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BIKING AND WALKING OUR WAY TO A GREENER GREENSBORO

 whitney@yesweekly.com

The Greensboro Department of Transportation (GDOT) held a presentation Thursday on the progress of the Bicycle, Pedestrian and Greenway Master Plan (BiPed) and looked ahead to how cycling and walking conditions in Greensboro should improve over the next 20 years.

The BiPed Plan seeks to promote wellness and decrease motor vehicle emissions by encouraging alternative modes of transportation. Greensboro faces challenges when it comes to both improving and creating infrastructure to make the City friendlier for biking and walking, but the BiPed Plan is combating those challenges with safe and conveniently connected trails and greenways.

Daniel Amstutz is a Transportation Planner for GDOT and presented most of the material on Thursday.

“We’ve heard loud and clear from the community that walking and biking structures are needed and wanted,” said Amstutz.

College is currently open. The next phase of the trail to be completed will extend the current section into Douglas Park.

The Downtown Greenway will connect to 80 miles of existing greenways in the area and 400 miles of planned greenways.

A special initiative of the BiPed Plan called Safe Routes to School (SRTS) receives federal funding to be distributed by the North Carolina Department of Transportation for education and engineering strategies to encourage children in the area to walk to school.

As facilities for biking and walking continue to be improved or constructed over the next 20 years, the Downtown Greenway encourages citizens to come out and use new portions of trails and greenways this summer.

The next steps for the BiPed Plan Update include providing recommendations for bicycling facilities and structuring an implementation plan while engaging in additional public campaigns to inform the community about both existing and future facilities.

GDOT and Greensboro MPO are making it a priority to look at any excess capacity in existing streets and retrofitting those facilities for what is sometimes known as a “Road Diet.”

“Essentially you’re taking excess capacity in the roadways to add bike lanes,” said Amstutz. “There are a number of streets that we could use this strategy on.”

A final draft of the BiPed Plan Update is expected to be completed this fall. !

The original BiPed Plan was adopted in 2006 and evaluated the improvements and construction needed to enhance bicycling and walking in Greensboro. The BiPed Plan included both short-term and long-term recommendations for facility improvements, policy changes, program enhancements and maintenance plans for using greenways in the city.

Since 2006, the BiPed Plan has overseen the construction of over 32 miles of sidewalks and 35 miles of trails and greenways.

The BiPed Plan Update was designed to expand upon the original plan. This revision to the BiPed Plan sought to review data based on updated conditions and revise priorities for the BiPed Plan.

The BiPed Plan Update is administered by Greensboro’s Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). An MPO plans transportation for an urban area in accordance with federal law. The Greensboro MPO includes the City of Greensboro, Oak Ridge, Pleasant Garden, Sedalia, Stokesdale, Summerfield and much of unincorporated Guilford County.

Through online surveys, the Greensboro MPO has been able to assess the biggest reasons why people who bike and walk in Greensboro choose to do so as well as the biggest deterrents that prevent people from biking and walking more often.

The number one reason for not biking as cited by survey responders is that they do not feel safe riding bikes on roads with cars. Streets without wide bike lanes do expose cyclists to more dangers.

Mark Schulz, a professor of Epidemiology at UNCG and a member of the BiPed Advisory Board, knows firsthand about the risk of cycling in Greensboro. “I was hit by a car while biking on Aycock by a driver who was texting and I almost died,” said Schulz.

Another obstacle preventing people from using alternative modes of transportation is the lack of nearby destinations. Much of Greensboro was designed with the automobile in mind, so that the distance between a residential neighborhood and the closest grocery store or movie theatre can be too far to walk.

Much of the BiPed Plan and BiPed Plan Update focuses on downtown Greensboro where the concentration of residential and commercial areas make it possible for people to potentially use alternative modes of transportation.

“What we hope is that people will get out and be active and use biking and walking as a means of transportation and not just for recreation and fitness,” said Amstutz.

But for those in areas of urban sprawl, the thought of riding a bicycle to the grocery store and back still might not be feasible compared to the convenience of loading up the minivan with two weeks worth of groceries for the family.

The BiPed Plan Update concedes that exercise and recreation are the biggest reasons why people ride bikes or walk. For these individuals, Greenways and trails are the most the most attractive features for the BiPed Plan Update. Once completed the Downtown Greenway in Greensboro will create a four-mile loop around the center of downtown, through parks and neighborhoods, and within feet of Greensboro College’s campus and the downtown farmer’s market.

A half-mile corner of the Downtown Greenway that curves through Five Points and Morehead Park near Greensboro

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