It is not the destination, but the journey.

I’m probably one of the few master’s degree graduates who has been looking forward to using some of my newfound free time to keep writing. Since I didn’t have enough time before fall 2015 term started to finish blogging about my study abroad trip last summer to the Netherlands, I want to keep blogging about this trip. Due to how much interest there is in the United States to learn from the Netherlands, I plan to use specific examples from the United States and the Netherlands to show how the United States can learn from my experiences in the Netherlands.

My graduation cap was inspired by my study abroad trips to Denmark and the Netherlands in 2012 and the Netherlands in 2015. The words, “It is not the destination, but the journey”, were inspired by The Slow Bicycle Movement.

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Ray Atkinson’s 2016 Graduation Cap

As I discussed in my previous blog post and the below video shows, most cyclists in the United States are too concerned about arriving at their destination as fast as possible that they forget about enjoying their journey. My study abroad experiences in Denmark and the Netherlands showed me that most cyclists in these countries enjoy their journey and don’t care too much about arriving at their destination as fast as possible. Through my bicycle advocacy work at UNC Charlotte and Portland State University, I tried to advocate for cyclists to shift from focusing on arriving at their destination as fast as possible to focusing on enjoying their journey. Wherever life takes me after graduation, I plan to continue advocating for this shift and hope to someday see most cyclists in the United States enjoying their journey.

I realize world-class bike infrastructure alone cannot achieve a culture shift in the United States from fast to slow biking so we need local, regional, state, and national comprehensive bike plans. Through my next blog posts, I plan to show how the Netherlands created and has been implementing local, regional, provincial, and national comprehensive bike plans. Since the United States is light years behind the Netherlands when it comes to local, regional, state and national comprehensive bike planning, I also plan to show how the United States can learn from the Netherlands.

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Ray’s Interview with Perils for Pedestrians

While I am excited that my interview with Perils for Pedestrians from early 2013 has been posted online, I am frustrated that the bicycle and pedestrian safety issue I was interviewed about has become reality. Here is the video, which should be forwarded to when my interview takes place at 10:33.

In case you are unfamiliar with Charlotte, I have provided a map below that shows where the Mallard Creek Greenway is closed at North Tryon Street. As you can see, this closure is near an entrance to UNC Charlotte so people commuting from across North Tryon Street have few, if any, safe routes to arrive on campus by walking or biking.

The intersection on February 22, 2013

As any good advocate does, I took photos of the intersection on February 22, 2013. While looking at the below photo, where should pedestrians and bicyclists safely cross North Tryon Street?

Mallard Creek Greenway looking west towards North Tryon Street

Mallard Creek Greenway looking west towards North Tryon Street

If you expected people to safely walk or bike across North Tryon Street, please look at the below photo. Automobiles travel about 50 mph through here. The nearest signalized pedestrian crossing is about 1/3 miles north at Mallard Creek Church Road, but I highly doubt anyone is going to walk that far to use the crosswalk when this section of North Tryon Street has no sidewalks.

Would you walk across North Tryon Street?

Would you walk across North Tryon Street?

Phase I detour: August 2014-May 2015

Since I am currently living in Portland, I don’t have photos of the detour. I’m hoping one of my Charlotte friends will help by sending me photos of the detour. Thankfully, I found a University City Partners blog post from July 1, 2014 that discusses the phase one and two detours. The detour during phase one, which started in August 2014 and may have closed in May 2015, involved a temporary detour path along North Tryon Street’s southbound lanes, which were closed to automobile traffic during the detour. The below map shows this temporary detour.

Mallard Creek Greenway Detour Map

Mallard Creek Greenway Detour Map

State engineer Ron Graham said the greenway detour path traveled up a gravel access road to North Tryon Street and onto a temporary paved path along the edge of the closed southbound lanes to Mallard Creek Church Road. People using the detour path crossed Mallard Creek Church Road and North Tryon Street via existing pedestrian crossing signals. An existing sidewalk led them to the Kirk Farm Fields Park and the start of Mallard Creek Greenway. A short walk back up the greenway connected with the Toby Creek Greenway bridge and access to UNC Charlotte. Even though I didn’t see the detour or walk it, I’m impressed with reading this detour.

Phase II detour started in May 2015

Unfortunately, the phase two detour is very disappointing. As I expected because I already knew the Barton Creek Greenway was being delayed when I asked Gwen Cook, Mecklenburg County’s greenway planner, about it in 2013,

“Design challenges have delayed a hoped-for second detour path – Barton Creek Greenway to University Place and UNC Charlotte. As a result, we may face several months in late 2015 without a greenway alternative.”

According to the blog post, phase two has no detour for pedestrians and bicyclists!

Once the state reopens the southbound bridge in May 2015 and reroutes northbound traffic onto the new bridge, the state must close the temporary greenway detour path, Graham says.

I find it interesting how the state “must” close the temporary greenway detour path. The main reason why NCDOT “must” close it is because NCDOT prioritizes automobiles over walking and bicycling.

Ray’s proposal for a phase II detour

Since I feel people in the United States often dismiss Dutch and Danish transportation infrastructure because they feel their city is too automobile dependent and doesn’t have funding to spend on bicycle and pedestrian safety projects, I’m very thankful inspiration for my phase two proposal comes from the United States. As I was biking along the Mount Vernon Trail near Fort Hunt National Park in Alexandria, VA on August 17, 2014, I was amazed by the below bicycle and pedestrian detour. To see all 22 photos of the detour, view my facebook album (sharing is set to public so anyone should be able to view it).

Bicycle and pedestrian detour along the Mount Vernon Trail

Bicycle and pedestrian detour along the Mount Vernon Trail

The below photo show the detour being routed onto an entire lane of George Washington Memorial Parkway, which is a state road maintained by the National Park Service. The reasons why I pointed out that it is a state road is because local jurisdictions have less control over what they can do with the road and North Tryon Street is a state maintained road. This is why many jurisdictions try to transfer state roads to city roads.

Let’s return to the NCDOT statement where Graham said, “the state must close the temporary greenway detour path.” Another option could have been to close the right southbound lane on North Tryon Street to automobile traffic so cyclists and pedestrians could have safely biked or walked to the signalized intersection at Mallard Creek Church Road. Was this option even discussed? If it was, I’m sure someone at NCDOT said, “motorists are going to hate us if we remove a travel lane!” I’m confident motorists didn’t enjoy having a travel lane removed on the George Washington Memorial Parkway either. Why did the Mount Vernon Trail have such a great construction detour for bicycle and pedestrian traffic while the Mallard Creek Greenway has no construction detour for bicycle and pedestrian traffic during phase two?

Mount Vernon Trail detour routed onto George Washington Memorial Parkway

Mount Vernon Trail detour routed onto George Washington Memorial Parkway

Phoenix’s Traffic Barricade Manual

John Wetmore informed me about how effective Phoenix’s Traffic Barricade Manual is for requiring contractors to provide a safe and convenient detour for pedestrians through construction zones. Here is a video of his interview with City of Phoenix staff about accommodating pedestrians through construction zones.

I plan to update this blog post after getting some photos of the phase two detour from a Charlotte friend and asking Gwen Cook for her thoughts on the feasibility of implementing my proposed detour for phase two.

Ray’s Redesign to Create Bike Connection

Kannapolis has been talking about the proposed widening of Mooresville Road, which includes wider outside travel lanes for cyclists, and proposed road diet and buffered bike lanes on Loop Road for several months. However, very few people have been talking about the missing bike connection between these two projects. I hope this blog post will provide Kannapolis and NCDOT with a potential redesign to safely and conveniently connect both projects. Before I discuss my redesign, I want to make sure everyone knows where the missing bike connection is located in Kannapolis. I also want to provide a short overview of who owns Loop Road and Mooresville Road because I feel this has impacted both projects.

Where is the missing bike connection?

In order to show the location of the missing bike connection, I first need to show how the missing bike connection is connected to the Loop Road and Mooresville Road projects. The below map shows both projects. Starting from the left side of the map, the Mooresville Road project begins at Kannapolis Parkway and concludes at Dale Earnhardt Blvd, which is located where the red highlight is. The Loop Road project begins at West C Street, which is where the white dot is located above the orange highlight, and concludes at Main Street, which is where the pointer is located at 100 Loop Road. The missing bike connection, which can more easily be seen in the next map, is located between the Mooresville Road project and Loop Road project.

Where are the Mooresville Road and Loop Road projects located?

Where are the Mooresville Road and Loop Road projects located?

The below map shows where the proposed project on Loop Road ends at West C Street/South Walnut Street, which is where Loop Road changes names to Dale Earnhardt Blvd. The below map also shows where the proposed project on Mooresville Road ends at Dale Earnhardt Blvd, which is just before Mooresville Road changes names to Watson Crick Drive. The missing bike connection, which is highlighted in blue, is located on Dale Earnhardt Blvd between West C Street/South Walnut Street and Mooresville Road/Watson Crick Drive.

Loop Road to Mooresville Road Bike Connection

Loop Road to Mooresville Road Bike Connection

With the location in mind, below are the Mooresville Road and Loop Road project maps to provide proof that the missing bike connection is real. Since the Mooresville Road project maps are PDFs, I can’t show the maps so I have provided the links to the maps below. As NCDOT’s notice shows, there is a public hearing about the Mooresville Road widening project on Wednesday, July 9 from 4-6:30pm at the Cabarrus Health Alliance Building, which is located at 300 Mooresville Road in Kannapolis. I will be in Silver Spring, MD so cannot attend, but I encourage anyone interested in this project to attend.

Mooresville Road Widening Project from Kannapolis Parkway to Bethpage Road

Mooresville Road Widening Project from Bethpage Road to Dale Earnhardt Blvd

Below are the Loop Road project maps as of February 11, 2014. Since public hearings are still occurring for both projects, all the project maps are subject to change. Do you see the missing bike connection between the Mooresville Road project and the Loop Road project?

Loop Road Buffered Bike Lanes  from Biotechnology Lane to West C Street

Loop Road Buffered Bike Lanes from West C St/S Walnut St to Biotechnology Ln

Loop Road Buffered Bike Lanes from Biotechnology Lane to Main Street

Loop Road Buffered Bike Lanes from Biotechnology Ln to Main St

Kannapolis Owned vs. NCDOT Owned

The sections along Loop Road where the proposed road diet and buffered bike lanes could be installed may be transferred from NCDOT owned to City of Kannapolis owned. The sections along Mooresville Road where the proposed wider outside travel lanes for cyclists could be installed are currently NCDOT owned. Since both projects are not along sections of road that are city owned, I feel it is creating a difficult situation to make sure there is a safe and convenient bike connection between the two projects.

As of the resolution that was approved by Kannapolis City Council on Monday, June 23, Kannapolis is requesting NCDOT to abandon sections of Loop Road and Dale Earnhardt Blvd from State maintenance. This includes the entire project area for the road diet and buffered bike lanes on Loop Road and the missing bike connection on Dale Earnhardt Blvd. If NCDOT accepts the Kannapolis City Council’s request, these sections will be added to the City of Kannapolis’ Street System for maintenance. However, from what I have observed on the project maps, it doesn’t appear that this means the road diet and buffered bike lanes on Loop Road will be extended beyond the intersection of Loop Road and West C Street/South Walnut Street to the intersection of Dale Earnhardt Blvd (Loop Road changes names) and Mooresville Road/Watson Crick Drive. Since the Loop Road project will still end at West C Street/South Walnut Street, the missing bike connection will still exist.

After speaking with individuals involved in the Loop Road project, I discovered they have an alternative plan to create the bike connection between both projects. Instead of extending the road diet and buffered bike lanes to the intersection of Mooresville Road/Watson Crick Drive,  they want to end the road diet and buffered bike lanes at West C Street/South Walnut Street and route cyclists onto a multi-use path. They want to create this multi-use path through widening the sidewalk shown in the below photo. As one can see, there is a power line adjacent to the sidewalk. It probably is expensive to relocate the power line so the sidewalk can be widened for the creation of the multi-use path.

Power line may prevent widening of sidewalk for multi-use path

The Mooresville Road project, which is owned by the NCDOT, introduces another issue. Since the City of Kannapolis doesn’t own the sections of Mooresville Road where the proposed project is located, I feel it has less control over the proposed wider outside travel lanes for cyclists on Mooresville Road than it would have if these sections were owned by the city. One example of this can be seen in how the Mooresville Road project ends at Dale Earnhardt Blvd, which is just before Mooresville Road changes names to Watson Crick Drive. Since it would make the missing bike connection from the Loop Road project safer and more convenient, I would like NCDOT to extend the Mooresville Road project from Dale Earnhardt Blvd to Laureate Way.

Watson Crick Drive between Dale Earnhardt Blvd and Laureate Way

Watson Crick Drive between Dale Earnhardt Blvd and Laureate Way

Ray’s Redesign to Create Bike Connection

With the location and ownership details discussed for both projects, I will begin to discuss my proposed alternative route to create a safe and convenient bike connection between the Loop Road project and Mooresville Road project. This redesign assumes the City of Kannapolis and NCDOT cannot connect the two projects using the travel lanes on Dale Earnhardt Blvd.

Since I don’t yet (Portland State University has classes that teach photoshop) have photoshopping skills, imagine what the intersection of Loop Road/Dale Earnhardt Blvd and West C Street/South Walnut Street, which is shown below, would look like with a two-stage left turn box with bike detection. While I would prefer four two-stage left turn boxes be installed at this intersection because there are four possible locations to turn left, two boxes are needed to complete the alternative route that I am designing. One of these boxes needs to be installed for cyclists turning left from Loop Road onto South Walnut Street and the other box needs to be installed for cyclists turning left from South Walnut Street onto Dale Earnhardt Blvd. This redesign, along with the rest of my redesign, should encourage “interested but concerned” cyclists to bike between where the buffered bike lanes end on Loop Road and the wider outside travel lanes for cyclists start on Mooresville Road.

Inspiration for the words “Put a two-stage left turn box with bike detention on it!” in the caption for the below photo came from Complete Blocks. Complete Blocks is a cool project co-founded by Aleksandra Borisenko and Keihly Moore, who graduated from UNC Charlotte and now work for the Lawrence Group. Check out their website to see all the amazing complete block redesigns!

Put a two-stage left turn box on it!

Put a two-stage left turn box with bike detention on it!

The below photo shows two-stage left turn boxes in Portland, OR. A similarly designed two-stage left turn box could be installed in Kannapolis.

Two-stage left turn box in Portland, OR

Two-stage left turn box in Portland, OR

Since most people in Kannapolis probably don’t know how to use a two-stage left turn box, Kannapolis would need to install the below sign to educate people, especially motorists and cyclists, on how to use the two-stage left turn box.

Sign on how to use two-stage left turn box in Portland, OR

Sign on how to use two-stage left turn box in Portland, OR

After turning left onto South Walnut Street, cyclists could bike on Rite Aid’s private road, which is located behind Rite Aid and connects to South Juniper Street. Several cyclists from the Central Carolina Cycling Club told me they already use this route so the City of Kannapolis could work with Rite Aid to make this a public-private sponsored bike route by installing multiple sharrows and Bikes May Use Full Lane signs. These sharrows and Bikes May Use Full Lane signs would direct cyclists where they need to be on the road and inform both cyclists and motorists where to expect cyclists to be biking. Since few automobiles use this route, which I know because I took several photos while standing in the middle of the road, and the automobiles that do use the route are traveling so slow, this route would provide a safe alternative to biking on Dale Earnhardt Blvd.

Put sharrows on it!

Put sharrows and Bikes May Use Full Lane signs on it!

Here is an example of what a sharrow is and what the Bikes May Use Full Lane sign looks like. Notice how the sharrow is properly installed outside the door zone. I see too may sharrows installed in the door zone so it is nice to see a properly installed sharrow.

Sharrow with Bikes May Use Full Lane Sign

Sharrow with Bikes May Use Full Lane Sign

After biking on Rite Aid’s private road, cyclists would turn right onto South Juniper Street then turn left onto Southern Select Community Credit Union’s parking lot. Sharrows and Bikes May Use Full Lane signs can continue to be used. Additional wayfinding may be needed if the sharrows don’t provide enough direction for cyclists to know where to turn.

Leaving Rite Aid and turning right onto Juniper Street

Leaving Rite Aid and turning right onto Juniper Street

Turning left into Southern Select Community Credit Union's parking lot

Turning left into Southern Select Community Credit Union’s parking lot

The alternative route concludes on the other side of Southern Select Community Credit Union’s parking lot, which connects to Watson Crick Drive. Watson Crick Drive changes names to Mooresville Road beyond the below intersection so the alternative route is complete. I am hopeful that the City of Kannapolis and NCDOT can work together to make sure the proposed wider outside travel lanes for cyclists on Mooresville Road will be extended to where Watson Crick Drive intersects Laureate Way.

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Turning right onto Watson Crick Drive, which changes names to Mooresville Road at the intersection

My proposed alternative route, along with suggested redesigns, should encourage “interested but concerned” cyclists to bike between where the buffered bike lanes end on Loop Road and the wider outside travel lanes for cyclists start on Mooresville Road. Whether or not my proposed alternative route is considered by the City of Kannapolis or NCDOT, I am hopeful that the City of Kannapolis and NCDOT can work together to make sure there is a safe and convenient bike connection between the Loop Road project and the Mooresville Road project. How feasible do you think my plan is? Are there areas I can improve my plan?

Since I will be moving from Kannapolis, NC to Silver Spring, MD on Sunday for a transportation planning internship with Toole Design Group, my next post will discuss my expectations for living car-free in the Washington, DC region. Since I have been dependent on an automobile for nearly every trip in Kannapolis and this is my first time moving outside the Charlotte region, I am confident that I will experience challenges. However, I also expect to experience many benefits from living car-free in the Washington, DC region.