Letter to Mayor and Council to endorse allocating funds for bike and pedestrian projects

Dear Mayor and members of the Town Council:

Tonight, you have the opportunity for a one-time commitment of $250,000 from the FY 2021 Excess Fund Balance for improving safety for bicyclists and pedestrians in our town. Certainly, there are many deserving places to direct these funds, however we advocate not only for the one-time use of excess funds for this purpose, but also an ongoing commitment from the Town to provide annual budget support (of $250,000 or greater) to begin making substantial progress in accomplishing the list of items long included in both the Town’s Bike Plan as well as lts Mobility and Connectivity plan.

The traditional practice of the town seems to be to do projects that are triggered by third-party development or when some unplanned funding becomes available. This has not achieved consistent or measurable progress in making the town noticeably safer for all.

When BACH, in collaboration with the town, developed the Bike Plan in 2013, we looked at the price tag for the plan. We were realistic in accepting that it was not going to be done overnight. However, here we are, nearly 10 years later and there is still so much left undone. A regular commitment to planning and budgeting is the only way to actually accomplish the goals the Town has established.

There are many greenway projects in those Plans that reasonably should have been completed by now. Yet none have even been started. This is not merely a recreational issue. In addition to providing recreation, the greenways offer connectivity. They provide, or should provide, extended non-car connectivity to parks and other destinations in a far safer and less stressful way than can any street-marked bike lane.

Further, on the matter of greenways: We have observed, using traffic counter data that BACH assists the town in collecting, that existing greenway use has ballooned. Further, the bike-to-pedestrian ratio on the Bolin Creek trails indicates its use as a bicycle commuting corridor now that the tunnel under MLK is completed.

The last Greenway completed was the Tanyard Branch Trail – now 5 years ago. The town should have a routine of always having a greenway under construction. Again, at the current rate, it will be decades before any significant change will be made to our existing – very incomplete – bike and pedestrian greenway network.

Finally, the Town has had a bicycle and pedestrian safety working group that has been meeting for many years. We know and respect the staff included in this group. We recognize the work they have done. However, much of what they propose still remains in a backlog, waiting for funds that never seem to be budgeted.

Without change, this may also become the case for the town’s Vision Zero task force, which is staffed by some energetic and professional experts in the field. Their work will be in vain if it simply ends up on a plan. This task force‚Äôs work must be funded with the expectation that continuous backing and attention will enhance their output.

If Chapel Hill is to become the town that its Plans indicate it wants to be, it must back up its wishes with action in concrete budgetary terms. BACH believes this is something the Town can achieve.

Thank you
Bicycle Alliance of Chapel Hill

Current and former board members
Paul Neebe
Dave Pcolar
Gregory Georges
William Tobin
Joanne Gardner
John Rees
Melissa McCullough
Patrick Mortell
James Heil
Sam Byassee

Former town council members and mayor
Ed Harrison
George Cianciolo
Lee Storrow
Penny Rich
Sally Greene
Mark Kleinschmidt