Bike Plan: Southern Pines at Its Best
Confucius said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Or in this case, a single turn of the pedals.
Whatever you call it, the Southern Pines Town Council has now taken a bold step toward putting a trailblazing Bicycle Transportation Plan into effect.
As a resident of the town, I hereby offer our City Fathers (there are no Mothers on the board at the moment) a belated tip of the hat for this farsighted action. As an occasional bicyclist on town streets, I also express my heartfelt thanks.
This thing has been in the works for some time. In 2009, the town received a $45,000 matching grant from NCDOT’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Planning Grant Initiative. The town’s Bicycle Plan Steering Committee began meeting in early 2010. After holding several sessions, including public hearings, it presented a draft plan to the town, which the Town Council adopted last Oct. 12.
But the rubber didn’t meet the road, so to speak, until last April, when the council made what it called “a statement” by including $60,000 in its proposed 2011-2012 municipal budget to implement the first phase of the bike plan. A most welcome statement it is to me — and it should be as well to you, my fellow townspeople, whether or not you ever straddle a Schwinn.
Phase 1 of the 10-year Southern Pines plan gets us off to a modest start that mostly includes painting of strips and pavement symbols along stretches of Pennsylvania Avenue, Broad Street and May Street.
Besides expanding such marking to many more sections of streets and roads, steps envisioned for the future include creation of bicycle lanes, multi-use trails and greenways, side paths, paved shoulders, signed bicycle paths, enhanced trail crossings on roads such as Midland, and various educational programs.
The idea would be to allow you to safely conduct all your daily business, whether going to and from work or having lunch or stopping at the grocery store, on two wheels.
To view a colorful and well-designed executive summary of the Bike Plan, go to southernpines.net. and then search for “bicycle transportation.” Among other things, you’ll see some creative “photo-visualizations” that include side-by-side renderings of existing conditions along various thoroughfares and envisioned changes for the future.
One such change that may raise some eyebrows is the proposed replacement of diagonal automotive parking on some blocks of Broad Street with “back-in angle parking.” This takes some getting used to, but it is far safer for bikers. It also solves a serious problem I groused about in another recent column: the danger involved in backing out blindly from diagonal spaces.
For whatever it’s worth, I recently experienced such back-in parking on a visit to bike-friendly Philadelphia, and it seemed to work fine. Imagine driving forward of a parallel-parking space and then starting to back in, as you do now — but stopping while you’re still at an angle.
If carried to completion (and there are some bucks involved), this comprehensive plan will turn Southern Pines — and eventually other adjoining and interconnecting towns — into a bike-friendly environment that amounts to a win-win situation for everyone. For cyclists, it means a safer and more efficient travel network and a healthier lifestyle. For all of us, it means less automobile traffic on the streets and fewer exhaust fumes belching into the air we breathe.
Beyond that, the launching of such a program announces to the world that Southern Pines is an enlightened, tolerant and forward-thinking community that provides for the peaceful coexistence for all sorts of alternative ways of living and getting around. This, in turn, should have a positive effect on the kinds of new residents and vacationers we are able to attract in the future.
On a practical level, going out of your way to be bike-friendly can produce big results. In the Outer Banks, according to promotional material for the plan, bicycling is estimated to have an annual economic impact of $60 million. More than 40,000 bicycling tourists are said to support more than 1,400 bike-related jobs in that region.
It will be a while, if ever, before we can expect such benefits here — though we’ve already got the Tour de Moore to build on. In any case, you’ve got to start somewhere. And I’m thrilled that we’re doing so in such imaginative, consensus fashion.
Steve Bouser is editor of The Pilot. Contact him at (910) 693-2470 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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