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Bike lanes cropping up across the Gate City

by Jordan Green

Stand at a corner of Florida Street in the Glenwood neighborhood, and within ten minutes you’re likely to see an increasingly frequent sight: cyclists – often riding without helmets – pedaling their rides within freshly painted white lines demarcating the city’s new designated bike lanes.

“It’s great; it’s a lot safer,” said Freddy Proctor, who was riding for his morning exercise before the worst of the heat on Aug. 3. “We’ve had a lot of drug-related incidents’… no less, there are a lot of people hauling ass around here, so it helps a lot.”

The new dedicated bike lanes take advantage of Florida Street’s wide shoulders, but break occasionally near major intersections, tight spots in the road or curves. The westbound bike lane runs a mile and a half from Freeman Mill Road to High Point Road, with a break at Aycock Street. The eastbound lane is shorter, running from High Point Road to the Glenwood library near Coliseum Boulevard.

A young man was seen riding eastbound on a kick scooter past the end of the dedicated lane. A large pickup truck cruised slowly behind him before he jumped off and dragged the scooter onto the sidewalk to let the motorized vehicle pass.

“I’ve already had someone call and complain that they can’t tell what’s the bike lane and what’s not,” said Peggy Holland, the city of Greensboro’s bicycle-pedestrian coordinator. “There’s really three different parts of it. There’s places where you have what’s technically called an edge line, when you have no curb and gutter. There’s the dedicated bike lane where we painted lines on two sides. In some places the street is wide enough to allow on-street parking, so you have bicycles and parked cars sharing space. And there’s places where there’s nothing; there just wasn’t enough room.”

The city chose Florida Street for bike lanes because of high demand from residents -‘ and because it required little extra expense.

“We’re going to work with what we’ve got,” Holland said. “In other words, we’re cheap.

“We didn’t do any road widenings,” she added. “We heard from people that this was an area they wanted to bicycle. Florida is a really long east-west route; it’s a great connection from one end of the city to another.”

When residents were consulted Holland said the city found people wanted bicycle accommodations for recreation to commute to work. For some residents, riding a bicycle was their only mode of transportation aside from walking.

The city was also painting lines for dedicated bike lanes on Spring Garden Street late in the first week of August. That route is an extension of what had previously been the city’s only stretch of bike lane, which runs through the campus of UNCG. Lanes on each side of the street will go west from Aycock Street to Holden Road. On the other end they will also connect UNCG to downtown.

Similar to the bicycle infrastructure on Florida Street, the Spring Garden lanes will not be completely continuous. They’ll drop off east of Tate Street, where residents depend heavily on street parking, and pick up again past Mendenhall Street, shuttling riders toward the lanes’ downtown terminus at the Greene Street roundabout.

“One of the good things about bike lanes is it encourages riding on the correct side of the street,” Holland said. “We know there’s a problem of people riding on the wrong side of the street. Bicycles need to be going with the traffic. We’re hoping to get more bicyclists on the street. The reason we’re doing these lanes is so bicyclists are accommodated and can have safe trips, but there’s only so much we can do with infrastructure; they have to take some responsibility for their own safety.”

Other plans to expand Greensboro’s bicycling infrastructure will require more capital investment and physical transformation.

Holland said plans have already been completed for the Battleground Rail Trail, a southward extension of the Lake Brandt Greenway that links the city to the county-owned Bur-Mil Park. The city is actively acquiring real estate from area landowners. The one-mile Battleground Rail Trail will follow the former Atlantic & Yadkin Railroad parallel to Battleground Avenue, ending at Markland Drive near the Lawndale Crossing Shopping Center that is anchored by the Target department store. The city anticipates completing the project by early 2008.

Eventually city planners envision extending the trail into downtown, although Holland said no timeframe has been established, considering that a section of the railroad running between Battleground Avenue and Lee Street is still in use. After the rail line service is discontinued the trail could run through the campus of Greensboro College and connect with the Spring Garden Street bike lanes.

“Battleground is one of those roads that as a bicyclist you probably don’t want to be on,” Holland said. “There’s so much residential and commercial stuff out that way. How do you get bicyclists out to Battleground where they can ride to the shops? Commuting to work is what a lot of people are looking longingly at. I know I’ve talked to someone who lives up around the Brassfield Shopping Center who is just dying to get downtown on his bike.”

To comment on this story, e-mail Jordan Green at jordan@yesweekly.com.

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