ENC Regional News
2:32 am
Tue September 16, 2008

Bicycle Paths in ENC

Bicycle Paths in ENC

New Bern, NC – More and more, motorists are sharing the road with cyclists and city governments are taking steps to make roads safe for both. Jared Brumbaugh reports>>>

In some North Carolina coastal communities like Emerald Isle, bike paths run parallel to busy streets. However, some cities, like New Bern and Greenville, are just beginning to see a need for bike friendly roads. Annette Stone, New Bern's city planner, says the city has a bike path that's only about one and a half miles long.

We have some nice streets. The traffic level is conducive to biking in the street. So there is opportunity for biking. You see a lot of people biking. And you see people biking recreationally, you see people who are biking and its obvious they're going to a job, or they have a destination to go to. So you see all levels of bikers in and around New Bern.

In a city survey conducted in 2006, no respondents rated New Bern's biking conditions as good. Instead, 68 percent called them poor, and the remaining respondents said they were fair at best.

You got to have a starting place. And this is where New Bern is starting to recognize that biking and pedestrian access are important means of transportation and need to be addressed.

There are a few ways to construct a bike path. One method Stone is looking at includes a separate off-road bike path about 10 feet in width. The other methods include using the existing roads by either widening the shoulder or striping it. Striping refers to creating a designated bike lane in the street. Stone says a good starting point for New Bern is Trent Road.

It's just a great connector from Trent Woods all the way to downtown. You can pretty much get to any place you need in town via bike on Trent Road. And it's the safest right now, Neuse Blvd. it's just not very conducive to bikers.

Greenville is planning to implement a bike path system that would enable people to get from one point to another, whether they use their bicycles for transportation or recreation purposes. The city has established two different plans. One is called the Bike Way Plan, and the other --the Green Way Plan. Gary Fenton, the City's Parks and Recreation Director, says the two are very similar.

There would be places along the Green Way plan where bicycles couldn't go. Places along the bicycle trail where walkers couldn't go. But the Green Ways plan overall is a major initiative that includes several major trails that then could have smaller connector trails to neighbors, to businesses, to parks; that would allow people to get from one place to another in other ways than driving- and get there safely.

The first phase of the Green Way plan was originally implemented in 2002 and is called the Green Mill Green Way. The Public Works Department is spearheading the second phase of the project that will construct a trail along the Tar River called the South Tar Green Way, and will connect with the present trail. Fenton says he's seen more people are interested in more environmentally friendly ways of transportation. Recently, Greenville has been involved in the development of a new comprehensive master plan for bike friendly parks.

An awful lot of people during the public meeting process have mentioned walking and bicycling as part of as some opportunities that they've really wanted to have- and they want to feel safe doing it. There are some people coming into our city that are from cities or communities that maybe had a very established bike trail and walking trail system. Ours is in its infancy. There are some people coming into our town saying, where's the rest of it? And we basically have to show them the rest of it is on paper.

Fenton says he wants to maintain the existing Green Mill Green Way and work on the South Tar Green Way. If all goes well, he hopes to connect the trails with the south side of the city. Another city in eastern North Carolina is beyond the planning stages. Aleshia Sanderson, the director for Parks and Recreational services for Emerald Isle says putting bike paths in the coastal town helped preserve the village like feel. Phase one of emerald isle's bike paths went into effect in 2005. By the time phase two was complete in 2006, two miles of bike path was ran along the south side of Emerald Drive and 2.2 miles of sidewalk on the north side. Sanderson says the bike path is well received.

They are being used tremendously. It's one of the best received projects I've ever worked on in my 25 years of experience. There are people from all demographics that are out there. There are people in motorized wheelchairs, baby strollers, roller blades you name it, and it's out there. The only thing we don't permit is anything that is motorized, outside handicapped assistance.

Sanderson admits she has heard some complaints about the bike paths including cyclists breaking the law by traveling two abreast. Another complaint made by motorists is cyclist's neglecting to stop at intersections.

I hear that from both sides. And it's technically the responsibility of the rider to stop at that intersection even though there is a crosswalk there. I think there is a common misconception there that they can just speed right through the intersection. The same rules that apply to them also apply to cars.

Whether for exercise, cost cutting, or to reduce their carbon footprint it's clear cyclists are an increasing component in ENC traffic. Plans to make other area communities bike friendly are also underway. Morehead City is implementing bike paths. Cedar Point, Atlantic Beach, and Morehead City have also increased stretches of sidewalks. For PRE, I'm Jared Brumbaugh.