Hey guys, the students are back!

Despite the fact that it happens every single year, the return of the students always catches me off guard. NC Central classes started today, while Duke students are moving in this week with classes starting nex Monday the 24th.

The students are obviously huge for businesses around campus, but they also ramp up the wait times at restaurants and make everything just feel a bit more hectic around downtown. You might want to go ahead and make some reservations if you’re thinking of eating out this weekend.

Tonight is national night out

If you live in one of Durham’s neighborhoods, you might want to know that tonight is national night out. The annual event encourages cooperation between residents and police, and as usual Durham and the DPD are participating. So if you spot the popo on your block tonight, there’s probably nothing to be worried about.

Recently there has, of course, been some anti-police rhetoric in Durham (and, you know, a lot of places) but in my experience these events tend to be fairly positive. You can probably expect a council member or the mayor to swing by, in addition to DPD officers and Durham County Sheriff’s deputies.

One Durham man really does not like ghost bikes

The city has a policy about citizen placed memorials within the right of way: you can put them up, but if there’s a complaint – a single complaint – they’ll be forcibly removed 45 days thereafter.

One Durham man has decided to use this process to eliminate every ghost bike from Durham (ghost bikes are bicycles painted white placed at the sites where cyclists were killed in traffic; they serve both as memorials and as reminders that some roads can be especially dangerous for cyclists).

Here’s a conversation this man had with a city official:

Good morning [redacted],
People have been asking me about the removal of this
ghost bikes through out the City. Are we suppose to email you the
location, contact Durham one call, or have your staff been educated
about the ordinance and will remove the ghost bikes?
I have been inform of two locations that the bikes
have been located there for a long time.
 1. Hillandale Ave before crossing the over pass for 85
 2. Chapel Hill and W. Chapel Hill meets.
 Thanks
  [redacted]

These two locations mark the spots where Seth Vidal and Kent Winberry were killed, respectively.

I’m not going to name [redacted], but I think it’s important to highlight that any single person has the power to remove every right-of-way memorial in the city. I think that’s problematic, and so do the partners of the slain cyclists in question.

I don’t know if there’s an ideal fix for this policy. The irony is that (to my recollection) the policy was instated after the city’s removal of Jesus Huerta’s memorial, and it was intended to prevent the premature removal of such displays. I think the intent is sound, but the barrier for removal – one citizen’s email to the city – seems very low to me.

There appears to be an interesting loophole here: the person who placed the bikes can remove them before the time period expires. After that 45 days, they can place a different bike in the same spot, and it seems like this would be considered a new memorial. At that point [redacted] can make his complaint again, but there will be yet another another 45 days grace period within which the new memorial can survive.

EDIT: there’s now a petition at change.org calling for the city to reevaluate this policy.

The Eno Quarry claims another victim

The Quarry, located in the Eno River State Park, has had a history of drownings. Another young man lost his life there yesterday.

I’m posting this as a bit of a PSA: the Quarry is only for people who really know how to swim. It’s a good 15 minute walk from your car, there are no life guards, there’s basically nowhere here you can touch the bottom. Depending on how you enter, you might have to swim a good ways to even get a handhold to climb out.

The Quarry has become more popular than ever, and it’s kind of becoming the de-facto recommended swimming hole for newcomers, which I find a bit troubling because it is not for everybody. With its rise in popularity more incidents like this are likely to happen. I love the Quarry, but if you want to go, make sure you are prepared. Even if you are a strong swimmer, you might want to keep a flotation device ready just in case you have trouble.

If you aren’t absolutely certain of your swimming abilities, but want to take a dip, there are other options which are easier to handle.

Google Fiber continues to move forward, with free service planned for some low income housing

As the Google Fiber rollout continues throughout the Triangle, there’s something new to get excited about: Obama’s bringing free Internet to some low income residents in Durham. WUNC says that the Goog will be offering up its service gratis to some 2000 households (presumably funded by the Federal program).

Although that’s pretty great, it’s maybe not as big a deal as it seems at first blush: keep in mind that Google Fiber already has a free tier that anybody in their service area can take advantage of. The “gotcha” there is the $300 installation fee, which is presumably what’s being waived as part of the announced program.

In other fiber news, do you remember RST “Fiber,” the supposed competitor to Google Fiber which started making big claims last year? Well, Wake Forest has apparently gotten tired of waiting and kicked them to the curb.

Oh, and one final Internet note: if you’re on TWC, you might want to reboot your modem to see if you have better speeds. At the end of June they finally disabled all of their analogue and ClearQAM channels, but at the same time they apparently started rolling out free account upgrades too. If nothing else maybe it’ll make the wait for Google Fiber a little more bearable.

Joe’s Diner has closed

I only ate at Joe’s a few times, and now I really regret not going more often. The H-S has an article with more details.

Joe’s was an exciting addition when it opened on the corner of Angier and Driver five years ago, and it seemed like it could have been an anchor for revitalization in the little commercial district. In the intervening years the city completed an overhaul of the streetscape, a project which improved outward appearances greatly but apparently caused a drop in customers during construction.

The good news is that Joe himself is sticking around, and he’s expanding his commercial kitchen business into the diner space. According to the Herald, if things go well, maybe the diner will be back again some day.

Free parking

I was about to write about parking, but Kevin beat me to it.

tl;dr: people are still worried about the loss of free parking in the city lot on Ninth Street. There’s also an upcoming parking apocalypse downtown which may require charging for street parking there and increasing deck fees.

If those Ninth Street business owners want to take on the cost of the lot and make it free, I have no qualms about that. That’s on them – they can pay the price. But I feel pretty strongly that the city shouldn’t be subsidising a lot there (or pretty much anywhere).

Laying down a ton of surface parking (at the tax payer’s dime, no less) destroys cities. Encouraging people to drive everywhere creates traffic nightmares, and all of the wasted space makes cities feel like desolate wastelands. I’ve got a record you should listen to about that. We need to find better ways for people to get where they’re going.

If this town wants to hande the increased density that all of those new condos and apartments hint at, the idea of ample free surface parking needs to get out of people’s heads.