SHARE THE ROAD: Cycling may be necessary to ease congestion

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Bicycles are growing in popularity as congestion in the Cape Fear continues to grow.

While city leaders are trying to promote a new mode of transportation, cyclists are also advocating for safer roads.

For the last 50 years, Al Schroetel has pedaled Wilmington’s roads watching the city and the congestion grow.

“You cannot chase growing communities and growing transportation needs only with highways, you’ve got to use other modes,” Schroetel said.

With the congestion comes the need for more safety.

“Any cyclist who has been riding for any amount of time has had a close encounter,” Schroetel said.

That is why Schroetel has also been advocating for the Cape Fear Cyclists.

“Terry Bengey was kind of one of the real founders of Cape Fear Cyclists. He was killed in a bike accident by Greenfield Lake.”

Schroetel said they started a foundation to educate and put in bike facilities. He said the city has been right there with them.

“The city and the county have made cycling improvements,” Schroetel said.

Wilmington Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization Director Mike Kozlosky said in 2014 the improvements became a bigger part of the transportation conversation.

“While working on a comprehensive plan, we saw the citizens identified walking and biking as the number one need,” Kozlosky said.

Kozlosky said the WMPO board set aside $20 million for bike and pedestrian improvements in the 2014 transportation bond.

“Two of those projects have been completed, both being sidewalk projects on 23rd Street and Oleander Drive,” Kozlosky said.

Kozlosky said there are a number of other projects in design. He said the city and the Department of Transportation have since adopted “Complete Street Policies.”

“We’re not just focusing on the automobile,” Kozlosky said. “We are trying to develop streets that are for all users.”

In the 2016 WMPO Biennial Report, Schroetel said they looked to see where the most bicycle accidents were happening.

“Obviously, places like College Road and Market Street,” Schroetel said.

Heavy congestion is not the only problem.

“The other thing we see is a lot of the accidents occuring at night and that is largely because the cyclists are wearing dark clothes,” Schroetel said.

Schroetel said both drivers and cyclists are also a part of the problem.

“The biggest mistake cyclists make is they don’t follow the rules of the road,” Schroetel said. “Bicycles are by North Carolina law a legal vehicle.”

As for drivers, he said there is a lack of patience.

“Motorists will say, ‘I can squeeze by this cyclist and yeah, it’s going to be a little tight, because there is an oncoming car, but it’s really important for me to save these three seconds,'” Schroetel said.

Schroetel said the Cape Fear Cyclists have come a long way pushing new laws in the general assembly to combat some of these issues.

“We were so excited last October to see the change in law,” Schroetel said. “Vehicles can now cross the double yellow line to give cyclists at least four feet.”

How do you keep up with congestion while also keeping everyone on the roads safe?

“What we’re trying to do is change the mindset to utilize walking, biking, public transportation,” Kozlosky said.

Whether it is new legislation, more bike lanes, or more education, as long as the city keeps growing, the community will have to rely on new ways to get around.

Schroetel said by law, you must have a tail light on a bicycle, but they are trying to advocate for a new law that also requires you to have a headlight.

Categories: Brunswick, Local, New Hanover, Pender

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