Raleigh’s first ‘cycle track’ aims to make bikers safer

ccampbell@newsobserver.comJune 30, 2014 

— For some cyclists, the narrow strip of painting pavement marking a bike lane isn’t much of a separation from traffic.

Raleigh’s newest bike lanes aim to address that concern. The latest city budget includes $150,000 for the city’s first “cycle track” – effectively a buffer lane with bollards to keep cars well away from their two-wheeled counterparts.

“Not only do they increase ridership because of the improved comfort and safety, they also appear to be safer in general,” said Eric Lamb, the city’s transportation planning manager.

The cycle track will be installed on Gorman Street between Sullivan Drive and Hillsborough Street, just south of Meredith College. The 0.33-mile stretch was chosen because it’s one of the few on-street sections of the Art to Heart bike trail, a 6-mile route that gives cyclists a safe ride from downtown to the N.C. Museum of Art.

Much of the Art to Heart trail consists of greenways, but bikes have to use city streets in the Boylan Heights neighborhood as well as the three blocks on Gorman. Currently, the street has wide traffic lanes and sidewalks, but there are no bike lanes. And since N.C. State University cut off Dan Allen Drive to through traffic, Gorman gets more cars cutting between Western Boulevard and Hillsborough Street.

Lamb said the cycle track won’t change any traffic patterns on Gorman because there’s plenty of room for the new amenity. Cyclists will use a crosswalk at Hillsborough Street and rejoin the greenway at Meredith College.

The Gorman Street cycle track will serve as a test run for the model, and it could be used elsewhere in the city. Other locations could prove a challenge, according to Lamb – Gorman is unusual in that there are hardly any driveways along the stretch. Driveways along a cycle track mean that cars will cut across cyclists’ path.

“It makes it a more difficult proposition,” Lamb said.

The Gorman Street cycle track isn’t the only bike improvement in the works. This fall, city crews will begin work on a $1.1 million project to install bike lanes and sharrow markings (arrows that tell cyclists which side of the traffic lane is safest) on 27 miles of city streets.

And North Raleigh’s Wakefield community recently got the city’s first buffered bike lane on Wakefield Plantation Drive. That’s a traditional bike lane with a few feet of pavement separating traffic from bikes. It’s similar to a cycle track, but without bollards sticking up from the road.

Lamb said the city tries to pick the right bike amenity for each street based on traffic counts, on-street parking needs and driveway conflicts. “We have to marry the right tool for the job,” he said.

Campbell: 919-829-4802; Twitter: @RaleighReporter

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