Bicycles' Role in the Bull City

Building Bull City recently took a look at the walkability of the city and how that can impact the culture and the prosperity of Durham. There are pockets of the city that need varying degrees of attention when it comes to sidewalks, crosswalks, and general walkability. However, we also need to look at connecting those pockets. There is no way all of the interesting parts of the city can be within walking distance of each other, but many are close enough that driving seems wasteful, lazy, and too much hassle (finding parking, gas, etc).

Across the country, bicycles have seen a renaissance as the solution for short commutes to work, entertainment, and exploring an area. Proponents also love how easy it is to stay in shape while getting where you need to go.

At the end of the article above, the author calls for individuals to switch from cars to bikes for short distance travel. Simply asking for that switch won't spur massive change. Creating infrastructure conducive to biking is needed for it to flourish.

Durham, once again has a budding biking community and some infrastructure, but has a long way to go. The biggest step recently is allowing bike share companies into the city limits. The convenience of using a bike share is unparalleled. Even more importantly, it brands Durham as a bike-friendly city. The bicycles around town are very visible and have really changed the look and feel of the city. It makes the city feel more vibrant and lively.

However, there are not a ton of bike lanes in the city. One of the biggest downsides of cycling is the danger involved. Sharing a road that was specifically designed for cars can create major safety issues for cyclists and frustrations for motorists. Paths such as the American Tobacco Trail and the upcoming Durham Belt Line are great additions to the city, but a full network, connecting the city is needed.

One group hopes to bring the idea of Bicycle Boulevards to Durham. This would be a network of streets (already with lighter car traffic) that Durham could convert to bike priority streets. Cars would go slower and most through-traffic would simply continue to use other, higher-volume streets. When you add in plans for visible signage, public art along the way, smart route planning, and other ways to keep bicycles safe, you get a city where it makes a whole lot more sense to bike short distances around town than to drive them as well as a more beautiful and vibrant city for everyone.

Let's take one more look at the proposed Bicycle Boulevards map:

It actually looks like a subway or public transportation map. Bicycle Boulevards of Durham has found a way to connect the different neighborhoods of Durham for less money than additional bus lines or other public transportation. Durham has the ability to go from a city that is lagging a bit behind in bikeability to one of the leaders and certainly the leader in the Southeast.

I had the chance to chat with a leader of Bicycle Boulevards in Durham recently and learned a bit about where the project stands. Routes are being finalized and progress is being made. According to Durham's website listing current transportation projects, construction is tentatively scheduled to start in May of 2019 and wrap up in October of 2019. Public meetings about Bicycle Boulevards are scheduled to be held this Summer. It will definitely be worth keeping a close eye on the project as it truly affects the identity and the vibrancy of the city, whether or not you use a bike.

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