I began my tenure with the City of Raleigh Department of Transportation 15 years ago as a transportation engineer. The department was headed up by Jimmie Beckom, and I reported to the legendary Ed Johnson.

My purview was transportation planning, including streets sidewalks and bicycles. At that time, the city was operating under the framework of a 1991 bicycle plan, which was the basis of the recreational route system that still exists in many parts of the city today. But that plan framework was really more focused on recreation and was not about bicycling as transportation. To make things even more difficult, there was no dedicated budget for implementation.

Fortunately for us, our world got smaller; the ability to share information more easily between communities grew easier and easier in the 21st Century. Not only did the Internet create the opportunity for improved information sharing between professionals. It enables residents and other users to look at initiatives in other communities and ask, "why can't we do that here?"

When we began the process of crafting a new bicycle plan in 2008, we started out with two bike facilities on the ground: Ridge Road, and Edwards Mill Road, a total facility length of 4 miles. There were very few bike racks, with the exception of those recently installed along Fayetteville Street. But that plan laid out a clear and logical framework for us to follow to make Raleigh a more bike-friendly city. The League of American Bicyclists (LAB) provided a template for success that became the basis of our plan. We set lofty but achievable goals for improving our bicycle mode share, and used the lessons learned by other communities to chart our course for success.

When the plan was adopted in 2009, it provided us with the policy backing we needed to establish an oversight body, the city's Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission, which allowed for citizens to be stakeholders and help oversee our implementation. The new plan also gave us the impetus to improve our staffing; when I started overseeing the bike plan, it was a very small portion of my time. Instead, we hired a full-time professional in Jennifer Baldwin to oversee both our bicycle and pedestrian programs, and she has no shortage of work.

The 2009 bike plan set a lofty goal for increasing our bicycle mode share from 0.3% to 1.2% by the year 2015. I am happy to report that in 2013, the American Community Survey indicated we had reached 1.0% mode share for bicycles, putting us well on our way to meeting that goal. We grew from 4 miles of facilities to almost 30 miles of bike lanes and shared-lane markings on the streets within the city. We are in the midst of developing and implementing another 30 miles of bicycle markings, which has proved to be our most difficult and ambitious undertaking yet. Meanwhile our friends in Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources continued expanding the City's greenway vision by shattering the 100-mile mark and developing a top-notch greenway system nationally.

We recognize that not everybody loves bikes. Clearly we have seen that as we explored ideas for restricting parking on neighborhood streets in order to install bike lanes. Even within cycling community, there can be discord over the right kinds of facilities to meet the needs of our diverse cycling population. But rather than sit on our hands with "paralysis by analysis" as Ed Johnson used to say, we are continuing to move forward and implement new bicycle infrastructure wherever possible. We will do our best to make it safe, easy, and accessible for all of our users, and to ultimately improve the livability and appeal of our community.

Ride safe!


PS. It would be shortsighted not to recognize the contributions of those who came before us. In the 1970s, the same wisdom that established the Raleigh Greenway system also developed the initial ideas for improving cycling across the state. That work by Mary Meletiou, Curtis Yates, and Tom Norman laid the foundation for state laws that recognize bicycles as vehicles and made North Carolina a model state for cycling laws. Thanks also to Stacy Barbour for his work on the original 1991 plan.

I owe a personal note of thanks to Dr. Steven Goodridge and the late Bruce Rosar. Steve and Bruce were kind enough to customize the LAB Bike 101 course for transportation professionals as a way to better communicate the needs of our customers. They also helped us take a first stab at developing facility recommendations and a bicycle stakeholders group through the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.