2015 Triangle Bike/Ped Workshop Highlights Progress & Needs
By Jennifer Delcourt, Coordinator, Active Routes to School Region 5, hosted by Wake County Human Services
While there continues to be room for improvement for bicycle and pedestrian facilities in communities originally designed with cars in mind, the 5th Annual Triangle Bicycle and Pedestrian Workshop last month highlighted progress from the last year. It also provided municipalities with an opportunity to network and share challenges as well as upcoming plans.
BikeWalk NC Executive Direction Lisa Diaz Riegel speaks about the organization.
Municipalities provided updates, including Cary, Raleigh and Wake Forest, among others. In Wake County, bond referendums in recent years have increased funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects.
In Raleigh, Transportation Planning Manager Eric Lamb said the city is spending more on sidewalks than ever before through the Walk Raleigh program. The City of Raleigh also has benefited from a transportation bond that led to an additional 9 miles of bike lanes and will support future greenway projects, among other things.
In Cary, bond funds supported the installation of 18 sidewalk projects and 28 miles of bike lane over the last year. In Wake Forest, bond funds led to street and sidewalk improvements, greenway and wayfinding signage improvements, and upgrades for parks and recreation facilities.
Economic and Health Benefits
Wake County Commissioner Sig Hutchinson discussed the public health benefits of bike/ped projects.
These investments can pay off big for communities, yielding significant economic benefits. A 2004 report from NC DOT called Pathways to Prosperity: The Economic Impact of Investments in Bicycle Facilities demonstrates that in the Outer Banks, $6.7 million in public funds investments in bicycling facilities have yielded $60 million in increased annual spending from visitors to the region; this resulted in a 9:1 return on investment. Closer to home, a new report from the Institute of Transportation Research and Education (ITRE) at NC State illustrates the impact of the new American Tobacco Trail bridge in Durham. The report, Bridging the Gap, shows that after installation of the bridge, trail use increased by 133% and led to a $3.7 million increase in direct annual expenditures by trail users at local restaurants, grocery stores, and other retail outlets.
Wake County Commissioner Sig Hutchinson emphasized the tremendous health benefits that such projects can also bring, highlighting the important role of the health and wellness community as a partner in the effort to make communities safer and more accessible for walking and bicycling. The Bridging the Gap report also found average trip distances on the trail increased for users at all income levels, leading to a corresponding 163% increase in the number of calories burned by people using the trail. (Users now burn 5.5 million calories annually–the equivalent of 19,000 cheeseburgers).
Bike sharrow on St. Mary’s St. in Raleigh.
Infrastructure and engineering improvements such as bike lanes, sharrows and “road diets” are not the only ways that municipal staff and advocates are seeking to improve the context for walking and bicycling. Presenters also addressed ways that local communities and organizations are addressing the other five E’s: education, encouragement, enforcement, equity, and evaluation. For example, NC DOT’s Watch for Me NC campaign to increase awareness of walking and bicycling and train police officers regarding bicycle and pedestrian laws, continues in many Triangle communities, including Cary, Raleigh and NC State in Wake County.
Paul Straw of Go Triangle presented information on the new Go Perks program, which encourages businesses and employees to find alternative means of getting to work with prizes and rewards, in addition to tools like Share the Ride NC. The Bike Raleigh program educates and encourages people with programs like Lighten Up, Raleigh and Tune Up, Raleigh, which provide coupons for bike lights and repair discounts at local shops. There are also ongoing activities as part of National Bike Month in May, efforts to update and implement bicycle and pedestrian plans, implement Complete Streets policies, and expand efforts around Safe Routes to School programs.
Presentations from the workshop