The City of Asheville’s Comprehensive Bicycle Plan was adopted by Asheville City Council in 2008 after extensive involvement by the city’s bicycle community. But the input and participation from those active groups and other community organizations continues to be critical to making Asheville more and more bicycle friendly.
“The cycling community really is our eyes and ears,” says Transportation Planner Barb Mee. “We really listen to cyclists. They are the ones that know best what’s out there.”
Multiple resources are available for bicyclists, as well as walkers, to notify the City of Asheville of maintenance needs or improvement opportunities. The Asheville Bicycle and Pedestrian Task Force, an advisory group that meets regularly with Mee and tracks progress on the bicycle and pedestrian plans, hosts an infrastructure maintenance request form on its website that Mee can forward to the appropriate city department. The site also hosts an incident report form for anyone who has been in a biking or walking related accident. The City of Asheville email addresses firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com provide other opportunities for people to pass information on to the city.
The collaboration has resulted in steps from turning street-level storm grates so that they don’t hamper bikes to painting bike symbols on the asphalt at select traffic lights so bikers will know where they can stand to activate sensors that change a red light green.
Requests by bicycle commuters also resulted in the installation of bike lockers in four locations downtown: parking decks at the Civic Center, Rankin Avenue and Wall Street, as well as the alcove between Haywood Street and the Rankin parking deck. Each locker is divided into two storage spaces that can be rented for $10 a month. The lockers provide added security, room to store gear like helmets, and also keep seats dry in wet weather. In addition, there are extra bike racks in each parking deck to provide a free, dry place to leave bikes.
The participation of community members is also critical in fine tuning Asheville’s bike accessibility. The Bicycle and Pedestrian Task Force is made up of community volunteers, and will be conducting a bike and pedestrian count in September to provide crucial data. Volunteers from the Blue Ridge Bicycle Club clean the Riverside/Lyman Street bike lane on a quarterly basis, an effort that accentuates the city’s regular street sweeping there. And Asheville on Bikes, a frequent voice for cyclists in Asheville, recently coordinated bike corrals at the Bele Chere festival and at Downtown After 5. The cooperation of multiple groups on education and advocacy makes the bike community one of the strongest voices in Asheville.
“The cycling community has really empowered themselves to be advocates and stewards of our infrastructure,” says Mike Sule, Executive Director of Asheville on Bikes. “They have gotten to like exercising their civic responsibility.”
Another service available to cyclists, runners and walkers is a special commuter pass available through the YWCA of Asheville. The $200 annual pass provides commuters with access to showers, lockers and WiFi. Mee, responding to a growing buzz for such a service, approached the YWCA and says the organization responded quickly to the need.
“We were happy to step up to the plate on this,” says YWCA Marketing Director Ami Worthen. “Our location is such that we are convenient to get to downtown.”
This summer has already seen new bike lanes completed or nearing completion on key connectors like Coxe Avenue, Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Kimberly Avenue, Asheland Avenue and Hilliard Avenue. And a climbing lane on Clingman Avenue is underway.
“The bike master plan is moving along at a fair clip,” Sule says. “Soon, bikers will be able to use bike lanes to get from one end of town to the other. I think that’s amazing.”