Cyclists can commonly be seen riding in and around Durham, and it is a common mode of transport for many Durhamites. As cyclists and bikers share the same roads, this can be dangerous for both bikers and drivers. This page will give helpful, Durham-specific information about staying safe on Durham roads.
Some roads are better avoided by cyclists, as either drivers repeatedly speed on these routes or there are so many blind curves that using them is unsafe. Others may lack shoulders altogether, and should be avoided for this reason. To start a list of "no-go roads":
- Ridge Road
- Cornwallis Road
- Pickett road
- Mt. Sinai Road
- Guess Road
- Academy Road
This list should be expanded. Interstates and some state highways are off-limits to cyclists.
Some good roads include:
- Martin Luther King Blvd.
- Cole Mill Road
- The American Tobacco Trail
One solution to the lack of a shoulder is the use of hybrid or mountain bike tires. These can allow you to ride on the dirt shoulder when vehicle traffic is heavy, thus keeping you out of harms way, as well as saving drivers the trouble of trying to pass you while there are cars coming in the opposite direction. Although you lose the extra speed given by road-only tires, it is worth the ability to safely dodge drivers who are in a bit too much of a hurry. Also, a rear view mirror attached to the left handlebar or the left side of the helmet can help a lot in this regard. These supplies are available at REI Durham, near Southpoint Mall, and the Bicycle Chain off of 15-501 or on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill.
When biking downtown or on Duke University campus, be especially careful at city-block intersections and driveways! Be on the lookout for cars pulling out of driveways or side streets to the right, as they have a good chance of not seeing and backing straight into you. Also, be aware that people often exit parallel-parked cars on the street side, sometimes opening a door right in front of you. This can result in serious injury both to you and the person exiting the car. And lastly, do not stop at a red light beside a vehicle! If it turns right as you start forward, you will be crushed under its wheels. This is especially important in downtown Durham.
The roads around and in Durham are notoriously dangerous for bikers. Shoulders are narrow, bike lanes are practically nonexistent, and drivers tend to cut it close when they pass. Still, cyclists are out there, and it is very important that we make accommodations. Chapel Hill, for example, is very cycle-friendly. Bike lanes are on almost every road, and downtown is as navigable by bike as it is by car. Downtown Durham is practically a death trap in comparison. So what can we do to catch up? Expanding roads is an expensive proposition, especially with the current state of the economy, and it is near impossible to change driving habits. We can't simply kick bikers off the roads, as it is their right to commute in such a fashion. Perhaps an attempt to raise money from concerned citizens could be combined with city funds to expand the roads frequented by cyclists, thus involving the community in an effort to have a safer commute for all Durhamites.
For North Carolina laws regarding bicycles and cyclists, please visit http://www.ncdot.gov/bikeped/lawspolicies/.