So I had an adventure yesterday: I had to go to a location on Hillandale Road (north of I-85).
I’m going to tell you right now, this part of Durham is an unmitigated disaster to ride in. It’s horrible. I don’t have much cause to go up there with frequency, which is good, because if I did I’d probably go insane.
Here’s the problem in a nutshell: I-85 makes a huge wall up there, which is pretty much impenetrable to cyclists. All of your options are bad.
I was trying to get from around Brightleaf Square (not visible in that map – it’s further to the right and down) up to the blue circle. For the sake of convenience let’s just assume you’re starting around Elmo’s on 9th Street (which is easy to get to from Brightleaf).
So, pop quiz hotshot: how would you go about getting up to the blue circle? Note: the red circles labeled 1, 2, and 3, are the three closest ways to penetrate I-85.
The intuitive answer is that you could take Hillsborough Rd to Hillandale Rd. and cross 85 at the “2”. No problem, right? Well, here’s the problem: Hillandale Rd. absolutely sucks:
Being situated where it is and being one of the few ways to breach I-85, Hillandale Rd. gets heavy usage, and traffic can get pretty gnarly. Look at how narrow that road is! In my experience, when presented with this kind of scenario a lot of people will try to pass cyclists in incredibly dangerous ways as quickly as they can, leaving little clearance.
I will not ride on that stretch of Hillandale Rd. again, regardless of how tempting those straight lines look on Google Maps. The road is a failure of planning and it does a huge disservice to NW Durham that it’s like this. It’s not just bad for cyclists, either – you’ll notice there isn’t even a sidewalk!
How do you avoid that stretch of Hillandale, then? I ended up doing this:
There’s a whole lot of WTF going on there to do it, but I managed to avoid Hillandale completely, so yay bonus points for that. The good news is that most of these side streets have low speed limits and are really easy to ride on. However, check out that section of Guess that gets you past I-85:
… um, yeah, about the same.
This is roughly equivalent to the way Southpoint used to be. That particular SNAFU was addressed by adding a multi-million dollar bridge to get past the I-40 wall.
What’s the solution for this mess in NW Durham? I don’t know if anybody is even seriously talking about it. I lurk on the BPAC mailing list where such problems are perennial sources of discussion, but if there’s any real, solid, practical plan to tear down the I-85 wall for cyclists I sure haven’t heard about it.