Thursday, October 21, 2010

Route #5, The Direct Route (University Drive)

Who are these people, and why are they on my blog?

This is the current Durham County Board of Commissioners. They are in this post because of a conversation I had with Ellen Reckhow (seated) about biking in Durham and Chapel Hill.  I was waiting in line to vote early in the 2008 primary election in Durham.  Because there was a ton of interest in that election the line wrapped around the block, drawing out the politicians to meet and greet.   I had just finished talking with a guy working the line for somebody else, he was a complete bore and annoying to boot, when Ms. Reckhow approached us and asked us about our concerns...instead of just asking for our vote.

I told her of my concern that there isn't a safe bike route between Durham and Chapel Hill.  To which she told me that the route that includes University Road, Old Durham/Chapel Hill Road is a planned bike corridor between the two towns. Being that I'm now writing about bike commuting routes on this blog, I decided to ride the route this morning so that I could report on how I feel about its current state.

11.5 miles, about 50 minutes

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I almost took Route #3 this morning because I really needed a longer ride, but I've been meaning to take this route for a few weeks now, so I chose this morning.  This is the most direct route to Chapel Hill from my house, barring riding down the side of the eight-lane highway 15-501.

University Drive: Between our house and Martin Luther King Parkway the quality of University Drive varies quite a bit. For the first mile the asphalt is beat up, there is no shoulder and there are several busy intersections that make bike travel a little scary. Once you pass Chapel Hill Road and Dixon Road, University open up to a wider road more suited to the amount of traffic; there is no bike lane but there is plenty of room for bikes. The wider portion of University goes all the way to Garrett Road.  This portion of University Drive has some major intersections that require caution, but I actually felt surprisingly safe riding in this area this morning. The lanes are wide enough that cars can pass with 3+ feet of buffer, and the traffic was not that bad.

Old Durham/Chapel Hill Road: At Garrett Road the name of University changes to Old Durham/Chapel Hill Road.  The personality of the road also changes.  Here, the road becomes a narrow two lane highway with variable size shoulders.  Again, the traffic was not as bad as I had expected on this route, so the narrow road did not bother me that much. That said, I still much prefer a designated bike lane to a wide shoulder.  From Old Durham I turned onto Standish Drive.  Standish is a wide residential street with no traffic. I turned down here because I lived on Standish my first six months in the Triangle area.

I crossed through the Trader Joe's parking lot to get over to Franklin Street, which you can read about in my earlier post.

In summary, this route was more pleasant than I had expected.  It is also shorter by a mile-and-a-half than my usual route. I do however have a mini rant for Ms. Reckhow.  It looks like part of the bike corridor might consist of a good deal of sidewalk sharing. This is not acceptable for a proper bike route and I will explain why.  As a cyclist, if you want to get hit by a car, one of the best places to ride is on the sidewalk. Drivers crossing the sidewalk to pull into traffic never stop at the sidewalk to check for traffic, they pull up to the road edge with their car across the sidewalk.  I personally have hit two cars that did this to me on sidewalk/bike-lane combos, and I know of others that have been hit on the side by cars pulling out of driveways across the sidewalk. I don't know i this is the final plan for the road to use sidewalks as part of the bike route, but if not they are going to have to tear out and expand some asphalt that was just refinished in the past couple of months.

This is definitely the shortest route from Durham to Chapel Hill so it is an ideal route to work up for biking.  I think it could be a great route that will encourage biking between the two towns, but REAL bike facilities should be installed, not dangerous half-assed facilities.

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