Greenville Vision To Be Bicycle Friendly

Bill Hitchcock

Task force explores ideas to make city bicycle friendly

By Michael Abramowitz
The Daily Reflector

Greenville government has a vision of growth that includes a bicycle-friendly community.

Greenville-NCThe city stands poised to create a bicycle and pedestrian commission for the development of more thoroughfares for bicycles and other non-engine-driven means of mobility.

Before they make it official, though, City Council members appointed a Bicycle Friendly Task Force to explore avenues to pursue those goals. The task force conducted a public forum Wednesday evening at City Hall to share its vision and get community feedback.

Herb Garrison, professor of emergency medicine at the Brody School of Medicine, director of the Eastern Carolina Injury Prevention Program and associate director of medical services for the N.C. Highway Patrol has another position now: task force chairman.

In addition to Garrison, the task force is comprised of city government officials, including Thomas Moton, assistant city manager, Sgt. Robert Brewington, head of the Greenville Police Department traffic division, James Rhodes, city planning director, as well as business people and non-government residents who belong to bicycle clubs such as EC Velo.

Before the public forum, the task force met to consider two new proposals.

It agreed to present a draft to the council that, if approved, would create a permanent bicycle and pedestrian commission.

The task force also will submit a draft to the council requesting that it change an existing city ordinance that forbids bicycle traffic on sidewalks to allow it except for the downtown section of the city bordered by the Town Common, Pitt Street and Reade Circle.

There would be rules for riding on sidewalks, including a 7 mph speed limit, Garrison said.

The task force was not unanimous about changing the ordinance. Several members who are avid bicyclists strongly disagreed with the recommendation, saying the change would make the sidewalks more dangerous if shared among cyclists and walkers. They also feared that allowing bicyclists to ride on sidewalks would give motorists the mistaken impression that bicycle riders are no longer allowed on the roads. That law would not change, however, and bicyclists would still be free to ride the roads, subject to the same traffic laws as cars and other motor vehicles.

“There is one line of thinking that says pedestrians are at risk where bicyclists ride, especially commuters, but we’ve found that most bicycle-friendly communities allow bikes to ride on sidewalks where traffic is not congested,” Garrison said.

While acknowledging the riders’ concerns about sharing sidewalks, Moton said he saw the change as a transition toward the future.

“Sidewalks change the culture of a neighborhood as people get out and use them. This intermediate step would not replace the idea of (separate) bikeways, though. The city is committed to improving the quality of life here,” he said.

But bikeways would be at least five years away, Moton said, while allowing cyclists to ride on sidewalks is something the city can do now.

Brewington and Bill Bagnell of East Carolina University Facilities Services agreed that decriminalizing bicycling on sidewalks would not be much of a change from the status quo because there is almost no enforcement of the ordinance.

“We need to do something, and there have been only a handful of collisions on sidewalks in my 25 years here,” Brewington said.

Garrison sees the changes as timely with the new sidewalks that have been cropping up along some of Greenville’s major roadways.

“Greenville Boulevard is a good example,” Garrison said. “A lot of people will not ride in traffic, but say they will ride on the sidewalks. Right now, though, city code says it’s illegal to ride a bicycle on the sidewalk.”

Ken MacLeod is a business professor at East Carolina University and an avid cyclist who has been commuting the length of Evans Street for 18 years. He disagrees with the idea of bicycles on sidewalks, even though he’s been a victim of a hit-and-run collision at the intersection of Evans and Greenville Boulevard.

After he was struck, Mac-Leod sustained a separated shoulder, however, from which he is still recovering. Even so, he does not favor allowing sidewalks for bicycle traffic for two reasons, he said.

“They move far too fast and are unsafe for pedestrians, and you can’t see a car coming down a driveway and get out of the way in time because you’re too close when you’re on the sidewalk. Bikes are vehicles and belong in the roads,” he said.

The ordinance changes and the new ideas about bikeways and sidewalks were compiled from information provided by other bicycle-friendly cities around the state and country, Garrison said.

“Before taking the changes to the city council, we decided it would be a good idea to first take them to the community,” he said.

Input at the public forum echoed that of the task force meeting. Most of the 50 or more people there favored a permanent commission to further the cause of recreational growth and more environmentally friendly transportation routes, as well as safer passage for mobility devices such as wheelchairs.

There were concerns about the wisdom of mingling bicycles and pedestrians on sidewalks, which are narrower than bikeways, but attendees saw the proposal as a move toward more robust changes in the future.

After some changes in the wording of its draft proposals to accommodate ideas from the meeting, the task force will present the proposals for a permanent commission and amendment of the bicycle ordinance to the council for action.

Inner Banks Living


Author’s Yougler Profile is at  Bill Hitchcock.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Flickr Photos

Boracay Island Philippines ftmonroe ftmonroe-5 ftmonroe-3 ftmonroe-2

Featured Video

Animated Tag Cloud