TO: Mayor and Town Council
FROM: W. Calvin Horton, Town Manager
SUBJECT: Proposed Revisions to the Bicycle Facilities Policy
DATE: November 10 , 2003
The purpose of this memorandum is to provide the background information about the Town’s current Bicycle Facilities Policy.
The Chapel Hill 2000 Comprehensive Plan includes the objective “develop and maintain a system of safe and efficient bikeways (on-street bike lanes and off-street paths within greenways) designed to contribute to Town-wide mobility, connecting neighborhoods with activity centers, schools, parks, and other neighborhoods”.
A Bicycle Facilities Policy is desirable as a starting point for the Town when it is reviewing development plans and in the design of roadway improvements within the Chapel Hill Planning Jurisdiction. It is not a standard. The North Carolina Bicycle Facilities Planning and Design Guidelines produced by the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) and the Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities published by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (ASHTO) provide design advice for appropriate bicycle facilities. In the case of State roads it should be noted that Town has no control over the type of bicycle facilities provided. However, a Bicycle Facilities Policy would be utilized by the Town as a basis for discussion with NCDOT about the type of facilities to be provided.
On September 24, 2001, the Town Council considered a report on issues of wide outside lanes and striped bicycle lanes including the recommendations from the Town Manager, Transportation Board and the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board for a policy for the construction of bicycle facilities (see Attachment 1).
The Town Council adopted the current bicycle facilities policy on that date (see Attachment 2).
On March 3, 2003, and June 17, 2003, the Transportation Board presented petitions to the Town Council to change the bicycle facilities policy (see Attachments 3 and 4).
In consideration of the petition the Town Council called for a joint meeting of the Transportation Board and the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board. The Town Council made reference to the previous extensive deliberations on the policy when it resolved to seek advice from the University’s Highway Safety Research Center and ascertain the viewpoint of the NCDOT Division of Bicycle and Pedestrian facilities and attempt to have the Town’s Transportation Board and the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board reach consensus.
On May 20, 2003, a joint meeting of the Transportation Board and the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board was held. Presentations were made by Wayne Pein, Chair of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board (see Attachment 5), by Coalter Lathrop of the Transportation Board and by Bill Hunter of the UNC Highway Safety Research Center (see Attachment 6). Consensus was not reached at the joint meeting. On August 26, 2003, the Bicycle and Pedestrian Board Voted 6-2 to maintain the bicycle facilities policy as adopted by the Town Council.
Over the summer Council Members Ward and Harrison drafted a proposed revised bicycle facilities policy which seeks to address the Transportation Board petition. Agenda Item #8a sets out the proposed resolution.
During September and October the proposed revision to the policy has evolved through discussions with the Transportation Board and the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board.
The current debate between the Boards has centered on the preferred type of bike facility that should be used in the Town.
Wide outside lanes are wider shared travel lanes, generally 13 to 14 feet wide. Striped bike lanes, are lanes which are demarcated from vehicle travel lanes, generally by a white stripe, and are on average 4 feet wide clear of a curb and gutter.
The current bicycle facilities policy states:
Wide outside lanes should be provided on arterial and collector streets within Chapel Hill.
Bicycle lanes should be provided on arterial and collector streets … that meet all conditions of the following criteria:
Roads with 35-45 mph speed limits,
Intersections are minimal, with limited cross traffic,
Few driveway cuts,
Limited turning movements,
Descents with high speeds greater than 25mph are not an issue.
The Transportation Board petition favors a policy that would provide for:
Bicycle Lanes on arterial and collector streets within the Chapel Hill.
Wide outside lanes may be used in place of bicycle lanes where deemed appropriate by Town officials.
The current policy clearly favors wide outside lanes as a first choice and provides a set of conditions as to when bicycle lanes may be appropriate. The Transportation Board proposal favors bicycle lanes unless conditions are deemed unsuitable by Town staff.
The relative merit of each type of facility has been well documented and debated before the Town Council and the Boards (see Attachment 1, memorandum to Council of September 24, 2001).
Council Members Ward and Harrison drafted a resolution for consideration by the Boards. The resolution has evolved during consultation with the Transportation Board and the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board.
The proposed revision to the Bicycle Facilities Policy offered by Council Members Ward and Harrison provides that:
We believe that this is a reasonable approach that recognizes the intent of the Comprehensive plan to accommodate the needs of all bicyclists.
Making an assessment of Collector Streets on a case by case basis means that the Council may require different solutions that take account of factors such as topography, vehicle speed and volume, impediments such as parked vehicles, drainage grates or raised reflectors, access to public facilities and activity centers and availability of rights-of-way.
The memorandum from Council Members Jim Ward and Ed Harrison refers to the need for a commitment to provide the resources to keep facilities clear of debris. For street sweeping and flushing the following average service level objectives presently are budgeted:
Streets without curb and gutter are neither swept nor flushed.
More information on the how the Town currently clears debris is given in Attachment 9. Additional resources would need to be budgeted to achieve a higher level of service.
Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board: The Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board considered a draft policy revision on October 28, 2003. The Board voted 7 to 2 in favor of recommending the revised policy to the Town Council. Please see Attachment 7 for a Summary of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board Action.
Transportation Board: The Transportation Board considered the proposed policy revision on November 4, 2003. The Board voted 5 to 0 in favor of recommending the revised policy to the Town Council. Please see Attachment 8 for a Summary of the Transportation Board Action.
Managers Recommendation: We recommend the Council adopt the resolution by Council Members Jim Ward and Ed Harrison as set out in Agenda Item #8a.