Walkable Retirement Complexes Surrounded By Automobile-Dependent Land Uses

I have been on countless family vacations but my family’s most recent vacation was very unique for one major reason: transportation. From Saturday, December 24 to Friday, December 30, I was a van passenger and stayed with my family in hotels that are located in automobile-dependent areas adjacent to I-495 in Alexandria, VA (suburb of DC), adjacent to I-90 in Erie, PA, and adjacent to I-480 in North Olmsted, OH (suburb of Cleveland). Since my dad values easy interstate access, we have stayed in automobile-dependent areas during most family vacations throughout my life.

As soon as I had the freedom to choose where I wanted to stay, I escaped the suburbs and stayed at an Airbnb in a more walkable and transit-accessible location in Cleveland’s Gordon Square Arts District. I walked and rode transit everywhere until flying back to DC on Sunday, January 1. The below tweet shows the reaction I received from locals after they asked me what I was doing in Cleveland. Since this blog post was getting long, I moved the “Cleveland at Eye Level” section to my next blog post.

Visiting Grandmothers

Since I’m aware that this blog post could be seen as me complaining about not having freedom to explore outside of my family’s van, I want to clarify that my dad mostly chose to stay in automobile-dependent areas because we were visiting my grandmothers in automobile-dependent areas of Erie, PA and Westlake, OH. The retirement complexes where my grandmothers live are walkable only within the confines of their retirement complexes. Both retirement complexes are surrounded by automobile-dependent land uses so my grandmothers can’t safely walk beyond their retirement complexes. As an active transportation planner, this was very depressing to see.

Thankfully, catching up with both of my grandmothers wasn’t depressing. I enjoyed seeing how networked my Erie grandmother is into her retirement community. After eleven years at her retirement community, she literally knows everyone by name and everyone stops to talk with her. I loved seeing and hearing this! I also enjoyed chair yoga with her and my twin sister.

I enjoyed chair #yoga with my grandma and twin sister! #chairyoga

A post shared by Ray Atkinson (@rayplans) on

Since my Ohio grandmother just moved into her retirement complex the day before we arrived, she isn’t networked into her retirement community yet. However, I enjoyed seeing and hearing her take the initiative to meet people in her retirement community. I also enjoyed playing Kings in the Corner with her and my family.

Part 2 of 3 about my family trip can be read in my next blog post.

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.

2014-06-24 19.31.11

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.

Doris Day Parking in Kannapolis

What is Doris Day Parking? Start watching this clip at 0:59 to understand what Doris Day Parking is. Almost all, if not all, buildings in Kannapolis have Doris Day automobile parking. Before I start discussing the automobile and bicycle parking situations on the North Carolina Research Campus (NCRC), I need to mention that the NCRC is not fully built out yet. However, I feel this is not an excuse for the oversupply of automobile parking on the NCRC. Since there are many Transportation Demand Management (TDM) strategies that the City of Kannapolis and NCRC can pursue instead of adding more automobile parking, I believe there is already too much automobile parking for the fully built out NCRC. While there are TDM strategies being pursued, I believe the strategies aren’t strong enough. This is evident in how there is an oversupply of automobile parking, especially Doris Day automobile parking. Doris Day automobile parking continues to be built for every single building while only a few bike racks are being built. This is only one example of how weak the TDM strategies are in Kannapolis. My goal with writing this post is to discuss the extreme contrast between the oversupply of Doris Day automobile parking and undersupply of safe and convenient bicycle parking at UNC Chapel Hill’s Building on the NCRC.

I want to fully disclose that I graduated from UNC Charlotte, which competes with UNC Chapel Hill. The reason for writing this post does not involve this competition so please remember this as you read and comment on this post. As the below photo shows, the motorist was able to park only a few feet from the entrance to the building. Since Kannapolis provides so much Doris Day automobile parking, it encourages driving an automobile for every trip.

Doris Day Parking at the UNC Chapel Hill Building on the North Carolina Research Campus

Doris Day automobile parking at the UNC Chapel Hill Building on the North Carolina Research Campus

Here is a closer view of the surface parking area. This is Doris Day Parking because the stairs to the building entrance, which can be seen on the right side of the photo, are only a few feet from the parking spaces so motorists only have to walk a few feet to enter the building. In case you are wondering, it is free to park here. Before the next photo is shown, notice the six story parking deck in the background.

Dorris Day Parking at the UNC Chapel Hill Building on the North Carolina Research Campus

Dorris Day Parking at the UNC Chapel Hill Building on the North Carolina Research Campus

Even though there are six stories, only the bottom two floors were partially used when I took the below photo around noon on a work day. Considering the fact that the NCRC isn’t fully built out yet, do you see the potential for all six floors being full someday?

I would prefer the NCRC pursue a different route. This route could reduce the likelihood of all six floors being used and prevent having the need to build another parking deck or surface lot on the NCRC. In order to achieve this route, the NCRC and City of Kannapolis would have to implement TDM strategies that encourage use of sustainable modes of transportation instead of encouraging the use of the automobile for every trip. Given the fact that Kannapolis is very dependent on the automobile, do you see the potential for Kannapolis to implement strong enough TDM strategies that would encourage enough people to shift from driving their automobile to using a sustainable mode of transportation?

6 story parking deck on the North Carolina Research Campus

6 story parking deck on the North Carolina Research Campus

Not only do motorists have a six story parking deck that is barely used, they also have wayfinding signage to direct them to the parking deck. While this wayfinding signage helps to reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT) because motorists can more quickly find where to park, there is no wayfinding signage to help bicyclists find where to park their bike.

Wayfinding signage to direct motorist to the parking deck

Wayfinding signage to direct motorists to the parking deck

Since I was determined to find where I was supposed to park my bicycle, which I struggled to park illegally to the sign below, I walked around the entire building. I struggled to park my bicycle because I had to lift it high enough for my U-lock to fit around the sign. While holding my bicycle high enough, I also had to maneuver the U-lock through the front wheel and frame. It took me at least a minute to lock my bicycle!

Location where I parked my bicycle

Location where I parked my bicycle

To my amazement, there was actually some bicycle parking located on the right side of the building and more located on the rear of the building. However, none of the bicycle parking was Dorris Day Parking like it was for automobile parking. I find it ironic that the UNC Chapel Hill Nutrition Research Institute, which is located inside this building, is researching how to “prevent or treat diseases like obesity, diabetes and cancer.” One simple and inexpensive way to work towards this goal is to install Dorris Day bicycle parking so people can feel encouraged to bike to the building instead of drive an automobile.

Bicycle parking at the UNC Chapel Hill Building on the North Carolina Research Campus

Bicycle parking at the UNC Chapel Hill Building on the North Carolina Research Campus

To make matters worse, the bicycle parking that has been provided is the same poorly designed and installed bicycle parking that was installed at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College’s NCRC Building. Even though UNC Chapel Hill and/or the NCRC probably received Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) points for installing wheel bender bike racks, I cannot safely use the poorly designed wheel bender bike racks. As the below photo shows, the wheel bender bike rack is poorly designed because the person who owns the bike cannot lock the bike rack with the front wheel and frame using a U-lock. Instead, the person is forced to use a wire lock, which can easily be cut.

Unfortunately, the issue goes beyond the infrastructure that is installed. Education is also needed to educate cyclists on how to properly lock their bike. This issue can be seen in how the wire lock in the below photo was only locked to the frame and not to the frame and front wheel. Since the front wheel is quick release, the front wheel can easily be stolen so a U-lock needs to be used to lock the front wheel and frame to the bike rack. The wheel bender bike racks cannot reach the frame so a safer type of bike rack is needed.

Wire lock is only locked to the frame so front wheel, which is quick release, can be stolen

Wire lock is only locked to the frame so front wheel, which is quick release, can be stolen

In addition, the wheel bender bike racks are poorly installed because the side entrance door to the building is locked so visitors have to walk around to the front of the building to enter. The poorly designed and installed bicycle parking does not promote bicycle use to the building. Since there isn’t correctly designed and installed bicycle parking, I am forced to risk getting a ticket for parking my bicycle illegally. I value the safety of my bike more than using an inferior product. Will UNC Chapel Hill or the NCRC install safe bike racks to replace the wheel bender bike racks?

Inconveniently located and poorly designed bicycle parking

Inconveniently located and poorly designed bicycle parking

The below photo shows one potential location for inverted U bike racks to be installed. I chose this location because it provides cyclists with convenient access to the front door, which is open for visitors. Through providing people with convenient bike parking, it encourages them to bike to the building instead of drive an automobile.

Location for Inverted U bike racks

Location for Inverted U Bike Racks (Photoshop: Keihly Moore/Lawrence Group)

One way to encourage people to bike to the building even more is to provide covered bike racks so bikes aren’t exposed to the elements.

Location for Covered Inverted U Bike Racks (Photoshop: Keihly Moore/Lawrence Group)

Location for Covered Inverted U Bike Racks (Photoshop: Keihly Moore/Lawrence Group)

I have discussed the extreme contrast between the oversupply of Doris Day automobile parking and undersupply of safe and convenient bicycle parking. Since I move to Silver Spring, MD on June 29, I only have time to write two more blog posts before I leave. My next post should be about my proposed redesign of a difficult bicycle connection between where the proposed buffered bike lanes on Loop Road end and the proposed bike lanes on Mooresville Road end. Following this post, I plan to discuss my expectations of living car-free in Silver Spring, MD and the Washington, DC region. After I arrive in Silver Spring, MD, I plan to discuss whether or not my expectations came true and what challenges and benefits I am experiencing from living car-free in Silver Spring, MD and the Washington, DC region.

Where Can I Safely Park My Bicycle in Kannapolis?!

Where can I safely park my bicycle in Kannapolis?! I wish the answer was as simple as to a bike rack! Unfortunately, as I find out on a nearly daily basis because I bike in Kannapolis nearly every day, there are very few bike racks in Kannapolis. From what I have observed, I believe these few bike racks, which have all been poorly designed, are almost all located on the North Carolina Research Campus (NCRC), which is located in downtown Kannapolis. While I haven’t biked every street in Kannapolis, there are very few other locations in Kannapolis that have installed bike racks. When I have found other bike racks, almost all of them have been poorly designed. Feel free to share with me additional bike parking locations in Kannapolis so I can photograph and discuss them for a future post.

Even though there is an extreme shortage of bike parking, especially bike parking that is designed correctly, there is extremely too much automobile parking! While I will provide a short overview of automobile and bike parking in this post and the other posts included in the series, I plan to devote additional blog series to automobile parking and bike parking at a later date. This later date will most likely be after I leave Kannapolis.

After I finished writing about just one issue I experienced while biking today, I was already up to over 1,200 words. I’m not sure how many words is too long for a blog post. Can anyone experienced with blogging inform me what the accepted maximum word limit is for blog posts? I assume people don’t want to read more than 1,000 words in a single blog post so I will split the issues into several blog posts. I also need to prioritize my statistics and microeconomics homework above blogging so this gives me another reason to split the issues into several blog posts. This post will be devoted to discussing my experience today with bike parking at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College (RCCC)’s NCRC Building. The rest of the blog series will discuss bike parking at UNC Chapel Hill’s NCRC Building and the sharp contrast between the available automobile parking and bike parking on the NCRC.

Without further ado, I will begin to discuss the issues I experienced today at RCCC’s NCRC Building. Since my dad starts work at 8am Monday-Friday and my statistics course starts at 8am Monday-Friday, we truckpool most days. It is nice that his office is located one mile east of the NCRC so dropping me off is on his way to work. On the days that we truckpool, I leave my bike in the back end of his truck and usually meet him for lunch after class to pick up my bike so I can bike throughout Kannapolis to do my errands. We decided to change this plan today, which resulted in the issues that are being described in this post. Instead of keeping my bike in the back end of his truck, I removed it and locked it to the handicapped sign shown below.

Location where I parked my bicycle at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College's NCRC Building

Location where I parked my bicycle at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College’s NCRC Building

I realize this is not the correct location to park my bike. However, the correct location (not correct design) is shown below. Notice how no bikes are parked here. Either cyclists are parking somewhere else, which is highly unlikely because, according to the US Census Bureau’s 2012 American Community Survey, 0% of workers 16 years or older commute to work by bicycle in Kannapolis, or I am the only cyclist trying to find a safe location to park my bike. This may explain why no one has asked for the safety issue to be resolved.

Even though RCCC and/or the NCRC probably received Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) points for installing wheel bender bike racks at this building, I cannot safely use the three installed wheel bender bike racks. The wheel bender bike rack design is unsafe because I cannot lock the bike rack with the front wheel and frame of my bike using my U-lock. Even though a wire lock would lock my front wheel and frame, I will not use a wire lock. This is because wire locks have been proven to be cut easier than U-locks. I value the safety of my bike more than using an inferior product. Will RCCC or the NCRC install safe bike racks to replace the wheel bender bike racks?

Bicycle parking at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College's NCRC Building

Bicycle parking at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College’s NCRC Building

Before RCCC or the NCRC installs new bike racks, they need to know one of the many safe bike rack designs that exists. As the below photo shows, an inverted U bike rack is a safe bike rack design because cyclists can lock their lock to their bike’s front wheel and frame. As added security, the inverted U bike rack allows for the rear wheel to be locked to the bike rack. I plan to email this blog post to the City of Kannapolis to find out if they can replace the wheel bender bike racks. I will update you on what they say.

Inverted U racks are one type of correctly designed bike racks

Inverted U racks are one type of correctly designed bike racks

You may have seen a note taped to my bike in the first photo. The below photo shows what the note says. In case the photo does not show, the note says, “Bicycles are to be placed in the bike rack at the end of the Parking Lot. Please refrain from using Handicap Parking Signs. NCRC/RCCC Security.” When I asked security about my safety concern with using the bike parking they directed me to, they said the president of RCCC didn’t like the appearance of having a bike parked there so wanted it removed. After I informed security that I couldn’t safely lock my bike to the bike parking they directed me to and needed them to direct me to a safe and convenient location to lock my bike, security kept responding that I had no choice but to lock my bike to the provided bike parking. I wasn’t willing to take this answer, especially since motorists have safe and convenient parking locations, so I kept pushing. They informed me that if I continued to lock my bike to the handicapped sign, someone would give me a ticket. After explaining the safety issue again, they informed me they would try to remember not to give me a ticket and suggested I come to them (hopefully the same security officer will be on duty) if I receive a ticket. Even though I still have concerns with their answers, I didn’t want to risk getting arrested for arguing with a security officer. Why do cyclists have to deal with this much difficulty to just have a safe and convenient location to lock their bike?!

NCRC/RCCC Security placed this note on my bicycle

NCRC/RCCC Security placed this note on my bicycle

As my next blog post will discuss in more detail, this dangerous bike parking design is not limited to RCCC’s NCRC Building. Since it is easy to bike between RCCC’s NCRC Building and UNC Chapel Hill’s NCRC Building, I often bike over to the Lettuce Eat Cafe, which is located inside UNC Chapel Hill’s NCRC Building. My next blog post will discuss the bike parking and possibly automobile parking (if I don’t go over 1,000 words again) issues I experienced at UNC Chapel Hill’s NCRC Building.

Feasibility of Approving Bicycle Infrastructure in Oregon, Idaho and North Carolina

I was planning to discuss the complicated bike connection between where the proposed buffered bike lanes on Loop Road end and the proposed bike lanes on Mooresville Road end. I will still write this post, but wanted to first discuss a more pressing matter that is impacting communities of all sizes across the United States. Anyone who follows the approval process of bicycle infrastructure in the United States knows how controversial this process often becomes, especially in the automobile-centric South. The below map, which I found through Bicycling Magazine, shows the cities in the United States with the most miles of bike lanes and paths in 2009 and cities in the United States with the most miles of protected lanes slated for 2013 and 2014. Depending on your definition of the South, which doesn’t always include Texas, the South is struggling to approve and install bicycle infrastructure. As I know from interning for Charlotte DOT during the summer of 2011, this doesn’t mean the South isn’t trying to install bicycle infrastructure. According to PeopleForBikes’ map, the South has installed protected bike lanes. When will North Carolina join all the states that have protected bike lanes?

US cities with the most miles of bike infrastructure

US cities with the most miles of bike infrastructure

Not surprising to me since I feel much safer biking with bike infrastructure, many of the cities that have the most miles of bike infrastructure also have the most trips made by bike. A few demographic concerns that many academic articles have pointed out are the high percentage of male cyclists and the lack of ethnic diversity among cyclists since a majority of cyclists are white. Due to what I saw while biking in Denmark and the Netherlands, I strongly believe that females are an indicator of how safe a city is for cycling. The higher percentage of females who are biking the safer a city is for cycling. This doesn’t mean that females are weak. The female cyclists that I know are some of the strongest people I know. Instead, I feel it means that females have a different sense of safety than males. This is especially true for females who are taking care of children because they probably don’t feel safe biking with their children on roads with high speed automobile traffic.

US cities with highest bike commute rates

US cities with highest bike commute rates

How do cities go about making their roads safe enough for females and children to bike on them? Providing a safe and convenient network of bicycle infrastructure would be a good starting point. One of the most controversial steps in this process is approving the bicycle infrastructure. Throughout the rest of this post, I will discuss four case studies on how controversial the bicycle infrastructure approval process was in each city. While I am confident there are several more case studies to discuss, my coverage will be on Foster Road in Portland, Oregon; Willamette Street in Eugene, Oregon; Capitol Boulevard, Idaho Street and Main Street in Boise, Idaho; and Newsome Road and Statesville Boulevard in Salisbury, North Carolina. Along with each case study, I will discuss the current debate in Kannapolis about whether to do a road diet and buffered bike lanes on Loop Road.

Portland, OR

Of all the case studies, Foster Road is the only case that resulted in a unanimous vote by city council to approve bicycle infrastructure. According to BikePortland.org, the approved and funded redesign of Foster Road involves the following: “Even though local media outlets like The Oregonian tried to frame it as a “loss” of lanes in order to promote clicks and critics, the new cross-section actually adds a lane. The plan is to re-design the four lanes that exist today and turn it into five lanes: two standard lanes, one center turn lane, and two bike lanes. ” The Mayor of Portland, Charlie Hales, supported the redesign by quoting famed urban planning philosopher Lewis Mumford. Do you think the Mayor of Kannapolis, Darrell Hinnant, will say something similar during the debate over whether to redesign Loop Road?

“We want people to slow down, get out of their car, and notice this is a great neighborhood… You don’t have to speed off to some distant chain store.”
— Charlie Hales, Portland Mayor

Even in bicycle friendly Portland, there was opposition to the redesign of Foster Road. One citizen “referencing a quote by Rex Burkholder in a recent story in the Portland Mercury where he said major commercial arterials need to have better bicycle access to make his trips to the pub and work faster, the woman said, “Don’t we [people who use cars] share that goal of getting to our destinations as efficiently as possible?” “Taking away driving lanes,” she said, “will affect too many drivers.” In fact she added, somewhat ominously, that the time increases would lead to drivers getting frustrated and that, “trying to make up for lost time causes traffic violations and hazards.””

Foster Road in Portland, OR (Photo J. Maus/BikePortland)

Foster Road in Portland, OR (Photo J. Maus/BikePortland)

Eugene, OR

During my visit to Eugene, I biked along Willamette Street so I could eat at Holy Cow, which is a “family-owned organic food enterprise”. Even though Willamette Street didn’t feel safe, having a place to lock my bike at Holy Cow made up for the poor design of Willamette Street. Holy Cow actually has three staple racks and they were all being used! Including my bike, there were four bikes locked to the three staple racks. Would cyclists still go to Holy Cow if there were no bike racks?

The redesign of Willamette Street involves the following. “The existing four lanes would be replaced by a design with one vehicle travel lane in each direction, a center turn lane and bicycle lanes on both sides of the street.” The below photo shows the current configuration of Willamette Street. Notice how the two cyclists are biking on the sidewalk and there are only automobiles traveling along the street. This is a rare scene in Eugene because I could almost always see another cyclist biking on the street when I was biking on other streets in Eugene. Since Eugene has an established bike culture, which includes residents that live car-free, I was dumbfounded when the Eugene City Council barely passed the redesign of Willamette Street. “With Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy casting a tie-breaking vote, the City Council on Tuesday approved the test of a bike-friendly design for Willamette Street.” This news report provides an unbiased discussion of the controversy surrounding the redesign of Willamette Street. If it is this challenging to approve bicycle infrastructure in Eugene, how challenging will it be to approve the road diet and buffered bike lanes in Kannapolis, NC?

Willamette Street looking north from 32nd Avenue on Tuesday May 27, 2014. (Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard)

Willamette Street looking north from 32nd Avenue on Tuesday May 27, 2014. (Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard)

Boise, ID

Even though I have never been to Idaho, I did apply for two planning jobs in Idaho. One of these applications resulted in a phone interview. I am sharing this because I want readers to keep in mind that I do not have personal knowledge of Boise, Idaho. In addition, I want readers to recognize that bicycle friendly communities attract people, especially Millennials, to pursue employment in their communities.

Since Ada County Highway District, which manages Boise’s public roads, shared emails it has received and conducted an online survey on how people felt about buffered bike lanes on Capitol Boulevard, Idaho Street and Main Street, I wanted to include Boise. The below map, which I found here, shows where Capitol Boulevard, Idaho Street and Main Street are in Boise. The Ada County Highway District “began offering the online survey May 1, a couple of days after the buffered bike lanes – on Capitol Boulevard, Idaho Street and Main Street – and the new travel configuration showed up Downtown.” “About two-thirds of the roughly 500 emails Ada County Highway District received on the topic were opposed to the new bike lanes Downtown, district spokesman Craig Quintana said. The results of an online survey split almost evenly, with a slim majority showing preference for removing the bike lanes.” I need to ask City of Kannapolis staff to share the email response they have received about the road diet and buffered bike lanes on Loop Road. In addition, I need to ask if City of Kannapolis staff has conducted a survey on how people feel about this project. I feel these two items need to be done before Kannapolis City Council can responsibly vote on the Loop Road project.

After writing the above paragraphs, I recently learned that Ada County Highway District voted to “remove the lanes and “revisit” adding a bike-friendly infrastructure to Boise’s downtown, perhaps in August.” Could Kannapolis City Council decide to remove the buffered bike lanes on Loop Road after they are installed? Given the safety issues I have expressed to City of Kannnapolis staff about the buffered bike lanes, it is possible that this could occur if the safety issues are not resolved before the buffered bike lanes are installed.

Map of the new bike routes through downtown Boise - KELSEY HAWES

Map of the new bike routes through downtown Boise – KELSEY HAWES

Read more here: http://www.idahostatesman.com/2014/05/20/3192520/many-want-bike-lanes-gone.html#storylink=cpy

Salisbury, NC

Since most people in North Carolina would probably want a local case study that they can relate to, I have chosen to include Salisbury. I believe Foster Road in Portland, Willamette Street in Eugene, and Statesville Boulevard in Salisbury have the same configuration and proposed redesign. However, Foster Road and Willamette Street appear to have much more automobile traffic than Statesville Boulevard. The below photo, which was taken by the Salisbury Post, shows the current and potentially long-term future of Statesville Boulevard.

Statesville Boulevard in Salisbury, NC (Credit: Salisbury Post)

Statesville Boulevard in Salisbury, NC (Credit: Salisbury Post)

The following is what occurred in Salisbury. “In 2012, city officials considered putting bike lanes on Statesville Boulevard as part of a road diet that would have taken the four-lane thoroughfare down to two lanes, a turn lane and two bike lanes, as recommended in the bike plan. But after complaints from neighbors during a contentious public workshop, the city ditched the bike lanes and had the state repaint the boulevard with four lanes.” Mac Butner, who has lived in Salisbury since 1961, was opposed to the redesign and desired Statesville Boulevard to remain four lanes because he wants “a passing lane both ways.” “You just don’t give that up after all this time.” The below cartoon, which was drawn by Marina Bare, shows the overwhelming amount of complaints from Salisbury residents during a contentious public workshop.

Salisbury Says No to Statesville Blvd Bike Lane (Cartoon by Rowan Free Press)

Salisbury Says No to Statesville Blvd Bike Lane (Cartoon by Marina Bare)

On the other end of the spectrum, Jeff Jones favored the redesign because “fewer vehicle lanes would make the road safer.” “Visually, the way it is set up now, it just encourages speed,” he said. “It’s like a race track.” According to this article, Jeff Jones was in the minority. “A vocal minority of attendees supported turning the boulevard into a three-lane road, including a center turn lane and dedicated bike lanes on both sides.”

I have been attending the public workshops for the proposed road diet and buffered bike lanes on Loop Road. From what I have seen and heard, Kannapolis is not receiving the same amount of opposition Salisbury residents had towards bike lanes on Statesville Boulevard. This doesn’t mean there isn’t opposition to the proposed road diet and buffered bike lanes on Loop Road. Will the outcry that was experienced in Salisbury also occur in Kannapolis with the proposed road diet and buffered bike lanes on Loop Road or is North Carolina ready to accept that the automobile is not the only mode of transportation?

Even though it took widening (I can think of a few roads that could use a diet) of Newsome Road to approve Salisbury’s first bike lanes, Salisbury is proof that North Carolina is ready to accept that the automobile is not the only mode of transportation. “Three years after approving the bicycle master plan, City Council on Tuesday approved Salisbury’s first official bike lanes for a one-mile stretch of Newsome Road.” Kannapolis is looking to do a road diet and buffered bike lanes on Loop Road, which I feel is more challenging than widening Newsome Road to install bike lanes. Will Kannapolis approve the road diet and North Carolina’s first buffered bike lanes on Loop Road?

Road Diet and Buffered Bike Lanes on Loop Road

Kannapolis has many roads that serve primarily motorists while creating unsafe conditions for pedestrians, cyclists and transit users. Kannapolis needs to design roads that are safe for all road users, including motorists. Through making the roads safe for walking, bicycling and using transit, Kannapolis will also make the roads safer for driving an automobile. Since I feel motorists are often excluded from conversations about other modes of transportation and don’t understand the value of designing roads for all road users, I want to make it abundantly clear that redesigning roads for all road users will make the roads safer for motorists as well. This means all road users are benefiting from my advocacy and planning work.

The first road I will discuss is Loop Road. Even though I am willing, not comfortable, to bike on Loop Road because I am an Enthused and Confident” transportation cyclist, the majority of cyclists are not willing to bike on Loop Road. Instead, one will most likely find these cyclists, which make up the “Interested but Concerned” group, on the sidewalk or driving an automobile while their bicycle is rusting away in their garage. A female (most cyclists in the United States are male) interested but concerned cyclist, who used to live in Kannapolis and currently lives in Rutherfordton, NC, shared with me on Facebook the following:

“I would love to live in a cycling community. I would put baskets and panniers on my old hybrid in a heartbeat if it were safe to pedal to the Bi-Lo! I would love for cycling to be an integral part of my daily routine and not only for exercise/recreation on the road bike.

Most pedestrians in the South fit into this “Interested but Concerned” group as well. One of the reasons I feel this is true is because, as one can see in the below photo, most pedestrians would feel unsafe walking on this sidewalk. The sidewalk is unsafe because it is installed adjacent to the road without any physical separation from the road.

2014-05-20 15.49.30

Loop Road

The below photo, which is from Charlotte DOT, is a great example of how a planting strip can be used to provide physical separation from the road. I would feel much safer walking along this road than Loop Road.

Planting StripAnother pedestrian and cyclist safety issue in the Loop Road photo is how the 8th Street Greenway abruptly ends on the north side of Loop Road without providing users a safe and convenient option to cross Loop Road to the North Carolina Research Campus. The nearest signalized intersections are North Main Street and West A Street, which have standard crosswalks but no pedestrian signals. The below photo, which shows the intersection of Loop Road and West A Street, could be improved for pedestrian safety by installing ladder crosswalks, pedestrian signals and median refuge islands on Loop Road. The motorist stopping beyond the stop bar in the crosswalk doesn’t help with making this intersection safer for pedestrians.

Intersection of Loop Road and West A Street

Intersection of Loop Road and West A Street

Thankfully, as the City of Kannapolis’ website shows, Kannapolis is working to redesign Loop Road to make it safer for all road users, especially the “Interested but Concerned” cyclists and pedestrians. The potential redesign of Loop Road involves a road diet, which in this case means “converting the outside travel lane to a buffered bicycle lane from West C St around to North Main St.” As this article from PeopleForBikes on protected/buffered bike lanes discusses and the below infographic shows, this redesign should encourage cyclists, especially the “Interested but Concerned” cyclists, to get their bike out of their garage and bike on the road.

Protected Bike Lanes Increase Bike Traffic

The redesign should also encourage pedestrians, which all of us are at some point during the day, to walk on the sidewalk and cross the road. US Secretary of Transportation and former Mayor of Charlotte Anthony Foxx said, “Whether you live in a city or a small town, and whether you drive a car, take the bus or ride a train, at some point in the day, everyone is a pedestrian.”

For those unfamiliar with what road diets and buffered bike lanes are and the benefits of installing both together, Streetfilms produced the following video about road diets and the Green Lane Project produced the following video about the rise of buffered/protected bike lanes in the US.

 

 

Since Kannapolis is a small city and all the cities shown in the Green Lane Project’s video are large cities, one may wonder if buffered/protected bike lanes are being installed in small cities. As the below Streetfilms video shows, small and medium sized cities throughout the United States are installing buffered/protected bike lanes. Will Kannapolis, NC join these cities?

 

Here is a cross section and project maps for the proposed road diet and buffered bike lanes on Loop Road. According to the Green Lane Project, which is a People For Bikes program, Kannapolis would be the first city in North Carolina to have a buffered bike lane if it installs the buffered bike lanes on Loop Road. Visit the City of Kannapolis’ website for more information about the proposed project.

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

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

Loop Road Buffered Bike Lanes from Biotechnology Lane to Main Street

Loop Road Buffered Bike Lanes from Biotechnology Lane to Main Street

Since I will be in Charlotte tomorrow to watch The Human Scale, my next post will be delayed. I plan to discuss the complicated bike connection between where the proposed buffered bike lanes on Loop Road end and the proposed bike lanes on Mooresville Road end.