On Monday the city of Raleigh dropped its 2015 State of Bicycling in Raleigh report, an assessment of the city's progress in fostering the bike- and pedestrian-friendly environment leaders so often talk about. The verdict?
"We've got a lot of work to do," says transportation planner Jason Myers.
But at the same time, it's important to stress how far the city has come in a relatively short time. In 2009, the city had just five miles of bike lanes; in 2015, it has 33. Once the currently under-construction projects are built out, there will be about 70. The city's Greenway system is also growing apace, now to 114 miles from 67 six years ago.
Then again, many of those Greenway miles are better for exercising than commuting—there's not a good deal of connectivity to the city core, for instance—and roughly half of new bike lanes are "sharrows," meaning, essentially, car lanes with markings indicating that bicyclists may use those lanes, too. Those generally aren't all that appealing to less-experienced riders.
Given the city's ambitious goals, that's the demographic it most needs to target: those who would like to bike to work but are scared to.
That's what's on the drawing board, Myers says: spurs connecting the Greenway to downtown and more road diets, like the one on Hillsborough Street, and more bike lanes throughout the city.
So what needs to happen to bolster the city's bicycle-commuting population, most recently estimated at just under 1,000 (though that data has a large margin of error)? "I don't think there is a silver bullet here," Myers says. The city is about to hire a bicycle and pedestrian manager, he adds. "Their responsibility will be to address that question."
In the meantime, last week the city rolled out a beta version of its Bike Raleigh app, an amalgamation of squiggly lines overlaid on a map of the city showing Greenways and bike lanes. And maybe if we ask nicely, the City Council will decide to fund a BikeShare program, which was planned for but rejected in the most recent budget cycle, thanks primarily to revenue losses stemming from the Legislature's repeal of business privilege taxes.
"We're on the right path in a lot of ways," Myers says. "The bike plan will help us flesh out these steps over the next five to 10 years."
Oh, and before we move on, a little shameless self-promotion. Next week is our second annual bike issue, and it's gonna be rad.
Reach the INDY's Triangulator team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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