You should fill out the Durham Strategic Plan Survey

It’s that time again! The biennial strategic plan review.

Oh man, I can tell you guys are excited.

Anyway, every two years the city updates its “strategic plan,” a document which covers various aspects of running the city and how resources are allocated. This year, you can help steer the plan by filling out a survey. I don’t know exactly how long the survey will be up, but they’ve mentioned it running for “two months” – so my guess would be till the end of the year.

So, if you have ideas on how the city can better allocate its resources, go let them be known.

(Thanks to /u/omgpies for the reminder over on Reddit)

Cyclist killed following collision with vehicle on Duke University Rd. / West Chapel Hill St.

The collision happened on October 18. Kent Winberry was operating his bicycle, traveling east on Duke University Road. He entered the intersection of that road with Chapel Hill Road (where the name of Duke University Road changes to West Chapel Hill St.).

At that intersection, a motorist approached from the opposite direction. That motorist, apparently failing to notice Winberry, began to turn left, intending to drive South on Chapel Hill Rd.

The motorist collided with Winberry in a type of incident which is often referred to as a “left cross.” Winberry was rushed to Duke Hospital with critical injuries. He passed away last night.

My thoughts and wishes are with Winberry’s friends and family.

I didn’t know Kent Winberry, but I know where he was hit. I have ridden through that intersection probably hundreds of times.

This is the second time in as many years that I’ve written a blog post about a cycling fatality in Durham. This isn’t really what I signed up for here. Please, stop killing cyclists.

EDIT:

I rode along the stretch of road where this incident occurred and have recorded a video of the location. I hope something can be done to improve safety in this area.

Bennett Place seeks last minute funding to acquire historic parcel

Have you ever checked out Bennett Place? It’s pretty cool. Located on the northwest side of town out by US 70, the state park is the site of the largest surrender during the civil war.

Spoiler: the Confederates are the ones who surrendered.

Anyway, the park was hoping to acquire a 2 acre parcel of land which contains the road Gen. Johnston took on the way to surrender to Sherman. The problem? They don’t have the cash.

The first I saw about the situation was an article in the Herald dated September 22, stating that the park was trying to raise $310,000 by September 30. That’s some seriously short notice; it sounds like a grant didn’t come through. The WRAL article mentions that the deadline was later pushed back to October 31.

It’s unclear to me how much they’ve raised of that $310,000. WRAL quotes the same figure. Bennett Place itself doesn’t seem to have any information about this situation on the web, so I’ll just quote what they told WRAL:

Donations can be made to the Bennett Place Support Fund, 4409 Bennett Memorial Road, Durham, NC 27705. For more information, call 919-383-4345 or email bennett@ncdcr.gov.

It also looks like you can also donate to the fund via the Bennett Place web site.

The property in question is directly across the road from the main park facilities, and I ride my bike through there pretty often. It will certainly change the character of the historic site if there’s commercial or light industrial directly adjacent.

Take your bike to CenterFest this weekend

The long running arts festival is celebrating its 40th year starting tomorrow. CenterFest brings arts of all sorts to downtown, and there are activities for kids and adults.

This year, free bike valet parking returns; According to Dale McKeel of the Durham DOT:

Bike valet will be located at the corner of Main Street and Corcoran Street, near the under-construction 21C Hotel (former Suntrust/CCB Tower).

This is similar to the bike parking that is available at Durham Bulls games, although presumably no goodie bag this time. Not having to take a car is its own reward, I guess!

DPD: still (probably) racially biased

Yes, I know, I’m behind. You’ve probably already heard about findings that seem to indicate issues with racial profiling in the DPD. Last week, city manager Bonfield presented an official proposal on just what to do about it.

Bonfield’s document, 131 pages long, expands upon the findings of the prior HR report. Bonfield acknowledges that racial biases seem to exist, and one of the biggest areas of focus (both in his presentation and in the initial report) centers around searching. The initial report recommended acquiring consent to search homes as well as vehicles, but Bonfield seems to focus only on the former.

The Council’s work meeting was, to put it mildly, exceptionally well attended (so much so that they needed to move to the full chambers). One can only assume that events in Ferguson have informed the public’s perception of this issue; if the council wants to strike while the iron is hot, well, I don’t suppose it gets much warmer than this.

Chief Lopez responded to a reporter from WUNC and sounded, for lack of a better word… flustered.

The video of the work session is available online. The report on the DPD starts around minute 43.

Despite the massive turnout, the agenda item in the work session was ostensibly only for Bonfield to present his findings, and the Council had not yet had time to review them. Their official discussion of the report is expected during the Council meeting on Tuesday, September 2.

If you’ve never been to a city Council meeting before, this could be an interesting time to get your feet wet.

Durham DOT director Mark Ahrendsen gets necked down at the BPAC Club Blvd meeting

Mark Ahrendsen looked a little uncomfortable last night as he answered some tough questions about the W. Club Blvd neck down project.

Not much new was learned. The story as I told it before is roughly accurate. Ahrendsen insists that the BPAC’s concerns about the impact of neck downs on cyclists (which were presented to him in writing in 2010) weren’t “ignored;” instead, they were “considered” and then discarded, since the specific examples mentioned in the letter weren’t feasible to implement. Ahrendsen, of course, didn’t tell that to the BPAC at the time. BPAC chair Erik Landfried appeared frustrated by the fact that Ahrendsen ruled out the specific examples rather than responding to the more crucial general observation that cyclists deserved some attention in the project.

According to Ahrendsen, this whole thing is now on the WHHNA. There’s no facility for any of it to be revisited by his department at this point unless the WHHNA changes its mind. No amount of public input from any other community will be considered. Ahrendsen has presented two options to the WHHNA: neck downs or scrap the thing and start over – and his sole concern is to implement whichever of those options they choose. Ahrendsen threw out “three years” in describing how long it might take to implement a revised project should WHHNA change its mind now.

As I’ve never observed the process of such street designs before, I found this shocking; the concerns of the neighborhood in which a street runs surely must be important, but considering those desires in a vacuum when constructing a plan that impacts motorists and cyclists from other neighborhoods is insane. As far as I’m aware, last night’s BPAC meeting is the first time the general public outside of the WHHNA was invited to discuss this plan with Ahrendsen, and as was made clear it’s now far too late to do anything about it.

Even though it’s been thirteen years since the original study, and it’s been eight years since Club was identified as an important road for cyclists, the assumptions and implementation goals of the original plan have never been revisited. A public works employee (whose name I didn’t catch) described all of the engineering challenges associated with installing neck downs (of which there are apparently many) and offered insights into the requirements he was given (which amounted to, basically, put in neck downs). Federal regulations have changed since the original study, and the implementation details of the neck-downs were modified to support those, but the fundamental design elements have remained unmodified. No study which considers the needs of cyclists has ever been performed. The public works employee was not instructed to consider engineering any design features to aid cyclists, and so he did not.

My take is that Ahrendsen is looking to dump this hot potato on the WHHNA to avoid any direct responsibility himself. I suspect that he understands the design isn’t ideal, but he doesn’t want to be the guy that slows down “their” project any further. The WHHNA is who he’s out to appease, and by placing it in their lap, if there are problems down the road, they are the ones responsible for accepting the plan.

It looks to me, quite frankly, like cowardice. If Ahrendsen is supposed to take the transit needs of the entire community into consideration, he’s clearly failing to do that. In this fight, it seems as if cyclists have no advocate.

Furthermore, I think the WHHNA is well on its way to becoming reviled by some cyclists. It seems as if no discussion of Club can occur without somebody bringing up the death of Seth Vidal. The WHHNA board’s endorsement of an anti-cyclist road design in close proximity to that incident certainly appears callous (or at the very least tone deaf), a point which one commenter mentioned last night.

If you live in WHH, I urge you to contact your board and express your concerns. Neck downs are actively dangerous. Do not let your neighborhood be perceived as so hostile to the needs of cyclists. Demand a better plan that works for everybody.

Somebody at the BPAC meeting last night made a suggestion so simple that I can hardly believe it was discarded in favor of this monstrosity: why not simply add pedestrian crossings with triggered stoplights? My suspicion is that the economics of such things didn’t work out in 2001, because I can’t fathom any way in which neckdowns could be considered preferable to anybody. I’ve seen these dedicated pedestrian lights sprout up in the intervening years and they’re excellent solutions (see, for example, Murray Ave near the Museum of Life+Science).

The budget for the Club neckdowns is $350,000; I wonder how many triggered pedestrian crossings you can buy for $350,000?

Maybe somebody from the WHHNA should ask that question of Mark Ahrendsen.

Tonight is national night out

National Night Out is a program designed to improve relationships between law enforcement and communities. The idea is that neighborhoods host gatherings, from potlucks to parties to parades, and law enforcement officers attend and interact with residents.

The DPD has issued a press release (PDF) about the event, which according to them includes “more than 100 neighborhoods.” (Aside: does Durham actually have more than 100 neighborhoods?). Chances are good that your neighborhood has something planned, so go look it up and get with the program.

And hey, it’s worth mentioning that Durham’s law enforcement could sure use the PR boost! The NCCU police chief was just suspended following a DWI, and a DPD Assistant Police Chief has just filed suit claiming racial discrimination in promotion practices.