Could North Carolina Be One of the Best Biking (And Walking) States in the Country? We Say Yes… but…
Walking and bicycling are two universal activities that are popular and accessible to nearly everyone. Taking an evening stroll during a perfect North Carolina fall evening or riding a bicycle through the Appalachian hills can both be exhilarating experiences.
We believe more can be done to make our state safe for pedestrians or cyclists. We are not alone in that belief.
Recognizing the need for a safe infrastructure for walkers and bicyclists, North Carolina started WalkBikeNC, North Carolina’s Statewide Pedestrian and Bicycle Plan, to make roads and pathways safer for these activities. The organization also establishes a roadmap for future improvements of bicycle and pedestrian routes.
Dozens of bicycle and pedestrian advocacy groups throughout North Carolina are affiliated with WalkBikeNC, and a list of local organizations can be found on their independent website. These groups encourage the development of better infrastructure to make their local communities more walkable and bikeable.
Why We Say Yes
According to WalkBikeNC’s Summary Document published in October 2013, North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) has provided grant funding to over 150 local government and regions for the planning and development of local bicycle and pedestrian plans. The NCDOT is also involved with the planning of bicycle and pedestrian travel statewide. As of October 2013, these plans include the following:
- 8 regional bicycle plans
- 150+ local pedestrian & bicycle plans
- A 400-mile East Coast Greenway
- A 1,000-mile Mountains-to-Sea trail
- 3,000 miles of signed state bicycle routes
Many of these plans have been approved by local and regional governments and will be implemented as funding becomes available.
In 2009, NCDOT adopted their “Complete Streets” policy. This policy encourages governments and organizations to consider many different forms of transportation, including bicycles and foot traffic, when developing new projects or improving existing infrastructure.
Despite these advancements and protocols, safety continues to be a concern for travelers on foot or bike. According to statistics published in the Alliance for Biking and Walking 2014 Benchmark Report, North Carolina ranks 42nd in the nation for bicycle and pedestrian fatalities. Only a handful of other states have higher fatality rates.
A survey published in WalkBikeNC’s Summary Report found that of 16,000 North Carolina residents asked, the most common safety issue for pedestrians and bicyclists is poor infrastructure. Statistics published in the report are also grim. On average, 162 pedestrians and 19 bicyclists are killed on North Carolina roads, representing 13 percent of all traffic fatalities. Many more are seriously injured.
A walk or bike ride in North Carolina can be beautiful, relaxing, and fun. The state has a lot of work ahead of it to improve its safety statistics, so caution is recommended at all times to avoid turning the experience into a deadly one.