Bicycle riders want more protections after cyclist struck in Durham

North Carolina
Durham Bike Riders

Durham bicycle riders are pleased with an $830,000 project to add protected bike lanes in the city, but many say more progress is needed after a hit-and-run crash hospitalized a cyclist there last weekend.

Bike Durham’s leadership said a hit-and-run which sent a cyclist to a hospital Saturday is representative of the ongoing dangers posed to pedalers in the Bull City. A 28-year-old bike rider required hospitalization after suffering severe injuries in a wreck on West Club Road.

Allison Shauger, the communications director for Bike Durham, lives close to the site of that incident.

“I stepped out my front door and saw the aftermath of that bike wreck,” Shauger said.

“My mother was killed in a bike crash three years ago, so I saw a mangled bike and I was terrified for the person who was riding that bike.”

An online fundraiser to help the injured rider topped $21,000 of its $25,000 goal as of Thursday afternoon.

Search warrants obtained Thursday by WNCN reveal police impounded a vehicle they believe struck the woman. The car is registered in South Carolina, but officers found it on Chapel Hill Road, exactly one mile from where a driver struck and killed cyclist Kent Winberry in 2014.
 
Shauger wrote a call to action on the Bike Durham website following the Saturday crash, demanding the city be held accountable to its 2017 Bike+Walk Implementation Plan and its participation in the national project Vision Zero, which aims to eliminate all injuries and deaths in traffic-related accidents.

“The issue about safer streets is about everyone who uses them: drivers, walkers, and bikers and making them safer for all,” Shauger said.

“No driver wants to hit someone and no walker or biker wants to be hit. The point is we all get peace on the road when we all get a piece of the road.”

The city is spending about $830,000 of funding–designated for improving air quality and congestion–to construct eight miles of bike lanes on streets and to add green bike boxes.

An example of this type of infrastructure improvement is on East Main Street near the new Durham Police Headquarters, with work completed as part of a road resurfacing project that took place during the building of the police station.

“Bike lane construction is an ongoing priority for the City and involves multiple streets.  We most often implement bike lane projects with resurfacing,” Durham Transportation Planning Manager Ellen Beckmann said.

“This ($830,000 project) is still in design, and would likely be implemented later this year or early next year. We expect that we will continue to implement additional bike projects as funding is available.”

Shauger and other members of Bike Durham said there are gaps in the current bike lane map which need to be fixed, with a notable issue at the intersection of Main Street and Roxboro Street.

“We don’t have a connected network of bike lanes. They all need to be connected so you can actually get places,” Shauger said.

“We have this wonderful protected lane (on Main Street) and a bike box, which is green paint on the road where bikers can gather at an intersection safety, very visibly, and then 
on the other side of Roxboro there is no bike lane, so bicyclists are just spit out into the same lane of traffic and it’s not as safe.”

Bike Durham Chairman Landis Masnor, who rides his bike to work or takes a bus when weather prohibits pedaling, said he would not categorize the current improvements as significant changes.

“We have a long way to go in terms of Durham’s equitable, affordable transportation network. Most of our transportation is still prioritized for car convenience and safety,” Masnor said.

“I don’t think that drivers are necessarily at fault, There’s a lot of negligence that happens, especially in the age of smartphones and fancy consoles,” he said.

“I think we as a city need to own that people are being seriously injured on our streets because of apathy and safe street design.”

The Durham Transportation Department said information about the success of the East Main Street improvements are not available, as the city typically collects three years of data to have valid before and after statistics.

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