Since debuting last month, the bicycle lanes on Hillsborough Street have quickly become a hot topic among Raleigh cyclists -- with some riders expressing frustration over the tight squeeze with cars and others calling for patience as traffic adjusts to the new form of travel.
The city is asking for feedback on the bike lanes, which run from Gardner Street to Enterprise Street, spanning the newly renovated section of Hillsborough Street around N.C. State University. Public comments can be shared until Oct. 7.
The Hillsborough Street Streetscape Project - Phase I was developed to fit within the existing right-of-way with the goal of improving conditions for all users. The city's Comprehensive Bicycle Plan recommends the installation of shared-lane markings, or "sharrows," to direct both motorists and cyclists to share the travel lane along Hillsborough Street.
In 2010, local cyclists organized a campaign to petition the city to install striped bicycle lanes instead of sharrows to provide a designated space for cyclists on Hillsborough Street. The Raleigh City Council endorsed this position and made a request to the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) to allow the city to install bicycle lanes on the street.
DOT approved the request as a pilot project on a temporary basis, with an observation period of two to six months.
These debates often center on whether cyclists should be required to ride in their own special lanes, or whether it would make more sense to allow them to ride in the normal traffic flow.
In the case of Hillsborough Street, some cyclists say the dimensions of the bike lanes force them to squeeze between moving traffic and cars parked along the street. The issue has generated a flurry of emails on the city's Bicycle & Pedestrian Advocacy Discussion Forum.
"There is simply not enough room for a bus driver to legally or safely pass a cyclist staying outside the door zone," Triangle cycling advocate Steve Goodridge wrote in an email.
Hugh Dawson came away with a different impression.
"Lane was good size and cars were far enough away," he wrote. "However, at busy times and with people getting out of parked cars it will require heightened awareness. Overall, we we very satisfied."
Rob Loomis said conditions tend to fluctuate depending on the amount of traffic.
"It feels a little tight to me, but no doubt much of that comes from having a wall of cars at my elbow," he wrote. "When no cars are parked there, I'm sure it feels much more spacious."
The public comments will help city and DOT officials determine whether the new bike lanes are safe and effective.
Eric Lamb, the city's transportation planning manager, said the layout of bicycle lanes could change.
"As a reminder to all, this is a pilot installation with temporary tape markings as mandated by NCDOT," Lamb told the group. "The community consensus will dictate whether we put these down permanently or not."
Want to weigh in? Email RaleighBPAC@raleighnc.gov or send mail to the City of Raleigh Office of Transportation Planning, PO Box 590, Raleigh, NC 27602.