Press Release: For Immediate Release
Contacts: Gail Alberti, 919 732-5080
Jeff Charles, 919 949-0713
Bryant Dodson, 919 618-1310
Union Grove MethodistChurch
Bonnie Hauser, 919 732-9316
Orange County Voice
Rural community group Orange County Voice (OCV) has been working with cyclists and motorists to create commonsense guidelines to safely share rural roads. The guidelines are a direct response to the increasing use and escalating tensions between motorists and cyclists on rural Orange County roads.
The project started over a year ago when a group of citizens, led by OCV, approached Orange County's Unified Transportation Advisory Board (OUTBoard) for help. OUTBoard connected the citizen group with cycling advocate Jeff Charles, a member of Carolina Tarwheels who sits on OUTBoard and Chapel Hill's Pedestrian/Biking Advisory Board.
It took the group six months to agree on commonsense guidelines for sharing the road. Through this important dialogue between the cyclists and motorists, they discovered what sharing the road truly meant. For example, motorists are frustrated with large packs of riders who take up the road. So they're asking cyclists to ride in groups of 12 or fewer and to move to the side to allow motorists to pass.
Similarly, cyclists have to deal with gravel or other road hazards that require quick and unpredictable actions. These hazards might not be visible from a car. So they're asking motorists to give the cyclists room, at least 4-6 feet, or more if the cyclist is passing a driveway or gravel road.
Of course, everyone is asked to obey traffic signs and signals, and to use proper signals.
These are guidelines - not law. "We like to think of the guidelines as our way of asking motorists and cyclists to respect each other and our community. As we talk to groups throughout the community, we hope that attitudes and behaviors will start to change. I know mine have," said Gail Alberti, a resident of rural Orange County who initially approached OCV to help with this growing issue.
Rural cycling has unique challenges. The countryside is beautiful and many cyclists enjoy the area. Unlike town cycling, rural cycling is mostly recreational. "There are hundreds of miles of roads, and it's not realistic to place bike lanes on all the roads. The guidelines add 'cooperation' to the set of tools/resources that can be used to improve cycling safety," said OCV's president Bonnie Hauser.
To credential this campaign, the group spent another six months asking local leaders, including Orange County and the Town of Chapel Hill, for their endorsement. Carolina Tarwheels and Union Grove Methodist Church provided grants to design and print brochures and posters which are being placed all over the county. Endorsers, which include Maple View Farm, Saxapahaw Rivermill, Schley Grange, Performance Bicycles and Clean Machine Bike Shop, are listed on the brochure and posters.
Orange County resident Virginia Leslie, who worked on the original draft, adds, "As a recreational cyclist and driver in rural Orange County, I live both sides of this issue. I am really glad we have begun this vital dialogue."
The colorful brochure explaining the guidelines is a tri-fold that opens up to a cycling map of Orange County. The group took the liberty of modifying DOT's "share the road" symbol to include a bicycle and a car and add the phrase "Share the Road Goes Both Ways." The brochures were designed at cost by Laura O'Keefe Design.
"Union Grove Methodist is pleased to support this initiative to improve rural road safety for everyone. The project enhances our relationship with Carolina Tarwheels, which supports our congregation in exchange for allowing cyclists to use our parking lot. The guidelines increase our confidence that the community can work together to keep our roads safe and enjoyable for everyone," said Bryant Dodson on behalf of the church.
The group welcomes comments and feedback, and is likely to update the guidelines next year. "The guidelines are a work in progress, and we hope to get constructive feedback from motorists and cyclists. We realize that it will take time to change behavior and now that we have a dialogue going, the opportunity to improve safety is enormous," said Jeff Charles.
The coalition is planning other projects. "Next, we will explore options to continue the bike lanes on Old 86 from the Carrboro town line to the Calvander intersection at Dairyland/Homestead Roads, along Magnolia View Farm. This one-half mile segment is extremely treacherous for cyclists en route to the rural area. Our team will work to open doors to expedite these changes," adds Jeff Charles.
The coalition hopes that media outlets will add their support in their reports about the guidelines.
To offer comments or suggestions, contact Jeff Charles or Bonnie Hauser. Donations and sponsorships to support the continued work of the coalition can be made to Orange County Voice.