning & Design, a city consultant, said the funding for this particular project is limited to painting bike lanes.
“We’re using peoples’ input to decide where to cut back on street parking, to allow for a buffered bike lane and more space for bikers,” he said. “But we’re limited to the width of existing lanes.”
Cyclists at the meeting kept pointing out areas where they wanted some kind of divider to separate them from cars.
Masnor pointed out one stretch of road on Stadium Drive just south of Kirkwood Drive that forces bikers from their own lane onto a “sharrow,” a marking on the street that signals bikers and cars can share the lane.
“So you get used to biking protected in your own lane, and then suddenly it’s gone and you’re sharing the road with cars,” he said. “It’s incredibly dangerous.”
Studies have found that sharrows don’t necessarily reduce crashes, despite still being a popular and affordable choice for cities looking to improve their infrastructure.
“More people are riding bikes in Durham. We need to be asking, is bad infrastructure going to cost people’s lives?” said David Bradway, a devoted cyclist and member of Bike Durham.
Bradway bikes daily from his home to Duke University’s campus with his daughter, and he is concerned about how well Duke and the city of Durham address bikers’ safety.
City officials say they are trying. Last year, the City Council adopted the Vision Zero Durham Resolution, a “commitment to eliminating traffic deaths and serious injuries on Durham roadways.”