Stripe It Like It’s Hot

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Stripe It Like It’s Hot

Is striping the Roanoke River Greenway the best way to improve safety?  Or would it turn a casual walking trail into a high-speed thoroughfare?

Recently, a court case saw an award of $300,000 handed to a cyclist who struck (or was struck by) a pedestrian on the Roanoke River Greenway near Smith Park.  This has caused a resurgence of concern about safety on the greenway as it becomes longer, more connected, more popular, and more congested.  Indeed, The Roanoke Times’ Dan Casey has addressed this question before, in April of 2013, when he reported on some bad behavior – particularly on the part of cyclists – and solicited some solutions.  Then, like now, one of the proposals involved striping the greenway as if it were a road.

The most recent proponent of this idea is Mark McClain, recently a member of the Greenway Commission, and with whom I serve on the Roanoke Valley Cool Cities Coalition.  In Mark’s editorial (just follow the link above), he summarizes the benefits of striping the greenway with solid and dashed center lines, marking safe and unsafe areas to pass just like on a regular road.

While it does seem fine on its face, I wonder if it’s the best idea.  Objections to striping have generally suggested that this changes the character of the greenway from a recreational path to a high-traffic throughway.  I can sympathize with that.  Most neighborhood streets, with both two-way traffic and multiple kinds of users, aren’t striped, and I suspect the desire is to keep the greenway feeling like a casual, unregulated trail.

Further, in my mind one of the biggest problems on the greenway are the recreational cyclists used to riding at high rates of speed on the road, and don’t feel they need to slow down when they hit the greenway (indeed, in response to Casey’s first article, I wrote with an experience of my own where four cyclists nearly collided with two pedestrians).  My concern would be that striping the greenway like a road would only encourage these cyclists to use the greenway as a high-speed corridor, increasing conflicts with slower-moving, casual users like pedestrians and dog walkers rather than reducing them.

Meanwhile, this site offers some compelling arguments – and visual examples – of why striping is not the way to go, largely of the greenway-is-not-a-highway vein.

I’m not sure what the answer is, though I am conflicted that in thinking that striping is the way to go.  Ultimately, it comes down to what commenter Wesley Best has to say on Mark’s article:

As with so many things, there are 2 very simple concepts that will make the greenways better: 1) Be aware of yourself, others, and your surroundings 2) Be respectful

What do you think?  Stripe, or no stripe?

5 thoughts on “Stripe It Like It’s Hot

  1. Pingback: Is striping the Roanoke River Greenway the best wa… | Steve Jenkins' Journal

  2. Jeremy, I understand your concern, but the web site you sited seemed like an opinion piece with no data to back up the opposition to striping. Also the person who wrote it referred to the path as a “walkway”. Clearly the Roanoke River Greenway is not a walkway, but a mixed use trail with a number of serious incidents already in the books. We need education on both ends of the usage spectrum (pedestrians, keep to the right and pay attention; bikers go slow and yield to stupid pedestrians). The site you referenced seemed to be more interested in the esthetic and visual appearance (which I have no complaint with) but completely ignored the practical side of the safety issues. It’s true that many neighborhood streets are not stripted, but they carry mostly traffic that is going at similar speeds, and EVERYONE knows they are supposed to keep to the right. Very different than the greenway.

    • Mark, thanks for your response. I have not yet come to a conclusion on the subject, but it still seems to me that striping doesn’t really solve the problems that have occurred thus far; i.e., bicycles going to fast, and pedestrians either not paying attention or just “being in the way.” Striping would, it seems to me, simply encourage bicycles to go faster. If the greenway suddenly has lanes, and three people are walking abreast chatting – a reasonable activity for the greenway, in my mind – and have encroached into the other “lane,” wouldn’t the cyclist feel *more* entitled to the space and *less* likely to slow down?

      The best analogy I can come up with is this: If I want to drive somewhere quickly, I use an arterial road; one that is wider, has fewer stop signs, and is less likely to have pedestrians crossing. I can driver faster more safely because the road is built for it. I don’t drive on my narrow neighborhood roads, with stop signs at every block and kids playing on either side of the street, and expect to go as fast. The greenway is that neighborhood road, and a faster-moving vehicle should expect to get to travel at a fast, interrupted pace along it. If that’s how a cyclist wants to ride, they should use a more appropriate street.

      Mostly, the problem I see is that cyclists don’t want to have to slow down and maneuver around slower-moving vehicles and people. It’s the same complaint they level – rightly- against the drivers of automobiles who grumble about bikes on the road.

      I’d rather see the paint used to stripe the greenway instead used to stripe more on-road bike lanes.

  3. I agree that striping in general detracts from what should be a calm and peaceful thoroughfare, BUT safety trumps all else.
    So, I’d like to see some striping in the most congested sections like Vic Thomas to Smith Parks and around the RMH area. Also, there are signs advising cyclists to “ride at a safe speed,” but there are no such signs advising others to “ALWAYS keep right except when passing.” As a cautious cyclist who rides the greenways a lot, I have much more trouble with dog walkers and other pedestrians behaving cluelessly about their occupancy and use of space. It is commonplace for users to occupy the trails full width, and only get over when being passed. This is why we need the “ALWAYS keep right except when passing” signs at regular intervals. This rule applies to all users, involves no striping and could help reduce collisions, not to mention help teach kids the rules of the road.

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