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?