Hendersonville is becoming more bicycle-friendly, thanks to changes that will make it easier for people to get around on two wheels. These include a new extension of the Oklawaha Greenway between Patton and Berkeley parks, and an initiative to make it safer and easier for students to ride their bikes to schools.
Mary Smith of North Carolina Safe Routes to School and Joe Sanders of the Blue Ridge Bicycle Club have been putting their heads together over the past year on how to best get kids safely to school via ways that don't contribute to gridlock. “The city is struggling with Ninth Avenue traffic — for every kid that rides a bike in, you get a car off the road,” said Sanders, who serves on the steering committee for the Hendersonville Bike Plan.
Bike plan advocates hope to see more street improvements, bike lanes, sidewalks and other connections to make it easier and safer or people to ride and walk around town. The N.C. Safe Routes to School Project, a partnership between the N.C. Division of Public Health and the N.C. Department of Transportation, encourages cycling through safety improvements and assessments.
“Programs like Safe Routes to School are vital if we want to turn the curve on obesity in our community,” said Stacy Taylor, health education director at Henderson County Department of Public Health.
This is a worthy goal that can help kids become more active and reduce traffic congestion. It will require lots of planning and work to increase public awareness, as well as street improvements to make it safe for more kids to ride or walk to school. This is where the bike plan is critical.
Steering committee members have proposed bike routes to Hendersonville High and Middle schools and Hendersonville and Bruce Drysdale elementary schools. Residents can comment on the plan at an open house set for 5-7 p.m. Aug. 24 at the City Operations Center.
We can make city streets safer for cyclists and pedestrians through traffic-calming and other measures to urge motorists to safely share the roads. However, the safest bike and pedestrian routes are those reserved for non-motorized travel.
Hendersonville’s continued expansion of the Oklawaha Greenway is a great example. The 1.5-mile extension from Patton Park to Berkeley Park opened in June and officially with a ribbon-cutting July 29. The paved path now runs 3.25 miles from Jackson Park to Berkeley Park. It was funded through a $1.2 million federal grant with additional funding from NCDOT and a donation of 59 acres from Kimberly-Clark.
Walkers, runners, cyclists and people pushing strollers and walking dogs have been enjoying the new segment for months. Trail users of all ages are raving about the path’s amenities such as beautiful landscaping, water fountains, benches, plus bike repair stations donated by Blue Ridge Bicycle Club. Future plans call for extending the greenway south to Blue Ridge Community College, and adding boating access points on Mud Creek.
All these efforts help make our city safer and more fun, attractive and healthy for residents and visitors.