Archived Outdoors

Waynesville pursues bike-friendly roads

Big white stencils of helmeted bikers now adorn a growing number of streets throughout Waynesville.

The markings, called sharrows, tell bikers that they’re welcome on the roads and remind drivers to look out for travelers on two wheels. 

“That’s part of a larger plan that we’ve got throughout the town, and we’d like to be interconnected so we can become known as a bicycle destination,” said David Foster, the town’s public services director. 

By the time the project is done, Foster said, 78 sharrows will be installed around town. Most of those are already in place. The town has also installed bike detectors at three intersections so that traffic signals can better detect a biker’s presence and change accordingly. 

The sharrows and bike detectors — installed at the intersections of Branner Avenue and Walnut Street, Branner Avenue and Depot Street and Haywood Street and Church Street — cost a total $12,690. State Street-Aid funds footed the bill. 

This is just the first phase in Waynesville’s long-term goal of making biking an easy, safe way of getting around town. 

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“The sharrows are the low-hanging fruit,” Foster said. “We can identify streets that are wide enough now or that the traffic speed or volume are at a low enough level that we can introduce bicycles to them.”

Dedicated bike lanes, of course, are the holy grail of bicycle travel, but creating them usually requires widening the road, an expensive undertaking. 

Foster is hopeful that Waynesville will get some of its first bike lanes with a state-funded transportation improvement project along Russ Avenue slated for 2019. 

“The plans are not finalized,” Foster said. “Conceptually they have included multi-modal [transportation], which would be bike and other pedestrian facilities.”

Bike-friendly roads are pretty much absent west of Asheville, but they have been popping up as a topic of conversation. In Franklin, for example, a study the town commissioned from Waynesville-based J.M Teague Engineering came out in the fall with a recommendation that sharrows be added to downtown. The town board is considering bike traffic along with other aspects of downtown traffic due for an overhaul. 

For his part, Foster would like to see infrastructure for bikes spread beyond the Waynesville city limits. 

“We’re trying to create these bike layers so we can eventually interconnect everything,” he said. “As part of a greater countywide effort we’d like to identify the most efficient and safe ways for bicycles to get through Waynesville.”

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