Durham County

Bike lanes are coming to this Durham street. Why some cyclists aren't happy about it

Bicycles and cars will have their own lanes on Broad Street later this summer when the street is resurfaced.

But local cyclists will not be getting all they want.

City transportation officials considered three options for the bike lanes before settling on the type most people already know: a lane for cyclists next to vehicular traffic.

The other two options — buffered or protected lanes that separate bikes from cars — were not good fits for Broad Street, they said.

City Manager Tom Bonfield said heavy traffic and the many driveways and intersections along the street played into the final decision.

"The more appropriate and safe option is to have cars [parked] along the curb and bicyclists in a visible position between the parking lane and motor vehicle lane," he said.

Bike Durham and other cycling advocates wanted the protected or buffered bike lanes, in which cyclists ride in a lane between the curb and a lane of parked cars. They provided examples of these bike lanes from other cities, including Burlington, Vermont, and San Francisco.

"We know that people on bikes are safer between parked cars and sidewalks than between parked cars and moving vehicles," Bike Durham said in a response to the city.

But Durham transportation officials pointed out problems with putting such lanes on Broad Street.

Bicyclists would be less visible to drivers at driveways and intersections. They would also face difficulty making left turns off Broad Street, according to the city analysis.

The street also is not wide enough under state standards to provide the recommended 3-foot buffer between the parking lane and the bike lane.

Bike Durham offered rebuttals to these points that Durham City Councilman Charlie Reece found compelling. In an email exchange with Bonfield, he suggested protected bike lanes should be considered.

"I believe the benefits are worth the costs, " Reece said. "There will be a learning curve, but this is an opportunity to make this important cycling corridor safer for our cyclists. If we need increased public education about how cyclists, pedestrians and drivers can more safely navigate this type of configuration, we should talk about how best to do that."

Bonfield said there may be other places in town where buffered bike lanes can be created.

"We believe that on the appropriate corridor and with good design, parking away from the curb is a viable option," he said. "This is why it was proposed as an option for comment and further analysis."

The city also considered not putting in the bike lanes and encouraging cyclists to use Iredell Street. But it was decided that Broad Street provides greater direct access to shops and businesses along the route than having cyclists traverse between the streets.

More than 300 people sent comments to the city regarding the bike lanes. Many called for installing the protected bike lanes. Some said standard bike lanes would be an improvement. A few decried the high number bicycles now found on sidewalks since the arrival of bike-sharing services Limebike and Spin .

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Broad Street, which currently is not marked with bike lanes, will lose about half its street parking to accommodate the bike lanes.

Parking will be allowed on one side of the street for about half the stretch, and then it will be shifted to the other side for the remaining portion, according to the plan. Between Perry and Knox streets, the available parking will be on the west side of the street. Parking will be on the east side between Knox Street and Guess Road. Where there is no parking, the bike lane will be next to the curb. In areas with parking, the bike lane will run next to traffic.

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