Protected bike lane Uptown + Parkwood Rd diet recommended to City Council!

Together, we did it!

We asked the City for a safe way to access Uptown via bike and they have agreed to do it!  We asked them to make Parkwood Avenue and The Plaza safer for all users, and they have agreed to this too!

Read on for all the exciting details from City Council’s June 19th meeting!

Parkwood and The Plaza Corridor Update

CDOT’s Dan Gallagher presented CDOT’s recommendations for Parkwood Avenue and The Plaza to City Council. A little background on this topic. CDOT is currently studying three major corridors in addition to Parkwood and the Plaza. These include South Boulevard, South Tryon, and West Boulevard (which has the most aggressive timeline for safety improvements).They will begin studying Eastway Drive soon as well.  These corridors were selected for study because they have four undivided travel lanes, high bus ridership, close proximity to the light rail, high speed and/or volume, high collision rates, active community concerns, and excluded from upcoming capital projects.

On Parkwood Avenue, CDOT is proposing a 1.6-mile road diet from Belmont Avenue to Hawthorne Lane with protected bike lanes, leading pedestrian intervals (when the pedestrian light changes ahead of the traffic light, giving the pedestrian more time to cross before cars start moving) and three new traffic signals.  Staff did not recommend a road diet on the 0.4 mile stretch of the Plaza between Parkwood and Matheson, but they will put in leading pedestrian intervals at intersections and add another hybrid pedestrian beacon on the route.  CDOT has completed a report for the Parkwood and The Plaza detailing their recommendations. Read the full report here.  

Gallagher stressed that the city’s FY17-19 budget (beginning July 1, 2017) includes funding to design and implement the highest priority interventions on each corridor, including the full road diet on Parkwood Avenue.

Transportation and Planning Committee Chair Vi Lyles (At-Large) expressed her support for moving the pedestrian safety changes into construction as soon as possible to help the City implement Vision Zero.  “Staff has figured out how to implement safety improvements, we have the money in the budget to do it, and we have an opportunity to show the community that we are not just reacting.  We need to make it safe on West Boulevard and Parkwood and Eastway,” she said.

Sustain Charlotte has been working very closely with the residents who live near this dangerous road since 2015 when a cyclist was struck and killed. More than 1,000 people have signed the petition calling for safer streets.  So we are thrilled to finally see these changes being recommended to the full City Council, and included in next year’s budget!

Uptown Connects

Vivian Coleman, with CDOT, also gave an overview of the Uptown Connects study, which is now complete. And they are recommending a protected bike lane on 5th/6th Streets!

As a reminder, we have been advocating for this since March of 2016, when we launched a campaign to connect the greenways through Uptown with a protected bike lane. And thanks to our advocacy for more than a year and the nearly 2,000 residents who signed our petition online (and additional 2,000 off-line), it has finally been recommended to the full City Council — a very big win made possible by our supporters and YOUR engagement!

Coleman began her presentation by saying that CDOT recommends greater bicycle facilities through Uptown for people of all ages and abilities with the goal of getting families into Center City by bike safely and comfortably.  There are 100,000 workers and 15,000 residents in Uptown.

Coleman added that Charlotte is not alone in investing in cycling infrastructure.  Peer cities like Atlanta and Raleigh already have bicycle facility networks.  After numerous public workshops, CDOT has developed the vision of “go big, go iconic, go visible, and make Charlotte known for cycling.”

Now CDOT will initiate the design phase for the 5th/6th Streets protected bike lane and ask for capital improvement funds in 2018. Coleman said it will be built in two and a half to three years.

Coleman also pointed out that the Uptown protected bike lane will utilize a single travel lane out of the existing 34 total East-West travel lanes to connect to the Cross Charlotte Trail, the Irwin Creek Greenway, the Stewart Creek Greenway and the Charlotte Rail Trail.

Council expressed general support, but they had questions.  Council member Kenny Smith asked how many people commute via bike into Uptown.

However, his question misses the key reason why we need this protected bike lane: to allow MORE people to safely commute into Uptown in the future.  Few people commute Uptown now because we have not built a safe network of bicycle lanes.

Mayor Roberts took note of the 2-3 year timeline and asked if temporary bike lanes could be implemented during the interim.  She said that she would like to see planters used as a temporary barrier.

“We need to do this safely.  Cones will not cut it in some spots Uptown,” Coleman responded.  She went on to say that some parts of the proposed 5th/6th Street route could be suitable for temporary projects.

At-Large Council Member Julie Eiselt said that although she supports the project, she often sees cyclists running red lights.  “Well, motorists run red lights too,” CDOT Director Danny Pleasant quickly responded.  And for the record, he’s right.  Studies have shown that cyclists and motorists run red lights about equally, though for different reasons.

At-Large Council Member Lyles invoked urban transportation visionary Janette Sadik-Kahn’s words from her recent visit to Charlotte, “If you can change the street, you can change the world.”  Lyles also said that supported the idea of planters and alternative demonstration projects while the Uptown protected bike lane is built.

Car Share

Charlotte is also looking to pilot a car sharing program through Zipcar as soon as this summer!  Alex Riemondy with CDOT explained that larger cities like Seattle, Austin, and San Francisco have already fully embraced car sharing, a model which promotes transportation choices in dense urban areas.  For Charlotte’s two-year pilot, Zipcar would reimburse the City of Charlotte for the six on-street and six off-street parking spots required for their vehicles, making it a cost neutral program for the city.

Guerrilla Urbanism

Danny Pleasant concluded the dinner briefing on the highest of notes saying that he invites people with demonstration project ideas to approach CDOT with suggestions.  He said he is open to guerrilla urbanism, as long as it happens with some intentionality and design.

We are more than encouraged by CDOT’s presentations and most Council Members’ reactions.  Forward-thinking cities that value quality of life and sustainability embrace car share, complete streets, and protected bicycle facilities.  We urge Council to prioritize improvements on all corridors and continue to invest in Charlotte’s transportation future.

Thanks for reading!

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