Alternatives to Estes

After the recent bunch of articles (Herald, N & O) about how crappy Estes Drive Extension is and how unlikely it is to get better any time soon, I'd like to make a modest proposal.

There are two other possible ways to get from the railroad crossing on Estes to downtown Carrboro. Both alternatives offer a way for cyclists, pedestrians, and wheelchairs to avoid the Straits of Estes. Right now these routes are informal, only used by those of us willing to cross other people's property and bring a flashlight at night.

One method involves cutting across Estes Park Apartments to the end of Pleasant Drive and walking south on North Greensboro Street. The other route is even more straightforward: follow the existing rail line which connects downtown Carrboro to the future Carolina North, as well as to many neighborhoods including Ironwoods and Northhaven subdivisions, and the more dense (ie: pedestrian-oriented) Estes Park, Bolinwood, and Village West. And as a bonus it would also tie in to the popular hiking and biking trails around Bolin Creek north of Estes.

Below I have attempted to illustrate these two paths as well as a connection that would be needed to get from the rairoad crossing to Seawell School Road (where the wide shoulder starts):

I would like to see both towns cooperate on creating a greenway to connect these neighborhoods to downtown. Perhaps we could even get the good folks who made the lovely American Tobacco Trail in Durham to help us out out with the "Old Mill Trail" in Chapel Hill and Carrboro. If not, maybe Carrboro can convince the owner of Estes Park to offer an easement if the town paves and lights the trails?

What say y'all? I think this whole area is really chafing at the continued non-improvement of Estes Drive Extension. What other alternatives do we have? Are there any other paths I missed? If trails were created/improved, would you use them?


Notwithstanding the ideological debate that continues within the cycling community about bike lanes (or not), as Dan has alluded to above, a separate bike and ped route is being pursued, which was developed by Carrboro Transportation Planner Dale McKeel. I am optimistic that this may be done in fairly short order using STP-DA,(federal funds allocated by the MPO), and/or bike/ped DOT bucks.

As I discussed in great detail in a post on this board some years ago, the Estes Drive project was (and is) held up by (1),the right of way difficulties needed for widening (removing front yards, literally to doorsteps, in some cases, and probable removal of at least one house), and (2),the transfer of NCDOT funds previously programmed for Estes to Hillsborough's Elizabeth Brady extension project (over the MPO's objection).



I clearly said, "You are apparently ignorant of bicycle-motor vehicle collision causation." Do you understand the difference between this and calling you ignorant? You are free to support your knowledge of the typical mechanisms and relative risks of bicycle-motor vehicle collisions, but don't distort my comments.

Can you specify where I called you silly?

And don't distort my position either. My position is that to fully enjoy cycling and improve the risks, one should be familiar with the best practices of it and understand the actual rather than perceived risks. Many people erroneously think that because they can remain upright that is all they need to know, and that they are safe because the government has placed bike lanes. They wouldn't think of scuba diving just because they can rudimentarily swim. Yet they ride in traffic and then blame how dangerous it is on the road.



I've tried tirelessly to inform you and others about cycling, but you insist on remaining a beginner. But I''ll keep trying for your benefit. John Forester, who I've been in dialog with for many years on a list serve of prominent bicycling educators and who created the one viable education program, has long said that a change in attitude about cycling comes slowly even if the intellectual knowledge exists.

Question: why didn't you sign up for the cycling education class at Parks and Rec? I'm not surprised though; nobody on the BiPed Board who pushed for the class signed up either! One person signed up: from Raleigh.

Your idea of "contribute" apparently is to all hold hands and sing kumbaya. I think if you reread all I've written you'll see I've contributed alot; you simply refuse to believe it, or it is in polar opposition to your position.

All truth passes through three stages.
First, it is ridiculed.
Second, it is violently opposed.
Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788 - 1860), one of the greatest philosophers of the 19th century.

Since nobody answered my question about why the shoulders on Estes are not signed as bike lanes, I will give the reason(s).
I assume Ruby knows the answer, being on the T-Board, but has refused to answer for reasons known only to her. If I'm wrong about this Ruby, please correct me.

They are striped as shoulders at junctions and not like bike lanes, so can't be called bike lanes. Why are they striped as shoulders? Because they were funded from a safety fund. There is no way the NCDOT would use that money for bike lanes because there is no demonstrated bicycling safety problem on Estes and they would likely get alot of negative flak from governments that have real safety problems. Of course, there is no motoring safety problem that shoulders would alleviate either, but the NCDOT can sometimes be convinced to waste money on shoulders. The Town of Chapel Hill and the MPO don't mind trying to shove bicyclists on shoulders of any width (witness Homestead Road) to appease some bicyclists and give the perception that those agencies are doing something for bicyclists. The NCDOT Division of Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation also would not allow bike lane signs to be placed there because the total space, "motor vehicle lane" and shoulder combined is insufficient. They recognize the hazard of such a "bike facility" as the shoulders on Estes, even if ignorant others don't.


James, Wayne is functionally a troll in terms of his impact on discussions here. (But he's not the only one.) He does little to advance his own cause nor contribute to the group dialog. I suggest that people who don't appreciate this type of behavior just ignore it. It's really the only way to make it go away.

Clark, I'm just asking that OP readers refrain from petty ad hominem attacks on Wayne based on his admittedly querulous style and to pay attention instead to the content of what he says. The man has a passionate interest in making our road system work better for all users, he actually thinks of a bike as a sensible method of transportation that can improve our personal, societal, financial and environmental health, he has some good ideas about what that means in terms of public policy, and in promoting these ideas he has to contend not only with impenetrable NCDOT bureaucrats and preoccupied local politicians but also with having his more reasonable comments dismissed and ignored by otherwise sensible people in a forum like OP which aspires to be a place for intelligent public policy discourse. Heck, I'd be irritable too.

Whatever happened to Share the Road? Throughout the late 70s and 80s when my bike was my own form of transportation, the police always told us we were vehicles, subject to all the laws of the road. Like Wayne, I rode in traffic and felt much safer than I did in the bike lanes.

And if I lived in town and was biking back and forth to work today, I would do the same thing. But I would avoid Estes at all costs.

We would all be safer, as drivers, bicylists and pedestrians, if all vehicles would obey traffic laws--stopping at red lights, yielding at intersections, etc. I would love to see this community return to a Share the Road state of mind.

Go's both ways James. Every post Wayne makes has a little tad of flame war in it. In his to responces to me he's called me "ignorant" and "silly". Far removed form the civil norm of OP; or the one you call for. To hear Wayne, every one should do some reaserch and become an expert rider off the web; take off his training wheels and hit estes at 35 mph. No one but Wayne has a need to dominate a thread or have tha last word like he does. There's a word for people like that. I assume I can find a blog where words like that are used; were I to care to look.

I'm all for multiple options, in pretty much any aspect of life. And thank you Ruby et al. for raising the profile of some useful byways available to peds and bikes around the disfunction of Estes Extension. But let's please remember to keep up the pressure on the main drag itself. It's no secret that NCDOT sees this piece of road, along with Greensboro and Smith Level, as the future commuter freeway from N. Chatham to Carolina North. I hardly have to paint a picture of how disastrous that scenario would be for Carrboro, both the downtown and the suburbs. Estes Extension as a high-speed commuter corridor - or as a low-speed, high volume, multi-modal ped and bike friendly community transportation resource. You choose.
And to jmk and others, please try and keep it civil. Though you may not like the way he says it, Wayne has something important to say. He has done some serious research on bike safety and bike use and has the public spirit to share that work with the community. There should be space on a progressive blog like OP for those who question conventional wisdoms and knee-jerk sensibilities. I for one am grateful for his posts, and reading his website has been an eye-opener for me. And by the way, the "posted speeds" are legal maxima, and NOT, in any sense, minimum requirements.

Will, yes, I was talking about the Estes Park property.

Jim, whose private property are you talking about? Estes Apts.?

Their property directly connects to both Pleasant and Hillcrest. Almost all of the path I referred to is on their plat.

More info at the O.C. GIS site.

Maybe I can get America's funniest home videos to tape Wayne on Estes....poser of the month or something.

Pat, I've certainly never suggested installing a fence, and, as I stated before, I really don't mind residents of Estes Park cutting through. I just don't want more cut-through traffic than we already have.

I'm happy to hear that you are courteous as you cut through private property at the end of our street, and I'm glad that we greet you politely -- I would expect no less.

But not everyone who cuts through is so well-behaved, and an increase in traffic would bring corresponding increases in noise and debris and an increase in the number of cyclists who do not ride safely or politely.

Wow, talk about ridiculous!

I've got a suggestion. Why don't one or more of you with connections to local media set up a reporter taking video/pictures of me riding on Estes! This can refute the stupid recent articles in the Herald and N&O. You ARE in favor of balanced reporting aren't you? Or is it more satisfying to be a part of the Unempowered Downtrodden in your invented struggle of motorists vs bicyclists?

On a related note, can anybody describe why the recently added shoulders on Estes are not signed with bike lanes?



What you say about bicycles and speed is simply not true. You shouldn't make things up because it makes you look foolish. Folk science gets people in a lot of trouble.

By your silly rationale, fully stopped cars, trucks, and busses must make it really dangerous for everyone!

Everybody quit driving because slow and stopped vehicles will kill you!

No, I don't think bicycles are like pedestrians. Your words, not mine. Bicycles are like, uh, bicycles.

Hitting 35 on a down hill is a far cry from maintaining posted speeds. Driving less than the posted speed when conditions permit is not safe for anyone.

Bicycles are not like any motorized vehicle except perhaps mopeds. They typically cannot maintain posted speeds and thus are not safe for anyone when mixing in traffic that they cannot keep up with, regardless of right of way, or other rights.

Safe travels!

Eric and Clark,

You are apparently ignorant of bicycle-motor vehicle collision causation. I suggest you read up on the topic rather than spewing. I also suggest a cycling education class. Lastly, quit the doomsday hyperbole. The Culture of Fear is really just in your minds.

For those of you who believe riding on Estes is dangerous for bicyclists, I will assume you are talking about getting hit from behind (I assume you do not mean getting struck by a turning or crossing vehicle). Do you know of any such collisions on Estes and the specifics?

Widening of Estes is an improvement for motorists and a detriment for cyclists.



Just because bicycles don't always do the speed limit and aren't as fast as motorcycles does not mean they are not like them. Bicycles are also single track vehicles with braking distance, sight requirements, and speed far exceeding pedestrians. Bicyclists are granted the rights of drivers of vehicles whereas pedestrians are granted the rights of pedestrians. Do you understand the law and operating differences?

In fact, I hit 30-35 mph several times a week on Estes on the descent to the railroad tracks. My wife and I hit 35-40 everyday on Airport Rd (aka MLK). I exceed the speed limit on Hillsborough St everyday.

So, you think bicyclists are more like pedestrians than motorcyclists? What is your rationale?


Jim, How is it going to make your street less pleasant to make it easier to use this route for pedestrians and cyclists?
Legitmize your concerns for me, I don't get them. What kinds of traffic are you concerned about?
Even when or if the Estes route is improved for cyclists and pedestrians, there will still be a lot of residents from Estes Apartments and the Village using this cut through to get to N. Greensboro. The only thing that might stop that now would be a fence, and uhh, that might not work either.
I have never had a bad experience ever on this route with the others I share it with, even when crowded. I always try to accommadate and acknowledge others and that has been reciprocated every time, accompanied by at least a nod and usually a smile. Granted, I'm not using this route all hours, is that the rub? Is it late night traffic? If so, wouldn't it be safer if it was lit better and had easier access for law enforcement in the event of another anamoly?

Ruby, thanks for recognizing the legitimacy of my concerns.

Pat, I don't believe that increased pedestrian and bicycle traffic on my street will "ruin" or "drag it down." I do believe that cut-through traffic makes Pleasant Drive a less pleasant place to live.

As I've said, there are better solutions to this problem, and I hope we can pursue those alternatives.

I agree with Eric. Who in thier right mind wouldn't choose to be dead right over live wrong. It's really the only principiled positition.

Jim, I can't agree with you that increased pedestrian and bicycle traffic coupled with a well lit and easily navigated connecting path will drag your street down.

Pat, I agree. Having lived for years in Northside where the streets do form a network that goes somewhere, I think that formalizing routes that are going already being used improves the safety for all involved. It also makes the street more accessible for the younger and older population that otherwise might not feel as comfortable walking in the street (or might not be allowed to).

But I also sympathize with Jim's concerns, and I want to remind everyone that the purpose of my post was just to state the facts (people currently use this path, because there is no other safe way), and ask for something better (an official greenway along the train tracks, or a lit and improved connection to Pleasant).

(PS, to Dave C: Please try posting again from a valid e-mail address.)

Wayne urged those of us who bike on Estes to "use more of the lane to compel motorists to be cautious."

Enough of the half-measures, Wayne!

Ignatius of Antioch did not merely ask for a confrontation with chipmunks. Martyrdom demands more of us!

I urge people to get injured, or even killed in order to compel motorists to be cautious.

If you "use more of the lane," the only motorist who notices is the one behind you.

If you get yourself injured or killed, you'll make the local papers, and then many motorists will notice.

Far more effective.

Oh, please! More in line with motorcycles?? I think not. Get a grip.

When is the last time you ran the speed limit on Estes (35 MPH) on a bicycle??

Adding shoulders to Estes is not an "improvement." It's a way of removing bicyclists from the good part of the road and enabling faster motoring, including in the presence of bicyclists.

I encourage all bicyclists to not give up Estes to motorists and to ride on it like legitimate users. Use more of the lane to compel motorists to be cautious. It's not dangerous as some have asserted. They perceive it to be dangerous, but bicyclists' perceptions have proven to be highly inaccurate. Typically their poor riding technique is a predisposing factor in their increased actual danger as well as perceptions of danger.

Bicycling has much more in common with motoring than with pedestrianing, but anti-motorists don't recognize this and treat bicyclists as rolling pedestrians. They don't understand that bicyclists have operating capabilites more in line with motorcycles than with people on feet. This leads to crappy bicycling facilities.

Anti-cycling motorists want shoulders and bike lanes to get bicyclists out of their way.

Pat, the painful incident you're talking about was an anomaly in our ususally quiet, law-abiding neighborhood. The reason we were able to identify and eradicate the problem was that the neighborhood is so close-knit and in touch with what's happening with one another. Adding more traffic would not improve the character or the functioning of the neighborhood.

It is very encouraging to me that making improvements to pedestrian and cycling on Estes has garnered so much attention recently. Thanks to Ruby for bringing it up again, to Will for his great maps and to Dan for clarifying what the BOA is trying to do as well.
Ruby makes a nice suggestion about the possiblity of the town trying to make the connection at the end of Pleasant more legit with lights and a permanent path. This morning I encountered a woman with a baby in a stroller and a toddler in tow struggling over that rocky root covered dirt path. I encounter residents from Estes using this way almost everytime I use it as well as other commuter cyclists like myself. Any improvements made along this route would be appreciated by many immediately if implemented.
I can't disagree more with Jim that this type of traffic on Pleasnt would ruin it for his family. If anything it may deter another infestation of crack dealers like the police had to run out of the end of that street last spring with concussion grenades and a swat team at midnight.

The "viable solution for the masses" is hopefully represented in two actions taken by the Board of Aldermen at our October 3 meeting. First, we made the following modification to our Transportation Improvement Program (priority list for state [DOT] funding):

3. Revise the description of U-2909 (Estes Drive) to “... The Town also requests funding for a multi-use path to connect Estes Drive and Williams Street to provide an alternative bicycle-pedestrian connection

The connection to Williams Street would be along the OWASA easement that runs from Estes to Wilson Park (this is the route David refers to). It would connect to a short bike lane to be constructed on Estes to Village Drive.

This was further elaborated upon in a separate resolution:

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED by the Carrboro Board of Aldermen that the Aldermen request that the N.C. Department of Transportation provide funding for bicycle lanes on Estes Drive between Hillcrest Street and the Town Limits and that the bike lanes be coordinated with the planned sidewalk on Estes Drive.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Board of Aldermen request that the N.C. Department of Transportation provide funding for a multi-use path to connect Estes Drive and Williams Street to provide an alternative bicycle-pedestrian connection and that the multi-use path be added to the Estes Drive project on the 2007-2013 Local Priority List.

The idea is to link construction of the bike lanes to the bond-funded sidewalk project for Estes in hope of getting that piece of it completed earlier to hook up with the potential link to Williams Street. Of course all this remains subject to the uncertainties of DOT which has held up the Estes improvements for a decade or more. Still, we have something new on the table this year that may give us a better shot at it.

I guess we're talking bikes/peds? On the railroad - it's a live railroad line so I think that's a non starter. On the Estes Park cut through, it is private property. Folks can do it at their own discretion (and I have) but it's not a viable solution for the masses.

If we're talking bikes, it's not much further to go right at the tracks and take the sewer line up to Wilson Park and then come down N. Greensboro. Sort of the long way around the barn I realize.

Thanks Ruby for the suggestion. Added comment to wayfaring.

Jim, I generally agree and I think using the rail corridor is the better option. (But given it's current condition, I hope you don't mind me walking down your street.) What I'd really like is for the Towns to look at this together to investigate the alternatives and the implications of various routes.

Will, can you add a comment on your map to explain the routes verbally?

"Willing to cross other people's property" was your comment, Ruby. As a chair of an influential Town Board, I would think that you know the mechanism to get permission to do things around here BEFORE you recommend to readers that they also use other people's stuff without permission. And yes, if it is someone else's land, you are using their "stuff" without permission.

I reject your trying to make this a "greater good" argument or a "ends justifying the means" argument WITHOUT trying to gain some legal resolution first.

Dance on!

Fred, do you encourage people to risk their personal safety walking and biking on on Estes Drive Extension? I mean, people you care about?

Personally, I am too concerned about both the environment and the social fabric of our community to just drive my car everywhere. And I think it's better for all involved to have people walking on a sidewalk and a 20-foot trail through the woods (that clearly bothers no nearby residents) than on Estes in it's current state. If that violates some absentee landlord's sacred property rights, so be it. I'd rather get arrested for trespassing than hit by a car.

Fred, cutting through someone's yard is "using other people's stuff without permission"?

Or a part of childhood in healthy communities?

(Disclaimer: I am not a disinterested party. I cut through neighbors' yards all the time when chasing my escape-artist dog!)

Ruby, I think these are great suggestions. Didn't part of the funding for the American Tobacco project come from the feds?

Sarcasm noted, Jason. Guess this is one of those highly tooted "community values" that I failed to learn. My parents must have been some sort of right-wing extremist, teaching us as they did that you don't use other people's stuff without permission. Dance on!

As a resident of Pleasant Drive, I, of course, have strong feelings about "legitimizing" the cut-through from Estes Park Apartments to Pleasant. I don't mind residents of Estes Park cutting through, but if we start encouraging everybody to take this route, it will make life in the neighborhood problematic.

Right now, Pleasant Drive is, as the name implies, a pleasant place to live -- a real neighborhood in the middle of town with a diverse mix of people and properties. Adding more traffic (if only pedestrians and bicyclists) would make it more dangerous and less appealing as a neighborhood.

We already have occasional problems with bicyclists who zoom through and fail to yield (or stop at stop signs) as I amble down the street with my dog and two-year-old daughter in tow.

I may sound like a shrill NIMBYist, but when there are other, more "legitimate" alternatives that don't involve cutting through private property and changing the character of an established neighborhood, I would rather try those choices first.


> Do you encourage people crossing through your property?

Rats, it must be that darned Ruby who talks those kids into walking through my yard every afternoon on their way home from the Hargrave Center. They're causing all sorts of damage to my pseudo-grassy gravel back lawn. Why, just the other day I noticed a few small rocks had been knocked out of place, only to save them ten minutes of walking with heavy backpacks. How dare they! In fact, noticing my proximity to Ruby's house, I wouldn't be surprised if she's tempting them across my property with cookies!


Good point, Patrick. According to the county GIS, the Town of Chapel Hill actually owns property along side the tracks for about half of the distance from Village Drive (which has a sidewalk to Estes) to Main Street. [see map] So at least that section should be available to the community.

There are certainly challenges, but this might be more do-able than fixing Estes, and more beneficial to the community in the long run (ie: when Carolina North is built). And if it's really not possible, I propose formalizing, lighting, and paving the "cut-through" that utilizes the sidewalks in Estes Park, and building a sidewalk on Pleasant Drive. (This option would have the side effect of making it easier for Carrboro residents to access the Bolin Creek Trails and other resources.)

Actually, it's probably more like thousands if you think of all the people living within a 15-minute walk of the intersection of Estes and the train tracks. Not to mention cyclists!

FYI- the ATT was not an active rail corridor when it was converted to a trail. The Federal Railroad Administration most likely has a rule about placing linear pedestrian facilities within a rail right-of-way. A crossing may be different.

Thanks for posting this.

One of the two paths is just the train tracks, right?

I'm a little unclear on the other, even though I've zoomed in as much as I can. Could you describe that route a little in words?

Oops. Went straight to the map before reading the entire post to see that you *did* include a verbal description. Nevermind!

I think this is a great idea. It would make my bicycle commute to work at UNC much safer. Hundreds of residents of Chapel Hill and Carrboro that could benefit from this.

"Right now these routes are informal, only used by those of us willing to cross other people's property and bring a flashlight at night."

Do you encourage people crossing through your property?


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