Hillsborough Street bike lanes move forward

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hillsborough street bike lanes

Bicycle advocates, and now a city council committee, want dedicated bike lanes added to the Hillsborough Street redesign that is currently under construction. Photo by Will Butler.

The Raleigh City Council’s public works committee members voted unanimously to support bike lanes for Hillsborough Street. If the plan gets final approval from council and the state Department of Transportation, there will be dedicated bike lanes along the section of the street fronting N.C. State University.

The plan has several hurdles to cross before it can become a reality. First, council will have to approve the proposal at its next meeting. Second, the proposal will have to go through the DOT, which maintains the street. According to Eric Lamb, with the city’s Public Works Department, the DOT has said previously that it prefers “sharrows” or shared lanes with markings to warn drivers to share the lane with bicycles.

Third, the plan will require an amendment to the recently adopted 2030 Comprehensive Plan. The plan amendment will require a neighborhood meeting and a public hearing, which could take more than a year.

A diagram of the proposed bicycle lanes for Hillsborough Street. Image courtesy the City of Raleigh Public Works Department.

According to city data, the Hillsborough Street renovation is ahead of schedule and under budget. District B councilor John Odom said during the meeting that if the city can keep the project on schedule and on budget and still put in the bike lanes, than there was no reason not to do it.

Lamb said the dedicated lanes would cost the city $40,000 to install.

“If we’re going to put bicycle lanes anywhere, then we should put them near the students,” Odom said, eliciting applause from the 18 bicycle advocates who showed up for Tuesday evening’s meeting.

Nina Szlosberg is a member of the Hillsborough Street Partnership, which pushed for the renovation for a decade, and on the state Board of Transportation. She attended the meeting to say that the partnership had no objections to bike lanes, as long as it didn’t slow down the project.

After the committee decided to move forward, Szlosberg said, “Just let me know how I can help get this done,” in reference to her work with the DOT.

Bonner Gaylord, who represents District E, joked about the long process ahead to approve the bike lanes: “We’re doing it as fast as bureaucratically possible.”

“Essentially we’re charting a course,” Gaylord said.

11 thoughts on “Hillsborough Street bike lanes move forward

  1. Kudos to all for moving this great propposal through planning! Having lived in Raleigh for six years, and commuting via bike throughout the city limits, I can say that even this small strip of Hillsborough will be a welcome mat to cyclists and students in the area. I now live in Seattle where the bike and pedestrian are kings of right-of-way, and hope that our hard work of advocacy in the Emerald City can trickle down to other areas of the country.

  2. Squeezing a minimal 4′ bike lane between a 10′ lane and a 9′ buffer/parking area is a recipe for disaster. When someone gets killed I will gladly step forward as an expert witness on behalf of the deceased.

    Published research shows that parked car doors WILL extend into the proposed bike lane. Moreover, the initial design showed a 5′ buffer, providing evidence that the City of Raleigh recognized the amount of buffer that vehicles needed to avoid a door strike. So narrowing the buffer to an inadequate 2′ and sandwiching in another lane for bicycle traffic is abrogating engineering responsibility, and knowingly placing bicycle drivers at grave risk.

  3. Wayne, I respectfully disagree. The tolerances are adequate, and have a proven track record of success in several major cities. Cars already have an unnecessarily large travel lane, and while it is not perfect, it is an improvement. Cyclists are less liekly to get doored, but must still remain vigilant (as does the driver opening his door). If you don’t like it, I challenge you to come up with a better idea that can be implemented at this stage of the massive renovation. Otherwise, you can take Wade or Western.

  4. Wayne, The “buffer zone” is not marked and in the words of city official, in actuality, there is only a 7 ft parking area and a 16 ft traffic lane. No space is given or taken to a “buffer zone” that is not mark. Nor do the presence of bike lanes change the total amount of space. What bike lanes do do is provide more explicitly designated space for cyclist. It does not however limit cyclist from taking the lane. Without any demarcated lines for the lanes, autos will center in the 16 ft traffic squeezing those cyclist who ride on the left hand side (as in most cyclist) to about a 4 ft area between the parked car and the moving vehicle. This makes the hazard of being doored far greater.

  5. Dylan,

    The “buffer zone” should be marked with 5′ hash marks.

    The “explicitly designated space for cyclist” is in the door zone of the parked cars. Thus, the bike lane, which advocates argued would make it safer, instead creates danger for the naive bicyclists who are expected to be lured by its supposed safety. Since you believe that “It does not however limit cyclist from taking the lane,” you must believe that taking the lane is desirable. So why don’t you advocate for that as the de-facto condition?

    Autos center in the lane in the absence of bicyclists. When bicyclists are present motorists adjust left. So your argument is totally bogus.


    You can respectfully disagree all you want. You are still wrong. First, it’s not a car lane. It’s a vehicle lane, including for bicycle vehicles. Don’t be so disempowered. Second, the 85th percentile car door extends to 9.5 feet; 15% extend further. That will be into the proposed bike lane that is intended to be a safe haven for the naive. If you don’t like that, you can change physics.

    The correct design for Hillsborough is parking stall hash marks with 5′ extensions which communicate the buffer that is required to avoid getting whacked by a car door. Shared Lane Markings can be centered in the remaining travel space. The new Bicycles May Use Full Lane sign can be placed.

  6. Wayne – Please stay civil. It does not do your position any good if you can’t maintain the respectful discourse that has characterized this entire debate – which has been ongoing in the city for the past five months.

    I have explicitly stated before (on Steven comments) that taking the lane is not the most desirable situation and I have implied that with the statements on this page. Your conclusion that I should “advocate for that as the de-facto condition” takes ill-logical leaps from what I have written. It is stated in state policy that cyclists are to take the lane if they feel threatened. Otherwise, cyclists should stay to the left hand side and allow cars to pass. While you and Steven G. may feel that you slow down traffic just as much as traffic slows you (as cyclist), this is not the case for all riders. The average inexperienced cyclist most likely rides at a slow pace – and why should they have to go any faster? Thus if all cyclists “took the lane” then it would be a serious impediment to traffic and, as you seems to be so concerned with vehicles honking at you if you take the lane in a situation with bike lanes, autos would no doubt be very frustrated by such impediments. “Taking the lane” would occur to avoid obstacles or perceived hazards. Once past the hazard or obstacle, the cyclists would return to the designated bike lane and, without a doubt, the earth would continue to orbit the sun.

    As for the door area extending into the bike lane: you are right – sometimes the door of a very large vehicle, poorly parked, and fully opened, may extend .5 ft into the 4 ft. bike lane. Though this leaves 3.5 more ft to avoid door – plenty of room. And if that’s not enough cyclist can then take the lane. I’d be all for BICYCLES MAY USE FULL LANE signs in bright flashing colors. That sounds great. Your advocacy for such signage would be greatly appreciated.

    You’ve also mentioned marking the buffer zone. I agree with this. Essentially the bike lane serves the purpose of marking the buffer zone to make it explicit for cyclists.

    Though, it seems contradictory that you would want to mark the buffer zone, essentially making it a different lane, while also propounding that standard motor vehicles lanes are wholly appropriate for “bicycle vehicles.” While Motor vehicles and bicycle vehicles both share the appellation “vehicle,” this is where their similarities end. In terms of safety and relationship on the road, bicycles are in no way equal to motor vehicles. A cyclist NEVER wins against a car. The dangers are incredibility unequal. It is for this reason that pedestrian have side walks: different speeds, different sizes, different weights. In a collision cyclists and pedestrians are equivalent in their relationship to motor vehicles. Cyclist deserve a space as well and, given the restraints of Hillsborough Street, our bicycle lane configuration is the best possible option.

  7. I think bike lanes are a wonderful start. It will help cars know they need to stay in their lane. Someday maybe the parking will be moved off street, but for now all three need to share the limited space. Bike lanes are a great way to make this as safe as it can be.

  8. Its disappointing to read that after all the years of effort to get the Hillsboro Street redesign, the bike lane is apparently an afterthought– OK with Hbo Street Partnership “as long as it doesn’t slow down the project” sure does not seem like it was thought of on the front end. And this coming from a believer in multi-modality!

    There are inevitable downsides to just about any configuration which involve bike lanes and on-street parking– you either get doored or whacked by someone oblivious to you who’s just spotted an open parking space. “Sharrows” are an interesting concept, but meaningless to most drivers. I’ll bet it’s not on anyone’s version of a DMV exam.

  9. Bicyclists are required to follow the same traffic laws that automobile drivers do. Therefore unless I can travel down the bike lane without any additional threat to myself I will occupy the lane intended for through traffic.

  10. I’m not a city planner, just a question: What’s the need for a 7′ center median? Seems a little big.