Durham's First Protected Bike Lane


The Background

Broad Street is being resurfaced by NCDOT this summer.  The Transportation Department, in collaboration with Alta Planning + Design, is taking this opportunity to re-stripe the street to improve safety for all users.  Broad Street is a key link in the bicycle network in Durham, connecting important destinations like Duke’s East Campus, the North Carolina School of Science and Math and commercial districts along the street. It would also connect to bike lanes further north on Broad Street, and to ones on Main Street and Club Boulevard.  The project is moving very quickly and you should know about a critical issue with designs proposed by staff.

Bike Durham has followed this design process closely from the beginning.  Two of the three initial designs included some variation of current best practice— protected bike lanes.  Protected bike lanes have been shown to increase cycling rates and reduce crash rates. Bike Durham and the larger bicycle community supported those two designs, one of which included parking-protected bike lanes— a common design for streets with retail businesses like those along Broad Street.

The Problem: No Physical Protection

At the latest public meeting, Bike Durham and others in the bicycle community were surprised to see that neither of the preferred designs were chosen.  Instead, the City advanced the only design that offered no physical protection for cyclists. While the new design does include bike lanes, they are not protected from the regular travel lanes.


Additionally, the bike lanes are not carried all the way through the corridor, ending before they reach Main Street (and its bike lanes) to the south, and not continuing through the Guess Road intersection to the north.  With the current design, every time someone parallel parks or double parks on Broad, a cyclist will be pushed into 35 mph traffic or faster.  This design does little to help the “interested but concerned” category of cyclists feel safe on our streets.  Without this group, bicycling will not become the mode of choice for Durham’s citizens.

Protected lane in SF

Protected lane in SF

The Solution: Parking Protection

The great news is, we can increase bicycling levels and safety on Broad Street by striping the road slightly differently to create protected bike lanes throughout the entire corridor.  As mentioned earlier, this design was already one of the options for Broad Street. The Transportation Department has kindly produced a memo describing their design process, including the rationale against the parking-protected lane the City initially proposed to the public.  This rationale, which we contest in detail here, hinges mostly on the initial learning curve of a parking-protected lane because this design has yet to be implemented in Durham.  Although parking protection is novel in Durham, the minor concerns raised by the Transportation Department have been non-issues in US and international implementations.  



What you can do

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Durham Belt Line

The Durham Belt Line is a visionary project that borrows ideas from successful linear parks like the High Line in New York City and multi-use trails like the BeltLine in Atlanta. What makes the Durham Belt Line innovative is that not only will it act as a green and public place for the exchange of ideas and culture, it will create a valuable transportation connection for Durham residents traveling on foot or by bike.


We always advocate for physical separation of motor vehicles and bicyclists on public streets because different users that travel at different speeds work best when they’re given their own dedicated space to travel, and vulnerable bicyclists can expect a level of safety that mere paint does not afford them. This very same principle applies between bicyclists and pedestrians and the preferred design of the Belt Line conforms to this ideal wherever possible. The trail gives bicyclists a great deal of space to bike without the need to navigate joggers and walkers and vice versa.


At its widest, the bi-directional cycle path will be 12 feet across giving slower bicyclists plenty of space to meander while faster bicyclists will have enough room to safely pass without needing to drift into the oncoming lane. The best part about six foot wide travel lanes for bicyclists is that they’re not only sufficient for momentarily passing one other but they’re the minimum recommended width for bicyclists to comfortably travel side by side. This is fantastic for social bicycling, an activity that people tend to associate with the isolated road warrior or commuter. Promoting social bicycling can also help to diversify the demographics of bicyclists in Durham because studies have revealed a preference by Black and Hispanic residents to bike with family and friends. 

Unfortunately due to right-of-way constraints, the preferred cross section isn’t always possible. We ask that the designs at least be re-evaluated to find a way to maintain consistency so that users on all stretches of the park have an opportunity to experience the best possible designs. If we are to expand alternative and affordable transportation in Durham, we need to ensure consistency between all segments of the trail.


The Belt Line has a number of at-grade crossings that need to be designed with care. Roxboro St in particular is dangerous because it has been designed for speed and thus many drivers on the stretch of road where the Belt Line will cross have been measured traveling well above the speed limit on that road. At these speeds, a driver hitting a pedestrian or a cyclist with their car has a near-certain chance of killing them. The project already incorporates some best practices like a raised crosswalk at Main St and Morgan St but fails to do so at Roxboro St and other intersections where the consequences of a collision are deadlier. We’re glad that the designs have embraced these techniques but the Belt Line will be most effective if the experience of using it is consistent. We recommend that the designs incorporate all of the best practices at all of the crossings to maximize the protection of those using the trail, especially when the stark contrast between the safety of the trail and the danger of the roads is greatest.

Finally, the Belt Line does not exist in a bubble. People still need to be able to reach the perimeter of the park in a safe and accessible manner. Once completed, the park will increase the number of Durham households with access to green space by 52%. This is really important for the equity of Durham’s public spaces but that equity will be wasted without a means by which residents of each neighborhood can access the park. The designs acknowledge this and have plans to improve sidewalks and transit stops along the trail but more can always be done. Once a bicyclist exits the park, they need to feed into bike connections that can maintain a consistent and comparable level of safety and comfort. We ask that the project team work closely with the Department of Transportation to expedite any future planned connections and generate new bike and pedestrian projects that can ensure accessibility to the Belt Line beyond just residents’ geographic proximity.

We also need to understand that with increased public amenities come increased financial pressures for the communities surrounding the proposed trail. We believe that all people, regardless of socioeconomic standing, deserve access to affordable transportation options and public spaces that facilitate cultural enrichment. However there are economic realities that residents will face when their neighborhoods, long starved of these facilities, suddenly become infused with private investment. We can't allow the Belt Line to act as a catalyst for displacement and the city needs to focus their efforts on maintaining housing affordability. The Belt Line Master Plan should be amended with creative strategies like value capture to raise funds for affordable housing. Durham must ensure that all Durham residents can enjoy the benefits of the Belt Line.

You can read more about the plan on the official website but at the very least if you feel inspired by the plan and want it to be the best that it can possibly be, complete the online survey and let the city know that you’re strongly in favor of the project and be sure to reinforce these concerns that the team has already identified so solving them becomes a priority. To reiterate:

  • The designs should re-evaluate the sections of the Belt Line that have been identified as too constrained to maintain the preferred cross section and instead be configured to maintain a consistently ideal experience for both bicyclists and pedestrians.
  • Road crossings need to be designed to prioritize the safety of trail users by adhering to identified best practices and maintaining a consistent feel through the crossing.
  • Connections to the trail should feed into and out of the Belt Line in a safe and comfortable manner to maximize the accessibility of the trail so it can be used by everyone.
  • The Belt Line Master Plan should make commitments to keep housing affordable in all the neighborhoods surrounding the trail.

Broad and South Roxboro Bike Lanes

The Skinny

As part of their 2018 Bicycle Improvements, the City of Durham, with help from Alta Planning & Design, is working on the design for restriping Broad Street (Main to Guess) and South Roxboro Street (Cornwallis to Summit) to include bike lanes. These two are being done first because NCDOT plans to resurface both roads this summer.

Links for Project Information

Broad Street (includes three design options and a survey).
South Roxboro Street (a single option and a survey).


This summer. No deadlines for initial comments or surveys have been given, but they should be provided as soon as possible. A public meeting is promised, but has not yet been scheduled. NCDOT already has contracts to resurface both roads this summer.

Bike Durham’s Goals for Both Projects

Protected bike lanes on both sides of the street are essential on each corridor. The lanes should be carried through intersections and connect with adjacent bicycle infrastructure. Vertical delineators should be added immediately and permanent barriers should be added within two years of the restriping. Travel lanes should be narrowed to slow traffic. Bus stops should be designed to minimize conflicts between buses and cyclists.

Design Options for Broad Street: Three options are presented.

Design Options for Broad Street: Three options are presented.

Option A should not be considered. It puts cyclists in the door zone of parked cars and would not allow for protected lanes on one side of the street.

Bike Durham supports Option B with one significant adjustment - if another foot can be taken from somewhere, preferably the travel lanes and/or parking lane, there could be a two foot buffer (enough for vertical delineators in the short term and a more permanent solution in the longer term) for the bike lanes not protected by parking.

If the adjustment to Option B can be made to ensure protected bike lanes on both sides of the street, Option C is not necessary. We recognize that this will risk an unnecessary fight with the business owners along Broad Street who are concerned about losing on-street parking. That said, it is the only option that includes protected bike lanes on both sides as currently shown and should be considered for blocks where on-street parking is rare. Our understanding is the Option B can include protected facilities, but was simply not rendered with vertical elements. Thus, a mix of an adjusted Option B with protected bike lanes on both sides where parking is needed, and Option C where parking is not needed, would be the best of both worlds.

The other option we have heard suggested by members of the community is a two-way protected cycle track. The City has indicated NCDOT would not support this design and that there would be additional signal and curb movement costs that the City has not budgeted. It also creates a tricky transition to the traditional bike lanes found at either end of the corridor. Therefore, Bike Durham does not recommend this design treatment.

Other Considerations for Broad Street

Bike Durham encourages the removal of turn lanes at unsignalized intersections along Broad Street to continue the bike lane protections as long as possible. Similarly, continuing the protected bike lanes through the ends of the corridor (at Main Street and Guess Road) is crucial to connect with the bike lanes on Main Street and on Broad Street north of Guess Road. While outside of the resurfacing project, the lack of bike lanes on Broad Street just north of the Guess Road intersection is a barrier to having a continuous cycling corridor along Broad Street and should be restriped to include bike lanes.

Design Option for South Roxboro Street

A single option is presented:

Bike Durham supports this proposal but requests that the City consider adding on-street sidewalks on the west side of South Roxboro Road, where they are currently absent. Since the proposed buffer between the travel lanes and bike lanes is ample (7 feet on both sides!), Bike Durham believes the City should consider using 5-6 feet of that to create an on-street sidewalk similar to this one in Seattle: