Greensboro seeks grant funds for bike lanes at Hamburger Square

by Jeff Sykes | @jeffreysykes

City transportation planners are hoping a grant application will help fund part of the $60,000 cost to resurface roads around Hamburger Square in order to install bike lanes and improve traffic flow in the confluence of streets that run beneath the railroad trestle downtown.

The concept sprang from a Better Block project at Hamburger Square that was installed last year during the NC Bike Summit held in Greensboro. The four-hour project took place during peak traffic hours, and saw lanes narrowed and temporary bike lanes installed. Following the temporary visioning session, GDOT planners developed a concept for installing bike lanes and adding green paint at conflicting areas where bicycle and pedestrian traffic would cross the roadway.

Traffic planners believe the road should be resurfaced prior to painting. There was a similar plan years ago, said Daniel Amstutz, GDOT’s bicycle and pedestrian coordinator, but it was cost prohibitive at the time.

“This demonstration brought to life this issue again with this area of downtown that Greensboro needs to be more attractive to bicyclists and pedestrians and to have a better flow of space,” Amstutz said.

In July, GDOT sent a letter of interest to PeopleforBikes, an industry coalition and charitable foundation that offers a grant program that promotes bicycle infrastructure projects. GDOT is looking for up to $10,000 from the foundation. The city received notification on Sept. 4 that the group wanted a full grant application for the project, which is being called Hamburger Square Bicycle Lanes.

Other cities and groups in North Carolina have received similar grants from PeopleforBikes, including Gastonia, Cape Fear Cyclists, and the Watauga County Tourism Development Authority. Most of these grants went toward greenways, Amstutz said, and Greens boro’s award would be the first in the state for on-road bicycle facilities.

GDOT is prepared to cover the expenses beyond what the grant and other partners might contribute. The Better Block program included partners from Action Greensboro, Elsewhere, The Forge, Bicycling in Greensboro, and others.

During a meeting of the Greensboro Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization last month, Amstutz presented the plan and asked for the group’s endorsement of the grant application. MPO member Marikay Abuzuaiter asked city planners why the road needed to be resurfaced.

“It doesn’t seem that bad, but maybe I am missing something,” Abuzuaiter said.

The city’s transportation director, Adam Fischer, explained that it’s better for fresh paint to have fresh asphalt.

“It’s primarily so we can put fresh markings on there and really delineate where the bike lane is, where the pedestrians should cross. Right now there is no delineation,” Fischer said. “By paving it, you could get a good fresh coat of paint that really shows that versus trying to scratch the old paint markings that are there.”

Scratching off the old markings still leaves remnants of paint, Fischer said, and people often get confused between the old and new markings.

Amstutz said that the confluence of Davie and McGee streets with MLK Jr. Drive has been marked as a high crash location, with vehicle crashes with cyclists or pedestrians reported during the study period. Adding the green paint for transition zones, in addition to the bike lanes, would improve visibility for cyclists and cars, he said.

“It’s a needed location. There are a lot of sight-distance issues,” Amstutz said. “This would encourage them to use that underpass as opposed to going over the train tracks.”

Abuzuaiter appreciated the clarification, but Mayor Nancy Vaughan raised the issue of connecting existing bike lanes to new facilities across the city.

“It’s kind of like sidewalks, we get a stretch and then it stops and then further down the road there are more sidewalks,” Vaughan said. “I know that we have a very aggressive plan when it comes to bike lanes, but if we’re going to do bike lanes then I think they need to tie in to each other.”

Fischer explained that GDOT is looking to add bike lanes to MLK in the near future. The road could be resurfaced next summer, at which time the lanes would be added. Nearby existing bike lanes run from the roundabout at Greene and McGee streets along Spring Garden Street toward UNCG.

“We may not be able to add them all the way right up to this point,” Fischer said. “Because it’s an odd location, it’s really just to help them get through … primarily with the markings for the bike lanes.”

GDOT is looking at adding bike lanes on a section of Market Street between Eugene and Church streets, Fischer said, in addition to lanes on Church and Lindsay streets leading into downtown.

The city plans to add 75 miles of bike lanes over the next five years, Mayor Vaughan said. She asked if staff planned to tie those into existing lanes in order to have continuity.

Amstutz said connectivity is a big concern when planning new bicycle infrastructure, and that the updated Bicycle, Pedestrian and Greenways Master Plan attempts to address the issue.

Fischer noted that the city’s existing streets are well interconnected, and that if bike lanes weren’t possible on Battleground or High Point Road, the Bi-Ped Plan would show bike routes along those corridors.

“There are some good streets that are parallel to those, with less traffic, that are actually quite safe to ride on,” Fischer said.

Amstutz said he hopes to finalize the Bi-Ped Plan update and present it to the MPO on Nov. 10. The application to PeopleforBikes for the Hamburger Square grant was submitted Oct. 9. !