One of the most successful features of the Central West Small Area Plan was a plan to build a new off-road bike lane and sidewalks along Estes Drive from MLK to Caswell Road. While this is a short stretch of road, building this off-rad bike path and other pedestrian features is essential to improving safety and connectivity in the area because of the the path’s proximity to two schools, to many neighborhoods with kids who could walk or bike to school, and to the town library.
The Town commissioned a Bike Plan last year and is planning to hire a consultant to do a Pedestrian Plan, so there is some slow but forward motion toward implementing a priority to make biking and walking safer in Chapel Hill. It’s encouraging to see that Town has hired an intern Brian Vaughn to focus on these issues.
To fund the Estes Drive design improvement, the town allocated $247,000 through the Federal funds, the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) provided 80%, and the town 20% to the cost of building it.
On February 9, the town held an open house and information sessions to feature three alternatives. Read about the alternative bike designs here.
Of the choices in design, Alternative #1 puts the bike path right in the street and is just the old fashion unprotected bike lane, with the emphasis on unprotected — not kid friendly. Alternative #2 places places the bike path behind a planting strip – this was our favorite. Alternative #3 puts the bike path in the road separated by a small curb.
The big difference between Alternative 2 vs. 3 is that alternative 3 has an off-road multi use path on both sides – this would be very expensive to build. A problem with #3 is that where the utility easement starts then the off-road path has to transition back to a protected bike lane. This awkward transition, was a significant factor in the the Transportation and Connectivity Board choosing Alternative 2.
To really make this route valuable, more connections are needed. People need a route from Estes Elementary and Caswell Road toward points east, e.g. the library and Whole Foods. Central West participants and local bikers have suggested a route along Clayton or Elliott Roads. The daily school pick ups along Elliott Road near the school path on Curtis Rd, so Clayton would be a better route but this decision is slated to come up in 2017. The map below drawn by a local biking group (Bicycle Alliance of Chapel Hill) shows the Michaux Road connection to the library, but the better connector is available from Clayton Road at Audubon, that would not require traveling on Elliott. This trail takes you through the woods of Pritchard Park, an easy trail ride for kids.
See article from Tarheel.