Today’s round of questions, my smart-aleck replies and the real answers:
Question: I am very concerned about the safety of the walkers on the new RAD greenway due to all the motorized bikes going by so fast — on the walking trail, and not in the designated bike trail. As a frequent walker on the east side of the river, I think this is a serious safety hazard. I met someone going 30 mph there yesterday, who passed by me just inches away from my arm. It just seems like an accident waiting to happen with one misstep. I certainly would not want a 30 mph car or motorcycle to pass by me that close — and, the irony is, there is a bike path very nearby. Is the city doing anything to address this? Do any employees patrol or monitor the greenway for safety?
My answer: I must find out more about these motorized bicycles that could haul this pile of beef at 30 mph. I will never pedal again!
Real answer: First of all, this greenway is not patrolled or monitored.
“The city does not currently have resources deployed to monitor activities on the greenway system — so y’all be good to one another out there,” City of Asheville spokesperson Kim Miller said via email.
This greenway in this section of the River Arts District is called the Wilma Dykeman Greenway, in honor of the late Asheville area native and author Wilma Dykeman. Completed in June 2021, it has become immensely popular with walkers, cyclists, Onewheel riders and more.
It’s a multi-use path for a variety of modes, which is good for everyone.
“But just like any other multi-use community facility or asset, a little neighborly courtesy can go a long way and is expected amongst users,” Miller said.
Basically, this comes down to etiquette.
“Judging by some of the complaints the city receives, remembering the ‘rules of the road’ to being courteous and accommodating to other users can be difficult when enjoying the space,” Miller said. “Staff is currently working with Connect Buncombe and other municipalities to create a safety campaign that will remind users of ‘best practices’ on the shared spaces of our greenway system.”
That effort will include a media campaign, signs that will highlight “etiquette and expectations applicable to all users of the greenway.” Miller said these are some of the basics:
- The cycle track is intended for faster traffic like bikes and other devices.
- When passing, go slow, on the left, and announce your presence.
- When using earbuds or headphones, listen at a volume that you can hear people announcing they are passing you.
- No more than two people wide on the path.
- If you’re stopping to gather or talk, get off the path.
- Dogs should be on a three-foot leash.
- Do not litter.
Connect Buncombe, a nonprofit that supports greenways, has a lot of great information about greenway safety and etiquette on its website, including this nugget: “Pedestrians always have the right of way. Faster moving trail users, such as bicyclists, rollerbladers, and skateboarders should yield to walkers and joggers at all times.”
And this: “Bicyclists will typically be the fastest traffic on a trail. If your speed endangers other trail users, check for alternative routes or consider riding on the road. Selecting the appropriate location for your ride is safer and more enjoyable for all concerned.”
Greg Duff, a board member at Connect Buncombe, said the group is working on creating signage to convey etiquette messages using symbols rather than words, so it’s taking a little longer than expected.
Problems like the one the reader mentioned do occur and should be addressed, Duff said, but poor etiquette on the greenways is not an epidemic. Mostly Connect Buncombe hears about people walking three or four abreast, congregating on the greenway to talk, or people walking their dogs with leashes that are too long.
As far as the speeding e-bike, Duff said, “I really don’t know why somebody would be on that part of the greenway doing that.” As it’s common sense not to ride that fast near pedestrians, Duff said, “You can’t regulate that.”
Mike Sule, executive director of Asheville on Bikes, which advocates for multi-modal transportation, said his organization advocated heavily for the two paths in the River Arts District — the greenway and the protected bike lane. Even since the greenway opened two years ago, Sule said, there’s been “a tremendous amount of innovation” in electric mobility devices, and “that’s going to continue.”
“I think the city clearly has a responsibility to articulate riding etiquette,” Sule said, because there are legitimate safety concerns regarding the speed differential between electric mobility devices and pedestrians.
“Even if the person driving the e-mobility device — even if that person is in total control — it does not feel safe to be passed at 15-plus mph when you are walking, when you are pushing a child in a carriage, when you are walking a dog, when you might have mobility issues,.” he said.
All greenway users have to understand they’re not using the facility in a vacuum, and all are allowed to be there — and that includes e-mobility users who want to use the greenway. Sometimes users of e-devices want to go at a more leisurely pace, Sule said, but they also need to understand that they have to go slower with pedestrians around.
“When you do that, you must understand that the greenways are a pedestrian-priority zone, and that everyone should drop their speed, engage their awareness, and enjoy that facility amongst others — and be conscious of your speed,” Sule said.
Sule said it’s impractical to expect police or other officials to patrol the greenways to enforce etiquette rules.
“The enforcement tool is manners,” Sule said. “We don’t treat each other like this in the grocery store. We don’t need etiquette enforcement in restaurants.”
Question: Over the past few weeks as I have driven through the River Arts District, specifically from the Craven Street bridge to the Haywood Road bridge, I’ve noticed construction work going on removing sidewalks and pouring new concrete. If my memory serves me correctly, the sidewalks in that area are rather new and appeared to be in good shape. Why are these being replaced? Was there money lying around doing nothing and we just HAD to spend it? What is this costing? Why is it being done? I think there are better uses of the time, money, and resources than replacing good sidewalks. It reminds me of the old joke about communism make-work jobs; one guy digs the hole and another guy fills it back in.
My answer: Wait a minute, just one guy digging and one filling? Usually you’ve got one guy digging or filling and five spectating.
Real answer: Definitely no communism at work here.
“These are replacements of sections of the sidewalk that were installed and did not meet design specifications,” Miller, the city’s spokesperson, said. “The contractor is replacing the sidewalk at their cost. The replacement work is expected to continue through September.”
In all, the contractor, BeverlyGrant/Barnhill, will replace about 2,900 linear feet of sidewalk.
The problem is with the “cross slope, primarily,” Miller said. “The sidewalk currently being replaced exceeds the 2 percent maximum cross slope per federal ADA requirements by anywhere from .10 percent -1.0 percent.”
Cross slope refers to the sloping of the sidewalk from side to side.
The National Association of City Transportation Officials notes:
“Steep grades and cross slopes should be avoided where possible or integrated with level rest areas. Both powered and manual wheelchairs can become very unstable and/or difficult to control on sloped surfaces. When areas with steep sidewalks and ramps are wet, icy, or covered with snow, they have little or no slip resistance and a slide will usually end in the street.”
Further, NACTO states: “Severe cross slopes can “require wheelchair users and other pedestrians to work against the effects of gravity to maintain their lateral balance. Pedestrians using crutches or canes may be forced to turn sideways in order to keep their base of support at a manageable angle.”
Asheville Watchdog is a nonprofit news team producing stories that matter to Asheville and Buncombe County. Got a question? Send it to John Boyle at firstname.lastname@example.org or 828-337-0941. To show your support for this vital public service go to avlwatchdog.org/donate.