City Council Candidate Questionnaire

The Durham City Council election is Tuesday, November 5. We sent each candidate a questionnaire so they could tell our members and the general public where they stand on bicycle, pedestrian, and transit infrastructure in Durham. So far, three of the six candidates have responded; if/when the other candidates submit responses, we'll include them here.

Affordable Housing Bond

Bike Durham strongly recommends a vote of “Yes” on Durham’s Affordable Housing Bond. Building off the City’s approval of Expanding Housing Choices, the Affordable Housing Bond represents a critical funding source for the much needed all-of-the-above strategy to address Durham’s housing affordability crisis. Bike Durham supports efforts that allow people of varying incomes to live near jobs, transit, and services, thereby providing them with options to travel by ways other than driving. Please vote “Yes” on the Affordable Housing Bond measure for a more sustainable Durham.

Be sure to vote! Support the candidates who support your right to safe and equitable transportation, and help alleviate the crisis in affordable housing! Early voting begins October 16. Find your voting site here.

Click a name to jump to that candidate’s response:


Javiera Caballero

Do you currently walk, bike, and/or take transit in Durham? If you do not use one or more of these modes, what prevents you from doing so?

I walk a lot and have bike commuted in Durham, but do not currently bike to work. I am not on a bus route even though I live close to downtown. I would ride the bus, but depending on the bus route I take it would take up to 45 minutes, and to walk it would take about half an hour. I would like to recommit to biking again to work as I have done in the past.

If you walk, bike, and/or take transit in the city, do you feel safe? Can you get where you need to go?

When I have ridden my bike in Durham, it has really depended on the route I have taken whether I feel safe or not. I live close to the South Ellerbee Creek trail, so to get downtown is easy and convenient. Walking is usually safe and easy, but there are many parts of Durham that do not have good sidewalks. We also do not have safe intersection crossings at many of our schools, so that impacts children walking to and from school.

Bike Durham is presently finalizing a proposal for a “Low-Stress Bicycle Network” in Durham, a connected set of protected bicycle lanes, greenways, and slow streets that would enable people to travel safely and comfortably throughout most of the city by bicycle. Do you support this concept, and would you prioritize funding this network?

Yes and yes. Creating a multi-modal transit system, which includes a “Low-Stress Bicycle Network,” has to be a priority for the city. We cannot reach our sustainability goals without good walking and biking options.

Many of Durham’s streets are owned by the North Carolina Department of Transportation, which has been resistant to bicycle/pedestrian/transit-centered improvements. Should the City of Durham take over these streets?

I am really curious about this option and would like to learn more. As I have learned more about transit policy, it has become very clear that we are very limited about what we can do because the state DOT owns so many of our roads. I think it would make sense to take over key routes in Durham, but I would want to have a much better understanding of the process and costs for us to accomplish that.

7,000 people move to Durham every year. There is not enough road space for everyone if we continue to privilege automotive traffic. What actions will you take as a member of City Council to make Durham a safer and more inviting place to walk, bike, and take transit?

Below are some of the policy platform ideas from the “Bull City Together” platform. This platform was co-written with my colleagues Jillian Johnson and Charlie Reece.

  • Improve on-time performance of GoDurham transit services, expand frequency of service at night and on weekends, and prevent fare increases.

  • Implement an equitable “fare capping” system for GoDurham transit services that will ensure that riders are not penalized for paying cash for individual rides.

  • Build more bus shelters throughout the city of Durham so that more riders are protected from the elements while they wait for the bus.

  • Work closely with Durham County and our regional partners to revise the Durham County Transit Plan in a way that combines deep and equitable community engagement with cutting edge transit solutions to our region’s 21st-century transportation challenges.

  • Fully fund the remainder of the 2011 Trails & Greenways Master Plan.

  • Develop an action plan for the funding and construction of the remaining sidewalk, bicycle and intersection improvement projects identified in the 2017 Durham Bike+Walk Implementation Plan.

  • Complete and fund the Vision Zero Action Plan requested by the City Council in 2017 with the stated goal of zero traffic fatalities on Durham roadways.

  • Expand Durham’s current system of bike lanes as part of a low stress cycling network throughout the city composed of not only protected bike lanes but also bicycle boulevards.

  • Continue to build more sidewalks throughout Durham but especially in parts of the city that are sidewalk poor.

  • Encourage pilot projects throughout Durham that showcase the latest thinking in transportation planning and design, possibly including a downtown pedestrian plaza and a “pedestrian scramble” in downtown Durham.

What else can you tell us about your commitment to safe, affordable transportation in Durham?

We need a good mass transit system, and we needed it at least a decade ago. Currently Durham’s planning department is leading the effort for the next iteration of our transit plan; they are working closely with GoTriangle, and that will give us a strong end product. We have clear evidence that the planning department takes equitable engagement seriously, and I am confident that they will do the necessary work to ensure robust stakeholder input is included in the process. The commuter rail between Durham and Raleigh is an important component for our next transit plan. Determining the best transit option between Durham and Chapel Hill is critical and at this point the most viable option seems to be BRT (Bus Rapid Transit), but that still needs to be determined. Increased busing in Durham proper will also need to be addressed, as will thinking through multi-modal transit ideas, such as improved and increased options for walking and biking. Above I shared some specific policy ideas that I believe would help move our transit policy forward in a meaningful way.

 

Jillian Johnson

Do you currently walk, bike, and/or take transit in Durham? If you do not use one or more of these modes, what prevents you from doing so?

I regularly walk and use transit in Durham, but I don’t bike much. I’m not a very strong cyclist, and I don’t currently own a bike. When I did own a bike, I was an occasional trail user, and biked to work when the weather was nice.

If you walk, bike, and/or take transit in the city, do you feel safe? Can you get where you need to go?

I feel safe walking and taking transit in the city of Durham, and I’m lucky to live in an area of town with robust bus service and some sidewalks, though we could certainly use more. I know that the majority of the city does not have this privilege, and that many residents live in areas where bus service is limited or unavailable and don’t have access to sidewalks or safe bike lanes for cycling.

Bike Durham is presently finalizing a proposal for a “Low-Stress Bicycle Network” in Durham, a connected set of protected bicycle lanes, greenways, and slow streets that would enable people to travel safely and comfortably throughout most of the city by bicycle. Do you support this concept, and would you prioritize funding this network?

I fully support the concept of a low-stress bicycle network, and agree that it’s important to create the network as a whole, rather than in pieces, so that people can commute safely. I believe this is an important priority for Durham’s transportation future, and that sustainable transportation infrastructure needs to be a higher priority in city spending plans. Both growth and climate change raise the importance of this issue more each year. I look forward to enthusiastically supporting funding requests for this work.

Many of Durham’s streets are owned by the North Carolina Department of Transportation, which has been resistant to bicycle/pedestrian/transit-centered improvements. Should the City of Durham take over these streets?

The benefit of taking over these streets is clear, but the costs are significant. The city does not have the funding required to maintain these streets, and I don’t think we should raise taxes to provide a service which should be provided by the State of NC. I would support the city stepping in to maintain state roads if we could receive funding from the state to ensure this cost does not fall on the residents of Durham.

7,000 people move to Durham every year. There is not enough road space for everyone if we continue to privilege automotive traffic. What actions will you take as a member of City Council to make Durham a safer and more inviting place to walk, bike, and take transit?

I will continue to support increased investment in our bus system, trails, sidewalks, and bike lanes. I’m also excited about a current city effort, funded by a Bloomberg grant, to use behavioral science techniques to discourage personal vehicle trips. As traffic gets worse, more and more of our residents will be looking for other transportation solutions, and we need to have options ready for them.

What else can you tell us about your commitment to safe, affordable transportation in Durham?

Here are the points in my platform, joint with Javiera Caballero & Charlie Reece, that relate to this issue:

  • Improve on-time performance of GoDurham transit services, expand frequency of service at night and on weekends, and prevent fare increases.

  • Implement an equitable “fare capping” system for GoDurham transit services that will ensure that riders are not penalized for paying cash for individual rides.

  • Build more bus shelters throughout the city of Durham so that more riders are protected from the elements while they wait for the bus.

  • Work closely with Durham County and our regional partners to revise the Durham County Transit Plan in a way that combines deep and equitable community engagement with cutting edge transit solutions to our region’s 21st-century transportation challenges.

  • Fully fund the remainder of the 2011 Trails & Greenways Master Plan.

  • Develop an action plan for the funding and construction of the remaining sidewalk, bicycle and intersection improvement projects identified in the 2017 Durham Bike+Walk Implementation Plan.

  • Complete and fund the Vision Zero Action Plan requested by the City Council in 2017 with the stated goal of zero traffic fatalities on Durham roadways.

  • Expand Durham’s current system of bike lanes as part of a low stress cycling network throughout the city composed of not only protected bike lanes but also bicycle boulevards.

  • Continue to build more sidewalks throughout Durham but especially in parts of the city that are sidewalk poor.

  • Encourage pilot projects throughout Durham that showcase the latest thinking in transportation planning and design, possibly including a downtown pedestrian plaza and a “pedestrian scramble” in downtown Durham.

 

Charlie Reece

Do you currently walk, bike, and/or take transit in Durham? If you do not use one or more of these modes, what prevents you from doing so?

For the last six months or so, I set a goal of replacing at least one day of car trips per week with cycling or riding the bus. I’m proud to say that I’ve succeeded more than I’ve failed, though a nagging knee injury has prevented me from riding my bike as much as I’d like. In order to walk from my home to City Hall downtown, I would need to set aside 4.5 hours roundtrip, and frankly it’s rare that I have a day when I can do that. The challenges I face when trying to integrate more of these modes of transportation into my daily routine are the same challenges faced by lots of Durham residents—lack of a more robust network of protected bike lanes, not enough greenway trails to make running, biking and walking a more viable option for more folks, and a bus system that doesn’t go to enough places, doesn’t run often enough, and doesn’t run late enough at night. So we have a lot of work to do here in Durham!

If you walk, bike, and/or take transit in the city, do you feel safe? Can you get where you need to go?

I have always felt safe taking the bus in Durham. When walking and biking, I’d say it depends—when I’m on the American Tobacco Trail and in parts of the city where there are more sidewalks and more bike lanes, I feel very safe. But sometimes I’m walking or biking in parts of the city where the city does not have as robust a network of sidewalks and bike lanes as we would like, and those experiences can be disconcerting (or even a little scary). But I think it’s important for elected officials to experience these kinds of environments so that we can have a better understanding of how far we still have to go in Durham.

Bike Durham is presently finalizing a proposal for a “Low-Stress Bicycle Network” in Durham, a connected set of protected bicycle lanes, greenways, and slow streets that would enable people to travel safely and comfortably throughout most of the city by bicycle. Do you support this concept, and would you prioritize funding this network?

I am a huge supporter of the concept of a low-stress bicycle network for the city of Durham, because such a network is a critical component of the larger project to make Durham a less car-dependent community. Making it easier for folks to get around in some way other than driving their cars is absolutely essential to building a safer, healthier and more sustainable Durham. I would definitely prioritize funding for a low-stress bicycle network.

Many of Durham’s streets are owned by the North Carolina Department of Transportation, which has been resistant to bicycle/pedestrian/transit-centered improvements. Should the City of Durham take over these streets?

I don’t know if there is a mechanism for having the city “take over” streets from the state of North Carolina. It’s not clear to me that there is any kind of funding available from the state for maintenance of such streets. My personal experience is that persistent advocacy with NCDOT can make change happen, whether it’s trying to get the state to reduce a speed limit on a state road (which I was successful in doing at the request of a nearby neighborhood on Hebron Road in the northeastern part of the city earlier this year), or repeatedly insisting that more can be done to improve pedestrian safety at dangerous intersections involving state roads across the city (which has resulted in the recent installation of a traffic light at South Mangum and South Dillard Streets). But to engage in that kind of persistent advocacy, we need elected officials who are not only eager to engage with Durham residents to identify these kinds of problems, but also capable of the kind of sustained engagement with NCDOT (often over months and years) to implement solutions to those problems. I believe that I’ve demonstrated my ability to do those things over the last four years.

7,000 people move to Durham every year. There is not enough road space for everyone if we continue to privilege automotive traffic. What actions will you take as a member of City Council to make Durham a safer and more inviting place to walk, bike, and take transit?

Over the next few years, the city of Durham must focus more time, attention and money on building a safer, more equitable and more environmentally friendly way to think about transportation in Durham. We have a moral imperative to map out a future which prioritizes public transit by keeping bus fares low while expanding service, reducing wait times and building more bus shelters; to promote traffic calming measures to reduce the dangers posed to cyclists and pedestrians by cars and trucks, and to make our streets safer for everyone; and to invest in more sidewalks and protected bike lanes and greenway trails to make walking and cycling truly viable commuting options for more and more Durham residents. By making progress on these issues, we can break our city’s disastrous reliance on cars and trucks that burn fossil fuels and build a safer, healthier and more sustainable Durham.

From a regional transit perspective, the demise of the Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit Project requires even closer collaboration between Durham and our regional partners to develop alternatives to light rail that reduce traffic congestion, meet our region’s growing transportation demands, combat sprawl, and address the critical environmental crisis of global climate change. That’s a tall order, but I know we’re up to the challenge.

The alternatives to light rail look both east and west. To the east, along the I-40 corridor, we must move forward with commuter rail between Wake and Durham Counties; to the west, along the NC 54/US 15-501 corridor, we must move quickly to develop bus rapid transit between Orange and Durham Counties, perhaps along a dedicated route that uses the alignment already acquired for light rail.

These ideas will be more fully developed in the revised Durham County Transit Plan, which is currently underway. As a member of the Durham City Council and a member of our regional transportation planning organization (the Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro Metropolitan Planning Organization), I will continue to be a forceful advocate for expanding both local and regional transit, as well as cycling and pedestrian infrastructure.

What else can you tell us about your commitment to safe, affordable transportation in Durham?

For the last four years, I have been the city council’s leading advocate for reducing Durham’s dependence on cars through improving our city’s public transit system, expanding our city’s network of bike lanes (especially protected lanes) and greenway trails, and building more sidewalks across Durham. This work is especially important to making our city safer for users of all modes of transportation, to improving the health of city residents, and to achieving the city’s ambitious sustainability and renewable energy goals. Bike Durham has been an important ally in that work, and I am eager to continue my partnership with Bike Durham to make our city a less car-centric community over the next four years.

Make Your Voice Heard! The Move Durham Survey

Introduction

The City of Durham is setting a vision for several key transportation corridors in and near downtown Durham. Bike Durham is excited that the City is soliciting input on the future of these important streets. We believe the City should, in general, put people above cars in all of the designs. This means allocating precious street space to pedestrians, cyclists, and transit users. If you have limited time, please tell them that here.

However, the City is soliciting detailed feedback on proposed designs for each street. Bike Durham has developed the following guide for how to vote on each of the corridors. This information is based on our technical expertise about best practices that increase safety for multi-modal transportation options.

*Before you click the button, keep reading to get our recommendations.
The survey is open through August 31st, 2019.


Survey Directions

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When you begin the survey, you’ll see a set of eight priority streets.

Click on the street you want to give input on, then scroll down to the survey link and click it to begin the survey. The first page of the survey asks how you currently use the street, how you’d like to use it, etc. For many of the streets, the second page of the survey divides the corridor into segments, and walks you through different design alternatives for each segment. Your choice for each design is:

  • I support this option

  • I DO NOT support this option

And then you are given a space to share your thoughts.


Elizabeth/Fayetteville Street

Elizabeth Street: Ramseur to Holloway

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  • Support Alternative 2: Landscaped Medians w/Turn Pockets + Pedestrian Refuge Islands

Alternative 1 and 2 both have protected bike lanes, which is Bike Durham’s highest priority—we’re advocating for a “low-stress network” (LSN) of such lanes. They would provide continuous protection from car traffic on key corridors, with as few interruptions of protection as possible, and they would connect to one another so people could ride safely and confidently from origin to destination. Alternative 2 features a median, which is important for pedestrians crossing the street: The presence of a median has been shown to reduce pedestrian crashes by 40%. And vertical elements in or next to roadways, like trees planted in medians, tend to reduce traffic speed, which results in fewer and less harmful collisions.

Fayetteville Street: Limited Access Transition (Highway 147 Overpass)

  • Support Phase I 

  • Support Long Term Vision: Three Lanes with Buffered Bike Lanes and Wide Sidewalks

Fayetteville Street: Commercial (Umstead to Lakewood)

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  • Support Phase I

  • Support Long Term Vision 3: Bus Lanes + High Frequency Transit, Curb-Separated Bike Lane, and Pedestrian Refuge Islands

Bike Durham advocates for increased transit accessibility and pedestrian amenities as well as bicycle-focused infrastructure. Alternative 1 has bus lanes without protected bike lanes. Alternative 2 is vice-versa. Alternative 3 is the best of all worlds: Bus lanes with stop improvements, and maximally protected bike paths. This is the sort of street plan we’d like to see everywhere the right-of-way width allows for it.

Fayetteville Street: Mixed Use, Residential, and Institutional (Cecil to Umstead)

  • Support Traffic Calming and Pedestrian Safety Treatment Examples

While it would be difficult to put bicycle infrastructure in this narrow roadway, Bike Durham would like the city to identify a parallel street or trail nearby to include in a low-stress network.

Duke/Gregson/Vickers Street

Residential, Mixed-Use, and Downtown (University to Club)

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  • Support Alternative 3: Two-Way with Parking

Few cyclists dare to ride on Duke or Gregson because people tend to drive frighteningly fast on these two-lane, one-way streets. In this case, we forgo recommending bike lanes in order to protect drivers and pedestrians from the dangerously high speeds that the current one-way design enables. Two-way streets would significantly calm traffic in these residential neighborhoods, and cyclists can instead use parallel streets and greenways such as Watts Street and the American Tobacco Trail.

Alston Avenue/Avondale Drive

Avondale Drive: Residential, Mixed-Use, and Commercial (Alston to Knox)

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  • Support Alternative 2: Multi-Use Path and Transit Amenities

We prefer Alternative 2 because the multi-use path separates bicycles from cars.

Alston Avenue: Residential, Mixed-Use, and Industrial (Holloway to Avondale)

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  • Support Alternative 3: Bike Lanes and Transit Amenities, BUT need to add either protected bike lanes or a multi-use path

We think bike lanes are crucial for this key north-south corridor, but we don’t understand why this alternative doesn’t protect them. We urge the city to modify the design to protect the bike lanes.

Chapel Hill Street

Limited Access Road Transition (Shepherd to Gregson)

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  • Support Alternative 3: Reduce Lanes, Buffered/Separated Bike Lanes, Wider Sidewalks

Alternative 2 and 3 are identical, save for the widths of the sidewalks and travel lanes. The narrower drive lanes in Alternative 3 would slow car traffic, which saves lives.

Downtown (Gregson to Ramseur)

  • Support Alternative 1: Streetscape Improvements, Buffered Bike Lanes

Commercial (Kent to Shepherd)

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  • Support Alternative 2: Separated Bike Lanes

This is a simple choice between buffered and non-buffered bike lanes.

Downtown Loop

Morgan Street (Roxboro to Chapel Hill)

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  • Support Alternative 1: Two-Way Conversion, Protected Bikeway

We strongly support the conversion of the downtown loop from a one-way to a two-way thoroughfare. There is little justification for the present one-way design; because the north-south streets that pass through it are heavily traveled, and thus prioritized by traffic signals, the loop hardly achieves the purpose of one-way streets, which is to move cars through quickly. Converting to two-way streets would calm traffic while making it less confusing to navigate downtown. Alternative 1 is the only one among these alternatives to include protected bike lanes. We would prefer Alternative 2 if they tweaked the design to buffer the bike lanes.

Ramseur Street (Chapel Hill to Roxboro)

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  • Support Alternative 2: Two-Way Conversion, Bus Lane + High Frequency Transit, Shared Use Path

All three of these designs feature protected bikeways. We advocate for Alternative 2 because it includes a bus-only lane, which is well-suited to Ramseur Street.

Roxboro/Mangum Street

Residential/Mixed-Use (Corporation to Markham)

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  • Support Alternative 1: One-Way w/Protected Bikeway

Our choice here would maximize bicycle safety with a fully curb-protected cycle track.

MangUm: Downtown (from Dillard to corporation)

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  • Support Alternative 3: Two-Way Protected Bikeway, Wider Sidewalks.

Our choice here would maximize bicycle safety with a fully curb-protected cycle track.

Roxboro: Downtown (Dillard to Elliott)

We don’t support any of these options. Alternative 1 is the least-bad because of the presence of the bike lane. However, placing a bike lane to the left of a parking lane with no buffer creates a car-door minefield. In the comments, please urge the city to come up with a better solution.




Holloway Street

Holloway Street and North Hyde Park Ave 

  • Support Redesign

Holloway Street and Oakwood Ave 

  • Support Version 1 or 2

We’re agnostic on these intersection designs. We want to see protected bike lanes on the west end of Holloway Street, between Roxboro and Dillard—if you like, you can note this in the comments.

Durham Freeway

  • Some points for you to add in the text box asking “What can be done to reconnect communities negatively impacted by construction of the Durham Freeway to other parts of the City?” could include: Better bike/ped access on the streets that cross the Durham Freeway.

The survey asks, “Did you know?” Many Durhamites do know that when the Durham Freeway was built, it tore through the heart of Hayti and other central neighborhoods, displacing homes, businesses, and churches, and cutting parts of the city off from one another. While it’s too late to fully reverse the damage done, the city could benefit greatly from converting the highway to a surface street. With the East End Connector set to open in 2020, many of the freeway’s current users will have better options for moving through the city, and the imminent need to repair many of the bridges that pass over it presents the city with a unique opportunity to make a bold, epochal change before it continues throwing good money after bad. A persuasive accounting of the reasons why we advocate for the freeway’s removal can be found in this News & Observer opinion piece, written in 2016 by Bike Durham member and advisor Erik Landfried.

I'm angry. This is a call to action about the W Club Blvd Hit-and-Run.

Hi Friends,
If you're a new Bike Durham member, welcome and thanks for joining us! This is a special edition of the monthly newsletter due to a tragic hit-and-run crash that triggered some strong emotions for me personally. Durham needs to do better. Please read on, and thanks for your support.

allison.jpg
 

When will Durham get serious about Vision Zero?

Friday, May 3rd was a night of contrasts. First came the successful Bike Month kick-off party—a chance for our community to come together over a shared commitment to advocating for safer streets. A few hours later, a dark reality woke me up at 1 am in the form of police lights and caution tape outside my window. Just a few steps from my front door, I could see the mangled bike on W Club Boulevard at the intersection of N Duke Street. I watched the police measuring distances and trying to recreate the scene of this horrific hit-and-run. I didn’t dare walk closer for fear I’d see a body.

My mother was killed in a bike crash three years ago this May 25th. Seeing that mangled bike Saturday morning made me feel so angry and helpless. Just the day before I had purchased a sign to place at this same dangerous intersection where Brooke Lyn Maynard died last year in a car crash. It will read: “Drive like your mother died here” from the organization called OursDid.org. I thought maybe this would remind drivers as they approach this unsafe intersection that lives are at stake. Maybe it would make me feel like I’ve done something to help when the systemic changes we need to keep pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers safe on our streets seem so far off.

There are many differences between these two tragic crashes, and the numerous other fender-benders and “accidents” that occur at this intersection. Some may point to the victims or survivors and say they should have been safer; they shouldn’t have been walking or biking there at all; or, it was just an “accident”. I vividly recall reading the stinging comments in the coverage of my mom’s fatal bike crash—unkind and uninformed remarks about how she shouldn’t have been riding on that road. Like she didn’t deserve to be there.

The problem is: we know better.

We know that people are going to make mistakes. We know that educating the public with driver safety, or encouraging more lights for bicyclists, or putting up signs to raise awareness are all just ban-daids that won’t bring about the changes to infrastructure we so desperately need to save lives and prevent injury.

One of the key tenets of Vision Zero, a commitment that the City of Durham Transportation Department has adopted, is to shift away from the assumptions of perfect human behavior and individual responsibility and towards a model where we assume people make mistakes and the built environment should be physically designed to keep people safe (all modes: driving, biking, walking). This model de-emphasizes enforcement and education (though of course there will always be a place for education), and instead focuses on system/street design and policy improvements as proven, data-driven ways to reduce fatalities and injuries on the streets.

When cities take Vision Zero seriously they create a roadmap for action that is concrete and contains proactive strategies and policies such as:

  • Address unsafe street design with measurable goals and clear timeline for implementation.

  • Bring a paradigm shift regarding speed management, ensuring enforcement is equitable.

  • Deploy rapid response teams to urgently address safety concerns and raise awareness at crash sites.

  • Create a task force, act with transparency, and invite third party assessment of progress toward stated project goals.

Where is Durham’s actionable roadmap for Vision Zero?

In the two years since Durham adopted Vision Zero, we have not seen a plan outlining strategies, implementation timeline, or evaluation process. Where is our leadership? Yes, the City is in the midst of a national search for a new Transportation Director as the position is currently vacant. We do have an Interim Director and a capable staff and they should have two years of Vision Zero planning behind them. Why hasn’t City Council demanded action and provided the necessary resources to move Durham towards its goal of zero fatalities on our streets? (Note, the Interim Director of the Portland, OR Bureau of Transportation took impressive action on April 24th with his directive for a new, accelerated crash response protocol.)

The change is too slow.

The hit-and-run crash this weekend was on a section of W Club (between Broad and Washington) listed as a critical priority in the 2017 Bike+Walk Implementation Plan. That plan, developed by the Transportation Department, called for reducing W Club down to a two-lane road with buffered bike lanes (which should be physically protected from vehicles like the one that hit Jessica Bridger on Saturday morning) running from Broad all the way to Washington. It has been two years since this plan was adopted, why haven’t these improvements been made yet? Thirteen years ago, W Club was also listed as a "Top 20" corridor in the 2006 Comprehensive Bicycle Transportation Plan. How many more plans will it be featured in and how many more collisions will happen there before it is made safer?

We will never know if things would have turned out differently early Saturday morning had there been a protected bike lane, but we know for sure that these tragic crashes will continue if nothing changes at this intersection.

What we can do right now

Support the woman who was hit.

Jessica Bridgers is in the ICU with numerous broken bones and lacerations in addition to brain swelling. She will require multiple surgeries, and will be out of work for months, if not longer. Donate to her GoFundMe site to help her raise funds for medical expenses and a long recovery.

Join and contribute to Bike Durham.

Some might think it’s distasteful or opportunistic to ask for contributions to Bike Durham in the wake of a horrible crash. I respect that everyone can feel differently about these complicated and emotional moments. Personally, I believe that building up Bike Durham to make safe street advocacy more powerful is one concrete thing we can do right now to productively channel feelings of helplessness and rage into action.

When people get cancer, we raise money for cancer research. We donate to the organizations that are fighting to find a cure. When our family, friends, and neighbors are being killed in crashes on our streets, we should be supporting the organizations like Bike Durham that are fighting to hold the City, the Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro Metropolitan Planning Organization (DCHC MPO), and the State DOT accountable to their own plans for Complete Streets and Vision Zero.

Here’s where my analogy falls short: we don't know the precise cause of every cancer and we are still seeking cures. The same is not true for preventing crashes. We do have data and proven street designs, and we do know how to lower the incidence of injuries and deaths caused by crashes on our streets:

We need to hold the City accountable for Vision Zero.

Bike Durham is trying to fund a paid staff position so we can better hold the City accountable to the Vision Zero commitment, so these tragic events don’t keep happening. Please become a member or donate today. We’re fighting to cure our streets so we can stay alive.

Ride to remember and honor those impacted

Wednesday, May 15 at 6:30 PM, CCB Plaza

Join us for the Ride of Silence: a social but silent bike ride around downtown (5 miles) to honor and remember those killed or injured while biking. All are welcome to show solidarity for the community of bicyclists and walkers who have lost their lives and whose families are forever changed because our streets are not good enough.

This ride occurs in hundreds of locations worldwide on the third Wednesday in May. This year will mark the 17th annual Ride of Silence.

Our Position on Helmets and Police at Rides

Bike Durham board members and volunteers have been grappling with tough questions and instead of keeping the conversation to ourselves, we think it’s important to create dialogue around these sensitive and sometimes deeply personal issues. Recently, in planning the annual Ride of Silence, two topics came up that gave us pause and forced us to work through some differences in perspective and experience:

  • Should we require helmets on the ride? Who would that exclude?

  • Would a police escort for the ride add to the feeling of safety or detract from it?

Ultimately, through productive discussion and open-mindedness all around, we’ve settled on some positions for the Ride of Silence that can guide us for other events as well. We encourage healthy, respectful conversation around these topics and welcome members and the biking community to talk about these things, because that’s how we can learn and grow.


Our position on helmets

We consider wearing a helmet while biking a good idea.

Many of the Bike Durham leadership wear helmets habitually. Many of us have been in crashes where helmets have helped prevent serious injury. Like bicycle lights, which are required by law at night in North Carolina, wearing a helmet helps keep your noggin safe when it hits something hard. The foundation of Bike Durham is the desire to prevent senseless deaths and foster liveable streets. Helmets and lights are part of that.

However, a lot of the time, when helmets are promoted by advocates, legislators, or transportation departments, they are pitched as a cure-all for safety, often ignoring the larger, systemic, and more obvious threats to safety. There is a simple truth that if a vehicle hits you while you are walking or biking, a helmet is usually not enough to prevent injury.  

Helmets are not the ultimate solution. Helmets provide a foam cushion when something smacks your head— they do not prevent all head injuries, they don’t stop cars, they don’t protect the rest of your body. If Bike Durham put helmets on everyone biking in Durham people would still die because of car crashes. So while we encourage helmet use, we put most of our time and effort into preventing crashes in the first place and believe that those who design our roads need to do the same.

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We have chosen to prioritize changing and improving the built environment (ex: streets, sidewalks, crosswalks) over changing individual behavior. Encouraging helmet use will probably protect some noggins— just like teaching drivers the Dutch Reach probably prevents some doorings. We certainly believe in a world where everyone who wants a helmet has access to one, especially children. But we are concerned with making the biggest change with the longest effect. That’s why we’re focused on building a low-stress network that keeps you, grandma, your little nephew, everybody safe throughout the city. If you look at cities with strong bicycle infrastructure, you’ll notice that helmet usage is not the norm and it can be quite rare. Why? Because it is safe for young and old to ride their bikes without a helmet— the built environment is what creates safety.

Public education campaigns that focus on wearing helmets and reflective clothing (or pedestrians looking up from their phones) place the burden of safety on the individual biking or walking. Intended or not, these campaigns are apologetics for a car-dominant transportation system and contribute to a culture of victim-blaming in media coverage of crashes. ‘If you get hit, it was because you didn’t respect the car’s space.’ Bike Durham has a vision where it’s pleasant and normal to walk and bike to work in Durham and our advocacy should reflect that future rather than preparing everyone merely to survive the streets.

Car-centric safety campaigns on the left and political cartoons satirizing them on the right

All this leads to our last point: we are not just committed to preventing senseless deaths and injuries, but also to creating more livable streets. That happens when we build the street for everyone who uses it (all modes). And we cannot build livable streets while prioritizing car speeds. We want to build a Durham where you don’t have to gear up and wear a helmet to be safe on the roads— because those safety accessories aren’t solving the problem now anyway.

So, we don’t require helmets on our rides, though we do recommend them because we are more focused on the important factors of infrastructure and cars.

For more reading on this subject check out:
The Bike Helmet Paradox - The Atlantic
Enough With The Helmet Shaming Already - Outside Magazine

 

Our position on the police


Bike Durham is seeking to become more equity-focused, inclusive, and diverse. We’re living that out in various ways. We made this commitment essential to our formal statement of purpose. We are actively recruiting board members of color to better represent and advocate for Durham’s diversity. The leadership is attending seminars and workshops as part of our ongoing anti-racism work, and we’re challenging ourselves to think differently about everything the organization does. One way this has come up recently is around the presence of police at our events.

Every year Bike Durham hosts the Ride of Silence, as part of an international community of nearly 400 cities worldwide who organize these grassroots memorial rides on the third Wednesday every May. The slow group ride is held in complete silence to honor and remember victims of traffic violence. Traditionally, in many cities, this ride is held with the assistance of law enforcement personnel. Since the ride is silent and ride marshals cannot address the group or announce a change of plans at the moment, the police have served as escorts, commanding the respect of motor traffic on the route.  

For some, the presence of police at rides like these offers comfort and a feeling of safety as they may be already hyper-conscious of the threat cars pose to vulnerable street users. For others, police presence causes anxiety and fear. For those who live in Durham without documentation, the police often embody the ubiquitous threat of capture, deportation, and separation from their family and community. For many, especially people of color and those in poverty, the police personify a long history of excessive force and community terrorism, playing crucial roles in the mechanics of institutional racism such as the school to prison pipeline and the war on drugs.  

The reputation of violence is so deeply entangled with police that people of color and vulnerable communities avoid events where law enforcement is present. Mending those relationships and improving that reputation are worthwhile goals, but the responsibility for that reconciliation lies with the police, not with Bike Durham. This is an instance when we are not able to satisfy everyone.  

We have decided that being true to our commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion means creating a welcoming environment for those who are usually ignored or unwelcomed in these environments. In this case, it means that we will not invite or pay the police to attend our events.

Without sacrificing safety and to ensure participants feel comfortable, we will have informed volunteer ride marshals supporting the Durham Ride of Silence. We hope you will join us!