Road Improvements in Henderson County
Road Improvement Projects
by Joe Sanders
I was asked recently to offer input regarding the road improvement project in Henderson County. Each of these projects have bike lanes and sidewalks in the plan, but opposition may cause these alternate transportation methods to be removed from the projects.
The Blue Ridge Bicycle Club does not take a formal position on these projects, but we do encourage our members to get involved and provide input, as they feel appropriate.
Road widening only solves congestion and safety issues for the short term until more development brings more vehicles. I understand and sympathize with residents along these roads. This is NOT a bike vs. car issue. It is much bigger! Here are some points I ask you to consider:
- The proposed road improvement projects must be viewed as the transportation system for at least the next 30 years.
- Why do people drive to the gym only to get on a treadmill or an exercise bike? Because our infrastructure has designed human powered transportation out of the equation! In fact it has made it dangerous to use human powered transportation.
- On average 162 pedestrians and 19 bicyclists are killed every year in NC.
- For every bike you get on the road or a path for commuting you get a car off the road.
- Obesity, diabetes and all of the other related illnesses are at epidemic rates. Obesity is the # 3 Health Priority in Henderson County, down from the #1 priority in the previous County Health Assessment. I suspect obesity rates have not decreased, but rather our society has begun to accept this health crisis as the new norm.
- For every $1 spent on bike and pedestrian projects it yields $3 in health care savings.
- Most of us rode bicycles as kids. 60% of the population would like to ride a bicycle, but they don't because they do not feel safe.
- In Hendersonville >20% of the population lives below the poverty level. In Henderson County that number is ~14%.
- 47% of the population in Hendersonville has a 15 minute commute or less. In Henderson County that number is >20%.
- 40% of all trips are 2 miles or less. Yet 87% drive and only 13% walk or bike.
- According to AAA it costs ~$8,400/year to operate a motor vehicle. It costs about $300 to operate a bicycle.
- Let’s talk about affordable housing and rising health care costs. What could those that live below the poverty level do with their savings if if there were other safe and affordable transportation options? Safe and Affordable Housing is the # 4 Health Priority in Henderson County.
- Consider the following statistics, submitted in 2014 in written testimony to the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit by a coalition of over 50 organizations called the Transportation Equity Caucus:
- Nearly 20 percent of African American households, 14 percent of Latino households, and 13 percent of Asian households live without a car.
- According to the U.S. Department of Treasury, transportation expenses for households in the bottom 90 percent income bracket are twice that of those in the top 10 percent income bracket.
- Limited sidewalks, crosswalks, and minimal traffic enforcement create safety hazards for pedestrians, and these risks are particularly acute for communities of color. The pedestrian death rate for Hispanics is 62 percent higher than non-Hispanic whites, and the rate for African Americans is 73 percent higher than non-Hispanic whites.
- Younger generations are leaving Henderson County and chose to live where there are, among other things, less expensive transportation options.
- Whether you subscribe to the global warming argument or not, I think we can all agree that everything we do affects the environment. Replacing motor vehicle driving of 2 miles/day for one year with walking or biking would prevent 730 pounds of CO2 from entering the atmosphere.
- Greenways, sidewalks and bicycle facilities generate more jobs than all other new transportation or transportation improvement projects.
- These points can summarize all of this: EQUITY, SAFETY, MOBILITY, ECONOMY, HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT! The last 5 of those points are detailed in the NCDOT statewide comprehensive bicycle and pedestrian plan and are available at https://www.ncdot.gov/bikeped/walkbikenc/.
Let me stress, I sympathize with residents along these roads that will be affected. But let me offer one more point. We all enjoy mobility in our society, the ability to drive our cars virtually anywhere because at some point in time land was taken from those landowners to build roads. In fact our society has thrived because of this concept. We all enjoy the greater good because of the sacrifice of some, on so many fronts.
Public comments are welcome and may be sent by mail, phone or email for each of these projects:
- Highland Lake Road Project, send comments to Reece Schuler, Vaughn & Melton, at 1318 F. Patton Ave., Asheville, NC 22806, call 828-779-1788 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Kanuga Road Project, send comments to Steve Williams at 253 Webster Road, Sylva, NC 28779 or by email at email@example.com , or by calling 828-586-2141.
- Hwy 64 in Laurel Park, send comments to NCDOT construction engineer Kenneth McDowell at 828.631.1172 or firstname.lastname@example.org.