Residents, cycling advocates at odds over Chapel Hill's new bike plan

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- A proposed neighborhood bike plan in Chapel Hill would connect shopping and residential areas for walkers and bikers but some residents in the area oppose the project.

The $800,000 Sidepath project would create a separate trail from traffic for walkers, bikers and runners. However, some residents say the trail will create more noise, unwanted foot traffic and safety concerns.

"We need more facilities, more greenways, more separated bike lanes," John Rees explained.

As a cyclist, Rees knows how critical the need is.

"It's becoming harder and harder for families to ride together because the traffic is so dangerous on the roads," said Rees.

That's why Rees was excited about expansion plans for Chapel Hill's biking and sidewalk network.

The Side Plan creates a separate trail along Fordham Boulevard. The project is part of Chapel Hill's long-range plan to increase pedestrian and bicycle transportation throughout the eastern part of the town.

Town officials say the improvement would connect shopping and residential areas with pedestrian and bicycle-friendly facilities and improve an existing asphalt path in the area.

"This is an important facility. If the town is serious about having a comprehensive network that extends the path for bicyclists and walkers, this is a critical part of it," said Rees.

But not everyone feels that way. Some neighbors near Ridgefield Drive are pushing back against the plan for pedalers as the construction would chop trees near their backyards.

"It would be noisy, hard for my kids to sleep, nap and stuff. Could disrupt our way of life," said one resident.

The town conducted a noise study and the private company that completed the study recommended a noise buffer.

Another resident worries about the vegetation.

"I have 3 or 4 mature trees that would be cut down for this path," she explained.

Others were concerned about unwanted foot traffic in their backyard.
"I'd rather have people going by in my front yard than in my backyard," one homeowner explained.

Town leaders are considering those concerns as well as several options to resolve the issue.

"The risk is that the town loses the funding because the funding was for a very specific project," said Rees.

If leaders can't work up a solution, the Sideplan could be sidelined.
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