Win Some – Lose Some

I’ve often been asked, “What is the best part of being a Cary Town Councilmember?” Or, “What is it that you like about being on Council.”

It’s a hard question to answer. Not because there is little to “like” but rather, the contrary. There is so much I enjoy.

Overall though, I enjoy taking ideas I have to improve the town and bringing those ideas to fruition. Sometimes that means taking problems or issues, often brought up by citizens, and then finding various workable solutions. Or, taking suggestions from community leaders, advocates, or Town Staff, and finding new and innovative ways to implement them, all with the goal of improving our collective quality of life, and making the Town an EVEN better place to live.

There have been successes, for sure. (I’d like to think that the Technology Task Force is one of those, and I’ll write another blog post about that, this week.) But there have also been times where things haven’t gone as I had hoped. And, it wouldn’t be a “real life blog” if I overlooked those. So, here goes.

A Bike and Walkable Champion

About two years ago, I brought up the idea to council that we should be looking at ways to make our town more bike and pedestrian friendly.

1000milesAs an avid walker and cyclist, I see opportunities for improving our activities, ordinances, and vision when it comes to supporting folks that use our roads, sidewalks and greenways – not just for recreation, but for commuting as well. (I just hit my 1000 mile mark with my FitBit! Woo hoo!)

Council agreed that it was worth looking into and discussing, along with several other potential areas – such as Historic Preservation, our Senior Community, Persons with Disabilities, and a number of others.  We put them all to the side, to have a larger brainstorming session – with the goal of determining which areas we’d like to have more “citizen input.”

Fast Forward a Year

About a year later, October 2012, we had that brainstorming session, and sure enough, Pedestrian and Mobility issues bubbled up near the top.  I was glad to see that my fellow council members were looking for more citizen input, guidance and feedback.   I was hopeful.

Time to Share my Thoughts

Finally last week (more than two years after the original discussion), we had a work session on the potential of adding four new boards and commissions – a Bike and Pedestrian Advisory Council (BPAC), one for Historic Preservation, a Senior related board, and a committee for persons with disabilities.

I couldn’t wait any longer – so I made my pitch.

I had talked with cycling advocates, walkers and citizens about this idea.  I had reached out to the former head of the Durham BPAC and members of the Raleigh BPAC.  I consulted with folks that have worked with Cary staff on improving bicycle and pedestrian safety.  And I brought all that to the table.  Here’s what I said…

Why Does Cary Need a BPAC?

It’s a movement – and more and more of us are walking and riding.

There is a growing movement and population that like to to walk and bike – we should continue to find ways to make it safe to do so

    • Greenways are one of our “highest rated” and used resources in Cary
    • We need to do more to find ways to connect the Greenways, and get people to feel safe and comfortable walking and riding.
    • We need the expertise in the community to weigh in, additional advise from real users
    • Issues and concerns have been raised in the community about sidewalks that are missing on various sides of key roads
    • We need a holistic and COMPREHENSIVE review of Bicycle and Pedestrian access across all of Cary, not just NEW developments, or sidewalks.  That is, full integration of biking and walking into community transportation policies and practices
    • BPACs can review development plans and site plans which may have a significant impact on bike mobility and  transportation
    • BPACs can facilitate citizen participation with biking community

Cary is now a “bicycle friendly” area – but we can do so much more to engage citizens.

    • we could create safety programs for kids/seniors (as done in other BPACs)
    • Programs can directly attack the obesity issue: finding better ways to get kids to walk and bike to schools, safely
    • Studies show that children living near an extra-wide walking and biking trail were 3 times more likely to get vigorous exercise than kids in a similar low-income neighborhood with regular sidewalks. In other words: if you build it, they will walk, run, bike and skate-board
    • Education to the greater community – promoting bike and pedestrian education and safety initiatives – partnering with certified bike instructors, and law enforcement, and other interested groups in the community, and promote bike safety education on the “rules of the road” and “sharing the road” for motorist and bicyclists of all ages.

Outcomes from these Goals

The economic, environmental and community benefits of cycling and walking deserve our attention, and should be a vital part of our processes. Let’s face it,there are great reasons to do it – the reduction of air and noise pollution (enhancing our sustainability goals) , reducing our traffic congestion, helping to alleviate our vehicular parking demands – all while saving energy, using land and road space more efficiently, and in turn, saving our citizens money.   

BPACs have proven to be worthwhile

I shared my conversations with the BPAC members from the various municipalities, and the staff as well.  Both Durham and Raleigh have netted great results from these programs, and feel that the organizations are an important addition to their boards and commissions.

BPACS for Raleigh & Durham

BPACS for Raleigh & Durham

The cost for this additional advisory board is negligible; just the Town of Cary staff time to create agendas, take minutes, and to interview and bring on additional citizens to the boards and commissions process.

The End of the Meeting

As much data as I brought, I just wasn’t successful in convincing my fellow council members that this was an additional board or commission to add to our slate.  (Yes, it’s tough to lose a good fight.)

But at the end of the day, this is a democracy, and I needed a majority of council members to be on what I will call the “right side” of this idea.  🙂

I hope my colleagues will think about it, and maybe they will hear from other citizens that think this was a good idea, or not.  But, until that time, this idea will still sit on the back burner of my list, and maybe, when the time is right, I’ll bring it out again for discussion.

On a happier note, my other two ideas – asking staff to investigate ways to increase enforcement and proactive tree buffer protection zones, and getting Accessible Pedestrian signals at Walnut Street DID pass. 



5 Responses to Win Some – Lose Some
  1. Gary in Cary, NC Reply

    Sadly, I feel such a group will get formed after the 1st senior casualty at High House & Davis, walking to and from the deli in the new future Publix, at rush hour…or, when more on the Council actually walk or cycle. per Dr.’s advice??

    Cary’s greenways, like Raleigh’s really lack the “You Are Here” signage, to help a walker/cyclist connect to the next part of a given greenway that all of a sudden ends at some street and the user is clueless as to which way to go to connect to the rest of the greenway. Save the $160K cost of painting useless sharrows and invest in signs, maybe?

    Tip: ask 10 drivers waiting at a stop light if they even know what a sharrow is!

    Well, I got to get back on my recumbent and cycle up to McD’s for a yogurt…

  2. Wayne Clark Reply

    First of all, I want to thank you Lori for championing the cause of a BPAC for the Town of Cary. I have been an advocate for such a committee for Cary for many years after watching the effectiveness of Durham’s BPAC over the past decade and seeing the value that the recently-formed Raleigh BPAC has brought to the city.

    However, I must also say that I’m not surprised that the Town of Cary is not interested in hearing the input of its citizens who are bicyclists and avid walkers. Town council and government is reflective of the majority of the populace as it should be. In my experience with bicycling thousands of miles around Cary and environs for the past 20 years, this town is completely undeserving of the bicycle friendly status bestowed upon it by the League of American Bicyclists. BTW, after I investigated how Cary could possibly receive this award starting in 2003, I was told that the award was based more on hope than reality.

    My cycling experience around the Triangle region has revealed that Cary motorists commit acts of “intentional rudeness” to cyclists more often than any other town in the region, with the possible exception of Apex. Trying to sensitize a bunch of SUV wielding suburbanites of the need to share the road reminds me of the Robert Heinlein quote: “Never try to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and annoys the pig.”

    As for me, I’m tired of wasting my time with Cary whilst annoying the pig. My family is moving to Washington DC, a real city which enjoys a well-deserved LAB silver rating.

    • Gary in Cary, NC Reply

      About DC: ride the W&OD trail!

      Many places to stop and dine along the way. We have done it several times. It’s a converted rail trail and I bet the train companies wish they had it back! We often stay in Herndon.

      Also, DC closes some parks to cars on weekends, so you can really enjoy the roads.

      What could Cary learn? Let beverage commerce develop along our trails, use helpful signs, toss out the sharrow paint, and forbid 2-abreast cycling on 2-lane roads?

      • Wayne Clark Reply

        I’ve ridden the Washington and Old Dominion Trail, plus the C & O Towpath, the entire Rock Creek Trail, the Alexandria Trail, and the Mt Vernon Trail.

        Trail riding is nice fun for novices but too constraining to the commuting and transportation needs of commuting and utility cyclists.

        Bike lanes generally suck because municipalities never keep them free of debris. Cary is especially bad about keeping them clean. There are also too few of them to be useful.

        I am a strong advocate of sharrows since they are meaningful compromise: a constant reminder to automobiles that bicyclists use the road while cars have full reign rights to drive all the way to the edge of the lane and therefore keep the lane clear of debris. They are used in every major city in the US and are quite effective. The main problem is that noone — especially motorists — know what they are for. Sometimes you just can’t fix stupid.

  3. Brent Reply

    I agree that we need comprehensive multi-modal transportation planning and operations.

    I’m surprised that a majority of Town Council didn’t support establishing a citizens’ commission for this important aspect of life in Cary. It seems to me that such a commission makes a whole lot of sense (oh, and I think Gary should be on it :-).

    Not establishing a commission seems so…un-Cary-like.

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