At a 3-hour meeting where council members were sometimes bogged down in discussion about everything from a new emergency dispatch system with Burlington (almost 45 minutes) to what design to use in painting the city’s water tower (about 15 minutes), there was little dissent, and quick agreement, to the need for immediate action to fix the recent striping of bike lanes that run along Pine Street.
Especially targeted is a zig-zag pattern beside city hall that currently has bicyclists trapped between cars in a right turn lane and a straight/left-turn lane at the intersection with South Main Street [see accompanying photo].
For vehicular traffic, the new configuration also has oncoming traffic on each side of the intersection facing each other, with drivers needing to move significantly to the right to avoid oncoming vehicles from the other side of the intersection.
Council member Jennifer Talley raised the issue at the end of the meeting when members are allowed to bring up topics not on the printed agenda.
“Everyone hates the bike lake lane” she explained, noting that many people consider the new configuration unsafe for both cars and bicyclists. She relayed what she said had been overwhelming citizen concern for safety.
She suggested that the bike lane should on the right of the road, instead of in the middle of it, and that the vehicle lanes should be restored to their previous status which would cause traffic to flow more smoothly and safely, rather than having the possibility of turning into unexpected ongoing traffic.
Talley said her overtures to city staff had at least gotten warning signs erected along Pine Streets, alerting drivers to the new traffic patterns, but she pressed for changes to the traffic lane/bike lane configuration.
Mayor Jerry Peterman was quick to endorse Talley’s concerns, noting that it was on also his own list of other items to be discussed. Peterman added to the concerns that the lane, now a consolidated left turn and straight ahead into one lane, also poses the potential to cause a back-up all the way to the entrance to the city’s fire department, potentially impeding fire trucks from leaving the station promptly.
City manager Frankie Maness explained that the city has begun discussions with the state Department of Transportation (NCDOT) about other possible options for striping.
“If it’s going to more than week,” Peterman said, “let’s do it ourselves,” adding, “We need to take care of this.”
Both Peterman and Talley described the current configuration as “ridiculous.”
When the lanes were first marked, in December, planning director Nathan Page told the newspaper that the pattern had been designed according to Federal Highway Administration (FHA) standards, using a “lateral shift” pattern. “It is common to separate the bike lane from the right-hand turn lane” for motor vehicles, he said then in an interview with The Alamance News. Installation of the bike lane is being funded by a $60,000 grant that the city received from Impact Alamance in 2016, Page confirmed for the newspaper in December. The Alley, Williams, Carmen & King engineering firm in Burlington designed the bike lane, and the firm’s fee was covered by the grant, Page said at the time.