Cycling advocacy can be like a toddler. It can be unpredictable. It’s constantly growing, little by little. It can be frustrating and rewarding at the same time.
The Winston-Salem Cycling Advocacy Network is constantly learning and adapting. We’re always discovering new information, making new connections, coming up with new ideas, and learning from the successes and failures around us.
As we approached the 2017-18 FY budget process here in Winston-Salem, WS CAN pushed for more funding for bicycle infrastructure maintenance. Things like increased street sweeping for our bike lanes, regular greenway clean up and maintenance, and resurfacing of the deteriorating Strollway. We gathered 30+ letters from local cyclists and citizens asking City Council to consider committing funds to these critical areas. Big thanks to all those who took time to submit a letter. It definitely got the attention of some council members!
After the proposed budget was released we saw some good stuff like increased spending on public transit (a key component of a successful multi-modal transportation system), an increase in street maintenance funds, and continued investment in greenway development, but not quite the increase in the specific areas we’d hoped for.
While we’re not likely to see a monetary investment in the area of bicycle infrastructure maintenance this next fiscal year, through our interactions with City staff and Council we’ve been able to gain some traction on street sweeping.
Debris in the bike lanes is bad news. It’s a safety hazard and nuisance for cyclists, generally unsightly and poses issues for the storm water management. We don’t think the current street sweeping is sufficient to keep the bike lanes suitable for users. Initially, we thought increasing the frequency of sweeping would help however as things developed we found that perhaps we could benefit from better oversight.
After some research, I found that Winston-Salem has been using the same sweeping vendor since 2012 and there was no competition in the recent bid process for the next contract. This concerned me. Perhaps not enough competition and oversight is resulting in the lack of consistent and quality service. That’s why we see excessive debris in the bike lanes.
So I contacted our friends at City Hall and was delighted when City Manager, Lee Garrity, responded with interest in helping us get this resolved. He said he would be engaging the office of Performance and Accountability and they would conduct a thorough performance audit of the current sweeping company this summer and also examine internal accountability and technological monitoring, the cost of bringing this work in house and ways to supplement the program with City resources. After the audit, the findings will be presented to City Council in the fall.
Now, significant changes and improvements to street sweeping may be a year or so out but we are happy to see our City Manager taking initiative to evaluate and address this important issue.
We’d also like to thank Councilmen Macintosh, Besse and Larson who also showed support and collaborated on this.
The point is, we aimed for increased funding in the budget and after meetings, emails and research we ended up going in a new direction and because of our network we are moving forward to improve conditions for local cyclist and prospective riders.
It’s through persistence and partnership that WS CAN makes a difference! Join the network to help us make Winston-Salem bike friendly.
Stay tuned for developments and ways you can get involved.