Make South Roxboro Street Safer for Biking

The Department of Transportation is currently accepting comments on a plan that will improve cycling in Durham on South Roxboro Street. While the plan is a good start, it needs your help to make the road safer for all users.

The stretch of South Roxboro Street between Martin Luther King Jr. Pkwy and Hope Valley Road is a prime example of why biking on Durham roads is often reserved for only the bravest and most experienced cyclists. This street features two travel lanes in each direction, a 35 mph speed limit, and no physically separated facility for cyclists. Drivers looking at the street have a hard time discerning it from a highway, which would explain why a study conducted in 2013 found an average traveling speed of about 42 mph. There is already a bike lane on the section between Martin Luther King Jr. Pkwy and Carlton Crossing Drive. But with nothing but a single line of paint to separate bicyclists from the speeding traffic, it’s not exactly safe.

Would someone new to cycling ever feel comfortable here? Photo: Google Maps

Would someone new to cycling ever feel comfortable here? Photo: Google Maps

Fortunately, the City of Durham Department of Transportation has proposed an improvement for the 1.6 mile section between Juliette Drive and Hope Valley Road. It will reduce that section from two travel lanes to one travel lane for vehicles and add a bicycle lane with a painted buffer, similar to the design that already exists on Durham-Chapel Hill Boulevard.

 
 

This is a major improvement but the project leaves a lot left to be desired. The painted buffer will increase comfort for cyclists already used to sharing the road with drivers but it does not ensure their safety and can be confusing for drivers. The bike lane should be separated from vehicular traffic by a physical barrier to protect cyclists. Only a protected bike lane will make cyclists feel truly safe and encourage new ridership.

 

Current plan introduces a gap between Martin Luther King Jr. Pkwy and Juliette Dr

 

It is important to note that the City of Durham Public Works Department is planning to repave the entirety of South Roxboro Street between Martin Luther King Jr. Pkwy and Hope Valley Road in 2018, not just the section ending at Juliette Drive. Bicyclists connecting to the new bike lane will have no choice but to continue navigating the dangerous conditions that already exist on the rest of the street. The Department of Transportation should use this opportunity to expand the scope of the proposed project and improve the design of the entire stretch of road.

What You Can Do

The Department of Transportation is currently accepting comments on this plan from the public. Your voice can be instrumental in improving the safety of bicycling in Durham so it is important to submit them by the November 30th deadline. You can read the full plan here and submit your comments using the form provided by the city here. It’s always more effective to provide a personal touch but feel free to mention your support for any of the following ideas:

  • I strongly support the plan to add a bike lane to South Roxboro St but it needs to go further to improve safety for cyclists.
  • The new bike lanes should be fully protected by a physical barrier that separates cyclists from vehicular traffic.
  • The plan should be expanded to include the entire stretch of South Roxboro Street between Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway and Hope Valley Road.

Provide your comments to the City of Durham Department of Transportation by November 30th