Updated: Feb 28
Winston Salem needs a lot more bike lanes, greenways, and other improvements if we're going to a true bike-friendly community where people of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds can get around safely and comfortably by bicycle.
There are so many ways to make biking easier and safer across the city. In 2019, the Winston Salem Bicycle Master Plan was adopted by City Council. This huge document laid out numerous projects that could be implemented including 17 priority routes.
Throughout 2020, the city's Bicycle, Pedestrian, and Active Mobility Advisory Committee used criteria in Bicycle Master Plan to further refine the plan recommendations. The criteria included...
Social Equity which takes into consideration income levels, minority populations and households with zero-vehicles. Essentially, making sure all parts of our community (and especially those who need it the most) have access to safe places to ride.
Latent Demand refers to the predicted demand for bike facilities based on what's nearby, like schools, parks, transit stops, retails, large employers, etc. Since people want to be able to ride to/from nearby destinations, making roadways near these places more bikeable would be ideal.
Bicyclist Stress Level looks at traffic volume, traffic speeds, and lane widths. The goal is to take streets with a high stress level and make them less stressful for people biking.
As a result, the 17 priority routes were broken into 3 tiers. Tier 1 projects would provide the most value to the community. Tier 1 routes include:
Forsyth Tech Connector
Long Branch Trail
Forsyth Medical Connector
The recommendations for tier 1 routes would significantly improve conditions for people who are already biking for transportation to school, work, etc. as well as folks who bike for recreation. The projects would also make cycling more accessible to lots of people who may be interested in getting started and just need a safer, more inviting environment. Tiers 2 and 3 also have important project that deserve attention but given the criteria used, Tier 1 projects are considered the best "bang for your buck" and should be pursued first.
Matthew Burczyk, Winston Salem's Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator, recently presented these recommendations to the Public Works Committee. You can watch a video of the meeting HERE. The section on biking is 30 minutes and includes some great questions and commentary from the Committee members.
What do you think? Do you see the value in pursuing these projects? How would completing the recommendations for any one of these routes change your behavior or experience riding? City Council needs to know.
These projects have been in the master plan since 2019 and while some good progress has been made, much more is needed. There are lots of reasons why bike improvements take time to a long time implement (design constraints and costs, applying for and managing federal, stage and local funding, the need for private easements, etc.) but the best way to move a project forward is by getting our elected officials on board.
When they hear from constituents about why we enjoy bicycling, the real-life challenges we face trying to ride in Winston Salem, and hear our personal stories about how beneficial these projects would be to us and our families, they are more likely to get excited and commit their support to getting them completed.
So we're asking YOU to take a few minutes to review the projects, think about how much better your life could be if they were completed. Maybe you could safely ride to work or the grocery store, or bike with your kids to school, or get in a longer ride for exercise without compromising your safety. Whatever the reason, tell your Council Member why these projects matter and why they should push to help make them happen.
If you don't know who your Council Member is, check out this map to find out who is assigned to your ward. You are also welcome to email all 8 Council Members and the Mayor to share your stories. Council loves hearing from everyday people about the issues and solutions that matter to you.
As we continue our collective journey to making Winston Salem a great place to live and ride bikes, we need to keep sharing our "why" and pushing our elected officials to make bike projects a priority. Will you take a few minutes today to call or email your representative to share your "why"?