Sure, there was an election last week, one involving politicians seeking public office.
But you know what’s really on the ballot in Asheville these days? The Merrimon Avenue “road diet.”
This has got to be the most unpopular diet since the “Tapeworm diet” swept the country in the 1920s (Seriously, Google it. You could buy a tapeworm at your local pharmacy and let the little rascal do all the eating for you. Who knew?)
But I digress, which you really can’t do on Merrimon Avenue anymore. Or turn left.
On Oct. 10, the N.C. Department of Transportation, at the behest of the city of Asheville, converted Merrimon Avenue from Midland Road to W.T. Weaver Boulevard from two traffic lanes in each direction to a three-lane configuration. The road now has one travel lane in each direction, north and south, and a center turn lane, with room for bike lanes on the outside of each travel lane.
And boy do some folks really hate it. A petition to change it back to four lanes, titled, “Save Merrimon Ave Before It’s Too Late” had over 2,750 signatures when I checked it around noon on Nov. 11.
A friend who posted what I thought was a fairly mild rant about the new configuration being dangerous because of impeded emergency vehicle access got thrown in Facebook jail because of her comments.
North Asheville resident Sheri Richardson reached out to me via email to express her displeasure.
“Since I live right off Merrimon, which I have difficulty even getting on, I have no choice but to use Merrimon,” Richardson said. “When a U.S. Highway depends on the courtesy of other drivers to get on it, is that even considered functional?”
She also noted that with “bike lanes on Kimberly, Edgewood, Weaver Blvd and many other streets, a U.S. Highway was a poor choice with the multitudes of curb cuts and so much going on.”
Richardson also contends, “Accidents are occurring due to the lack of visibility with bumper to bumper traffic in both directions.”
This plan has been hotly debated for months, and everyone knew it would be controversial to implement, so the complaints come as no surprise. I’ve previously advocated for giving the plan a try, as Merrimon Avenue has always been a dangerous racetrack where you pass speeding vehicles separated only by a double yellow line — and a voodoo prayer that you can avoid a head-on collision.
Also, you can’t expect cyclists to use such a road if it doesn’t have bike lanes.
So I thought I better check it out myself. I had a crash on my first lap.
I exaggerate. But let me say this: It’s a really bad idea to try to snap some cell phone photos on the traffic backups on Merrimon while you’re driving.
Almost rear-ended the car in front of me. While that would’ve made for a great column bit, I’m sure the driver in front of me would not have been appreciative.
Since the conversion, I’ve now driven Merrimon on two different weekends, and several times last week on two different days, including around lunchtime, mid-morning and late afternoon. I’ve got to say, the weekend traffic wasn’t bad at all, with few backups and mostly smooth-flowing traffic.
During the week, traffic does back up. It’s definitely going to take you a little longer to get up or down Merrimon, so plan accordingly. And try not to get stuck behind a bus.
And left turns can really be an adventure.
Clockwise from upper left: Lisa Sale, John Connell, Julie Ward, Merrimon Tapeworm Diet, a map of Merrimon Avenue (yellow), and Merrimon when “It’s not that bad!”
I made one into Bruegger’s Bagels, and it took awhile. However, to be honest, left turns on Merrimon were always sort of ugly.
But Bruegger’s Manager Lisa Sale said the left turn struggle has become a serious issue for their business.
“I see the most impact in the afternoons, probably around lunchtime. It’s at a complete standstill,” Sale said. “Our bank is like a hop, skip and a jump — Wells Fargo up here — and it took us 25 minutes to get up there and back.”
From what she’s seen and heard, early morning is equally congested. Sale said it’s definitely costing Bruegger’s sales because potential customers driving southbound just don’t want to mess with a left turn.
So, she’s in the camp of returning Merrimon to how it was, sans bike lanes.
“I mean I like the turning lane, but … you never see bikes up this way,” Sale said. “You’ll see them down UNCA and around in that area, but I’ve never seen bikes up this way — ever — and I’ve been here two years.”
There are some fans out there
At this point, another Bruegger’s employee, John Connell, hopped into the conversation.
“Personally, I like it,” Connell said. “I waited one minute at 8 o’clock in the morning, at the most.”
Connell acknowledged that traffic looks bad at times, and he said the synchronization of the lights — or lack thereof — is a real problem.
“If they were all in sync, it would go a lot smoother,” she said.
Connell, who is also a pedestrian along Merrimon at times and likes the extra cushion the bike lanes afford, is not oblivious to folks getting worked up about the big change.
“My thinking is everybody’s upset because it’s new, and people don’t like change,” he said.
Also, folks have legitimate questions about emergency vehicles, Connell said, and that needs to be worked out.
Across the street and a little north, at Swannanoa Cleaners, manager Julie Ward said the change has created one effect they can’t miss.
“Lots of honking,” she said with a laugh.
“Business-wise, it hasn’t really affected (us), but getting into the building, it’s definitely affected the flow,” Ward said. “People coming from downtown (heading north) are having a hard time turning in here.”
The store has big picture windows up front, so they have a front-row view to the congestion
“I haven’t seen an accident yet, but a couple of times it’s been close,” Ward said.
Another employee chipped in, “Everyone hates it.”
“It’s Not That Bad!”
Well, not everyone. A woman with a high-profile job who asked not to be named emailed me recently to eat a little crow about Merrimon.
“As you might recall, I wrote you at least twice earlier this year about what a confoundingly idiotic plan it was,” she said. “I also signed several petitions and was outraged when I heard City Council had approved it, despite so much opposition from the public, businesses and emergency services professionals. It seemed that the only proponents were the state and the cycling enthusiasts.”
“But I’m writing today to say it’s not that bad!” she continued. “I drive up and down Merrimon at least twice a day during rush hours and do most of my shopping on Merrimon, so I’m one of the regular motorists.”
She’s not known for patience but says the drive isn’t that bad, unless you get stuck behind a dreaded bus.
“It also feels much safer without cars weaving from one narrow lane to the other, stopping abruptly for left turns, and turning into the various businesses on both sides,” she continued. “I wish they’d get the paving done, but otherwise I am pleasantly surprised. I thought I should eat some crow since I was ready to head to City Hall with pitchforks!”
I’ll note I’ve heard from a couple of folks who suggested accidents have been occurring on the reconfigured stretch but are going unreported. I asked the NCDOT and the city of Asheville about this.
I did not hear back from the city by deadline, but NCDOT spokesperson David Uchiyama sent an email back stating they have “no reports filed for near misses making analytical evaluation impossible.”
“NCDOT and the city will meet quarterly to review the area of Merrimon that has been reconfigured after the work is completed and traffic has normalized to the new signal timing plans,” Uchiyama said. “We will jointly review a variety of data, including the following: Vehicle crash data, bike and pedestrian crash data, congestion in — and beyond — the corridor or to side roads.”
The DOT can obtain crash data independently, but the Asheville Police Department investigates wrecks in the city limits, “so the city/APD should have that data quicker than our officials in Raleigh.”
We’ll stay on the city for crash data.
Not a lot of cyclists yet
Like Sale, Ward also mentioned the lack of cyclists on the road, and she’s at the store from early morning to mid-afternoon most weekdays.
“Funny enough, I’ve only seen three cyclists use the lane,” she said.
Overall, she said, it doesn’t affect her because she comes in early, but the congestion gets real bad around 8 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., when folks are heading to work or taking kids to school.
Ward thinks the turn lane could stay, but she’s not a fan of the bike lanes.
“I just don’t believe the bike lanes are necessary, and they’re not being utilized from what I’ve seen,” she said. “I don’t know many cyclists, but I don’t know anyone crazy enough to want to ride along Merrimon, with how fast everyone goes.”
Give it a chance?
Judging from the amount of asphalt being laid down and striping going on, let’s assume this plan is going to stay in place for a while. Uchiyama said Thanksgiving is the “targeted completion date for resurfacing, pending weather.”
So in the big picture, who knows? Maybe cyclists will start using the lanes, and as Connell noted, the configuration definitely gives pedestrians a safety buffer.
I’m not a business owner along Merrimon, obviously, and I can see where they don’t like it.
But let’s be honest, the previous configuration was a nightmare, which is evident when you drive the more southerly portion of Merrimon that remains the same. It’s not fun.
I say give this one some time — six months or so. Give drivers time to adjust, and this might just work out. Long lines of traffic and mayhem in the center turn lane likely will ease. Maybe some tweaks can be made to ease congestion.
Hey, maybe some more cyclists will dip a pedal into the turn lanes.
In the meantime, I’d like to suggest the DOT rename the corridor “Merriment Avenue,” as it’s making so many people so happy, and it’s perfect for the holiday season.
What could be more festive than lots and lots of honking?
But please, do not take pictures while honking.
Got a comment or a question? You can reach John Boyle at 828-337-0941 or at email@example.com
Clearly the new configuration was designed by Murphy, but in this instance the consequences were utterly predictable…and stupid. Not only has the in effect 50% reduction in driving lanes led to congestion, the last four times I drove on it from downtown to North Asheville, I did not see a SINGLE bike. Good intentions, m is applied. The business on Merrimon can expect an utterly predictable decline in business. I know I for one would only choose that route when none other was available.
“… unless you get stuck behind a dreaded bus.” You mean that vehicle with 30 people on board that’s taking up just a bit more space than your 1-person car? If there were more park-and-ride facilities and if we all learned to commute by bus rather than leaving our car cluttering up downtown space for the day, Merrimon and our other downtown roads would flow more smoothly and our average commute time would decrease, too.
“…learned to commute by bus…” Well, that’s easy to say. It’s not like there are a lot of park-and-ride bus stops in North Asheville for those who don’t have the stamina to hoof it a half-mile or more, with a 300-foot elevation change from their house to the stop. The advocates seem to think that driving has to be made more and more punishing in order to force people to use bikes or buses. Few people really have that choice.
As the work is not completed yet, I wish you would have saved your writing this till 2 weeks after the end of the construction. From what I understand of this traffic stuff, having the sensors at traffic lights (rather than just timed lights) will make a huge difference. As a bus rider and a pedestrian I would chime in (too early, but everyone else seems to be speaking up) I took the bus along Merrimon at mid day, which in the past I have found to be the busiest time for traffic there) and the buses were all on time. That tells me the traffic had no tie ups.
This project is not yet completed, and so cannot yet be judged. As others have mentioned, the timing of the traffic lights has not yet been adjusted – and this could have a tremendous impact on the flow of traffic. In any case, I’m glad to see all sides of this topic covered in a thoughtful piece, with humor to boot.
The bigger issue is the money spent here would have been better spent adding bike lanes along Rover Road in the Woodfin area. Every day there are many bikes that are using this narrow two lane road causing traffic delays. My biggest concern is the high probability of a head on collision when someone aggressively passes a cyclist (or group of cyclists). The other is the distinct possibility of a cyclist being hit if they are on the blind side of a curve and a car takes the curve and does not see the cyclist in time.
Where is Rover Rd?
Broadway is a lovely, uncrowded, 4 lane divided road alternative. It has fewer lights and is a much prettier place to drive without any of the Merrimon hassles for drivers. If you are just using Merrimon as a cut through and not visiting businesses there, give Broadway a try. Super easy access to the interstate. No traffic congestion.
As I grew up in North Asheville in the ’50s and ’60s one on my earliest memories is the ‘news’ they were making Merrimom Ave 3 lanes from 2, history is repeating. The real issue is north south travel between downtown and the north, or south from downtown for that matter. I remember when they made Broadway 4 lane divided in the early ’70s with the blind assumption that traffic would find it and use it somehow, like magic this was going to take traffic off Merrimom. It failed and will never have much traffic because you can’t get there reasonably. Maybe just maybe if ‘they’ would take out the mess that is under 240 at Merrimom/Broadway/Lexington and put in a 2 lane round-about it would allow traffic to get to broadway with no left turns. The area is certainly large enough for a big radius round-about and could even have a bike lane, maybe that could sell this idea. Very sadly the city and the county even more so continues to fail to take basic infrastructure into account in effective ways instead of putting more houses/apartments on very narrow roads winding roads with limited to no sewer and water. Pinners Cove being the most recent head shaking example. Much of our current mess is due to hiring ‘planners’ who understand little about the geographic realities of Buncombe County or letting outside investment come in to put up insane projects.
Most accidents don’t seem to even get a look see from APD unless lots of damage or injury. If APD, doesn’t show up or not even called, that data will be lost.
Because of the many businesses up and down the corridor, I hope cyclists avoid the area altogether. Vehicles turning in and out of business are likely not going to see a lot of the bicycles.
I would like to know in 6-9-12 months from now how many business have closed due to lost revenue from folks who have decided to take their money elsewhere.
I hope everyone will fill out the on line petition to tell our leadership what a bad decision this is:
I’d have to be suicidal to want to bicycle there even with the lanes. Too many curb cuts. Too many fast cars with impatient, irritated drivers.
I use it from time to time and I’m in the camp of “give it some time and we will see”. In a way, I feel the change is “just dessert” for all the drivers on the former configuration who were never taught that a left turn signal should be activated 500 feet before the turn. I’ve lived here 10 years and have never driven anywhere else where people so disregard the activation of turn signals. If they were turned on at all, it is after the driver has come to a full stop in the left turn lane and then the signal goes on. A lot of good that the drivers behind you. And when you want to help someone gain access, that’s even hard to do because they don’t let you know which way they want to turn.
I’d like to at least let the repaving work complete before we make any judgements on this. As for bicycle traffic, we are getting into colder weather, and that may reduce the number of people who are cycling (the repaving mess doesn’t help either). We should at least let them finish the project before we pass judgement on it.
It’s Midland Dr. Just a detail.
Thank you!!!! It’s been driving me crazy that every article says Midland Road.
While a six-month “trial” will probably condition drivers to be somewhat more accepting of the road diet concept, there is a “law” of traffic congestion that nothing can change: single-lane traffic can move only as fast as the slowest driver in the Que. And when a bus speed drops to zero to pick-up or discharge passengers, everything drops to zero…also known as, “stops dead.” Under the current plan, Merrimon will always be a nightmare at the three peak times: AM, NOON and PM. A better traffic flow option would be to restore four lanes, eliminate the bike lanes, prohibit all left turns and install periodic traffic circles that will allow drivers to make U-turns. Circles also allow for a more steady flow, as buses can stop in the curb lane without jamming-up all traffic. You can experience driving a traffic circle now in Brevard.
Traffic circles work great in places like Paris, Washington DC, where the streets are broad and there’s lots of room. But traffic circles in N.C. are usually too small for buses and trucks to circumnavigate. They end up driving over the curbs and into or across the middle.
Good grief! All this complaining for a project that is still under construction!!! Of course there are no bikes! There are traffic cones everywhere and I’ve even witnessed school buses zooming up the turn lanes, as well as the painted lines are not yet exactly clear. No biker in their right mind would travel that road until it is complete and signage is clear and people calm down a bit…. As for traffic flow… I’ve traveled it daily the entire length, all different times since the start and have yet to get trapped in the so-called nightmare log jam…What this road was, was not safe nor sustainable! It has, over time, evolved into a traffic mess… and was never going to be anything but more dangerous into the future. I applaud the City for their courage to try and fix this broken artery before it got even worse and more people get hurt..
Geese folks! Get over it. This is for our own safety. Give it a chance!
” “Our bank is like a hop, skip and a jump — Wells Fargo up here — and it took us 25 minutes to get up there and back.”
A 7-minute walk according to Google Maps.
Thank you, John Boyle, for a very balanced perspective. Most people don’t mind progress, as long as nothing changes.
Do you really think they’ll walk their deposits up to their bank? They’ll get robbed!
If bicyclists want use of our roads, then have them pay road tax,get a tag and some sort of insurance. Most cyclists I see, DO NOT ABID BY TRAFFIC LAWS. Honestly, I get p***ed when I get behind a bicycle, who is going 2 mph,and I can’t get around it. If you can’t do the speed limit, Then Stay off our already congested highways.
“If bicyclists want use of our roads, then have them pay road tax,get a tag and some sort of insurance. Most cyclists I see, DO NOT ABID BY TRAFFIC LAWS.”
“Our” roads is doing some incredible work here since the vast majority of cyclists also own and operate a car and therefore pay taxes as well, and far more in taxes relative to the amount of wear and tear a bike puts on a road. Anyone truly worried about equitable costs should be advocating for speed and red light cameras along Merrimon as well.
Cyclists have to be more mindful of traffic laws based on the sheer fact that not obeying them puts them at a greater chance of being killed. Most drivers tend to have this same provincial view that streets are “theirs” where legally cyclists have just as much access to public roads as cars do.
Meanwhile, drivers speed excessively, fail to signal, weave through traffic. Literally every day I’ve driven down Merrimon from N. Asheville, as soon as I hit WT Weaver, the driver in the next lane floors it so they’re going 45-50 by the time they get to Moes. On a street with a school and a 35mph speed limit. Trucks and SUVs love to weave through the four lanes on that part of Merrimon to shave 2 minutes between Woodfin and downtown. And yet cyclists are somehow the menace?
The only way to curb the excesses of drivers and America’s dangerous, irresponsible car culture is better road design. The addition of the turn lane and bike lanes is a start, even if it’s literally the least the city and state could do.
Nope, doesn’t work that way.
Share the road – it’s the law.
We do pay taxes. We do have insurance. Most cyclists have a car sitting in the driveway at home that is not taking up space or wearing down your road. Motorists pay an additional usage tax with the gasoline they buy. My bike and my body weigh 160 pounds, TOTAL. My tires are one-inch wide. How much wear and tear do you think we truly add to the road?
But your comment isn’t really about the cost. It’s about inconveniencing you. Me paying more taxes isn’t going to change anything when you pull up behind me; I’m still “in your way.” Plenty of cyclists don’t follow the rules, and it drives me crazy as well, but even more drivers don’t follow the laws in their hulking, speeding, motorized machines. Cyclists are allowed use of the roads. The traffic laws are written realistically to afford everyone safety when they are followed. There’s no way everyone is going to follow the rules, so the most realistic cure to your problems is offering cyclists a place on the road that doesn’t interfere with you. Something like . . . their own lane where they can go as slow as they want without being in your way.
I wish every driver followed the rules of the road.
I wish every motorist had to pass a multi-page test on laws surrounding vulnerable road users like pedestrians and cyclists (not the token questions currently used).
I wish every traffic violation was cited against both cyclists and motorists.
But it’s not going to happen, and cycling is only increasing in popularity here, so you must learn to coexist, which starts with understanding the laws by both parties, and maybe even seeing cyclists as humans who are part of your community.
I like the new Merrimon configuration. Since the change I’ve biked the route a dozen times to Beaver Lake and visited businesses along the way. Before Merrimon was dangerous and I had to hit the sidewalks when traffic backed up. I’m looking forward to the new College street configuration. I’m hoping it will discourage the loud muffler backfire boys from cruising the route. Asheville needs to slow down and drive less.
Before the pandemic I regularly cycled to Ingles from UNCA on Edgewood to Kimberly to Beaverdam, then back on Merrimon. I had no problem, but I am also very opposed to bike lanes. Bikers need to be able to get in the left hand side of a traffic lane when they are going to turn left, not be trapped in a bike lane. Drivers expect the bikes to be in the bike lane — not riding in front of them to the left of the lane. I’ve not tried the new system. Still working from home and don’t get up that way on a bike.
Thank you for a common sense bike approach to this issue.
John Boyle, you are a local treasure! See you on Merriment Ave!
Thanks, Annie! And thanks for reading!
I do like it. I think that it is a stress reliever and I travel that stretch every day. The competition is gone!
We live downtown and are transitioning to a car-free life style . Thank you for covering fairly the topic of multimodal city design.
As usual, the conversation is so skewed in favor of our car culture that the most basic of interrogations into car logic go unspoken. Hey, it took ya 25 minutes to drive .10 miles to the bank? Wow, I wonder how long it would take ya to walk that very short distance! Probably not as long as the time spent crying to the local watchdog reporter about being inconvenienced. Here’s another one for ya: How many cyclists in the bike lanes would be enough to satisfy your demands? Should the lane be just bursting at its edges, backed up between all users’ short-distance errands? We don’t build roads or other infrastructure because we require that it be utilized by any particular number of users, or any at all, for that matter. I don’t like that peoples’ businesses may potentially see some negative effects, but unfortunately, there are innumerable analogies to this and it’s not the obligation of the entire citizenry to (continue to) accommodate businesses that have enjoyed various conveniences not at all owed to them but have endured because no consideration for multi-modal users was ever made to begin with. I would just respectfully ask that people consider things from perspectives other than their own.
Of course you won’t see many, or any, cyclists at this point. The bike lanes have not been completed. They are rough surface, ready for pavement. There are no markings for bike lanes yet. The turn lane markings are not easy to identify. All of these nay-sayers need to take a moment, allow the work to be completed with resurfacing and markings before they criticize what may turn out to be a win-win for everyone… including cyclists.
IMHO, I think it was a bad idea in the first place, and pandering to the very vocal and self righteous bicycling community complete nonsense. We’ve driven the “road diet” numerous times since it’s inception and have found it slow at best, and extremely hazardous. The lack of coordinating the timing of the lights only adds to the detriments. We no longer travel Merrimon unless absolutely necessary, and have stopped doing business with establishments on it, up to and including changing our pharmacy, and doctors who are there. To be very blunt, WTEF!!! Oh, and a shout out to Prescription Pad in Weaverville, who effected our transfer to them effortlessly, and are super nice folks.
As I understand it, the bike lanes aren’t to be used by bicycles until the paving is complete and the lanes are marked as such. Not that I expect a lot of bicycle traffic at that point — something that will point out the ultimate silliness of this project — but the lack of bike traffic now is not really relevant.
Since the switch, I’ve been on Merrimon Ave. many times, including weekends and midweek mostly between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., and although I was expecting traffic issues, I’ve had no problems. Having been in the area for more than 20 years, I feel much safer driving on Merrimon now. Some folks used to drive dangerously/aggressively fast when it was four lanes, so I think this will be a good thing. Not to mention, it’s welcoming of cyclists, which there are going to be more of in our future, especially with the rising popularity of electric bikes and Gen Zers seeming much less interested in driving cars.
There’s the old adage that people complain too early or too late, and to me, my issue is not so much the lane reduction now (they just made the road smaller without addressing flow, so when there’s X amount of flow in the pipe, it’s fine, and when there’s more than that, or a kink in the flow, it’ll be worse), but the city’s odd move to make transportation arteries smaller while pushing for growth. What will this area look like when there are 300+ units plus retail done on Chestnut, 500K sf built on Woodfin St., the development that seems to be beginning to take shape at the Sav-Mor, 100+ units on Robinhood, etc. The push for density without infrastructure work in a city with an older population just seems short-sighted. I agreed with NCDOT’s initial proposal that the Merrimon should have been widened – I understand the costs, but it seems a widened road with bike lanes and traffic calming measures are what will be needed in the not too distant future with the growth that is coming.
I live very close to Merrimon and therefore drive it frequently, and I am very happy with the change. It’s so much less stressful driving on Merrimon now without cars zooming back and forth between lanes. The point of the road diet was to improve safety and I think it’s going to do that. Even when it’s at it’s heaviest/busiest/slowest, it’s still only been a delay of a few extra minutes – maybe several minutes. But’s it’s never taken me anywhere close to 20 minutes to drive the entire length of it. And I personally have never had an issue taking a left on or off of Merrimon, someone always lets me in and I frequently let others in. I think most people are actually happy with it, I know the majority of my friends and neighbors are. (But the group that isn’t happy is very vocal!)
While I am glad Asheville has a bus service for folks who need it, the busses seem to come by about once an hour. Maybe we need fewer routes and more frequent service. I did ride the bus from Merrimon and Farrwood downtown a few times when the ride was free to users, and I would take it from south Asheville if it were more frequent – and free. When I was working Early Voting on Shiloh Road the bus came by from time to time but I never saw anyone riding it.
“I did not see a SINGLE bike.”
I keep seeing people complain that no one is using the biked lanes. Have you noticed there are barrels in them, blocking their path? The road has mostly been unpaved and grooved? In other words: it’s still a construction zone. Of COURSE there are no bikes yet.
The congestion, slow travel speed and difficult ingress onto Merrimon Avenue (from side streets) are a result of traffic volume being constricted from two travel lanes to one travel lane. Of course the capacity of Merrimon Avenue will be exceeded with resulting reduced travel speed and bumper to bumper traffic.
I have lived in North Asheville since 1985 (not many people can make the same claim). Traffic over the years, with the development of Beaver Dam Run, Reynolds Mountain, Thoms Estate and many infill lots, has increased the volume of traffic using Merrimon over the years.
Why would anyone advocate for constricting the flow of traffic on the major north-south artery connecting North Asheville with downtown. Bicyclists already have a means to get to downtown via Kimberly Avenue and Charlotte Street (which I have observed very limited use by bicyclists). NCDOT capitulated to the pressure exerted by Julie Mayfield to implement the “diet plan”. She is one of 17 State Senate members that serve on the transportation committee. Asheville On Bikes lobbied City Council to work with NCDOT to create the “road diet plan”. City Council ignored the findings of the traffic impact study, which showed ‘E’ and ‘F’ grades for side street ingress. ‘E’ and ‘F’ grades translate to a long wait to turn onto to Merrimon, which I have experienced many times. Synchronization of the signals will not reduce the volume of traffic or improve the access onto Merrimon.
The scope of the traffic impact study is from I-240 to Beaver Lake. Is this only the first phase of this experiment?
Progressive ideology has won over common sense. This is not progress for those of us who use Merrimon Avenue on a regular basis. It is regressive.
Correcting the created traffic congestion is an opportunity for City Council to display true leadership. It’s not too late for them reverse their decision.
So I traveled Merri.on on Saturday and it was pretty dead in the morning. The thing that struck.me was a Cyclist actually using g the car lane as his lane until I got behind him and he scooted to the bike lane.. I have also noticed an increased use of traffic on Charlotte street and Edwin Place/ Kimberly Ave. I guess time will tell.
As a cyclist I will say there are often rational reasons for our behavior, and riding where we are in the road. I will also say there are a lot of idiot cyclists out there making us all look bad, but it’s perfectly conceivable that the bike lane had an issue in it, maybe the milled, unpaved surface, something blocking it, or very likely just debris and rocks making it unsuitable for bikes. This is often the case on Riverside where the bike lane is constantly filled with mulch, trash cans and other detritus. Again, I’m assuming the cyclists’ thinking here, but I would have done the same thing and moved over once realizing you were there.
Thank you John. Now I’d like to suggest everybody take a deep breath and just calm down. A slowed down Merrimon has been fantastic! I love to ride a bike on Asheville city routes and Greenways. I used to ride a ton on Merrimon back in the day before people were texting n driving and before everybody learned about this awesome town and up n moved here. The buffer the bike lane creates is amazing. It’s Amazing b/c not only can U ride your bike there but you and your kiddos can feel safe to do it. Traffic has slowed to a pace that doesn’t feel dangerous. Slowed down by The buses? You already had to stop for buses before the dang diet. Give the bus drivers and the precious cargo that they carry a break! And kudos to you Gern Blanston, Merrimon is not ready for bikes yet cuz they’re not done with the project!! Asheville, people give the road diet ease a chance.
Reminds me of when Main Streets started to put in curb cuts and “handicap” parking spaces. Some folks asked why, stating “I don’t ever see disabled people downtown.” Well, duh. They weren’t accommodated. Built roads safe for cyclists, and the cyclists will come. Long overdue building our cities and streets for people and inclusiveness, rather than cars.
The system was designed to slow folks down. A little back up is to be expected.
I use Merrimon regularly and feel so far so good. I have never waited more than one extra light cycle.
The reason Merrimon Ave “it’s not so bad” is because many are crowding onto Charlotte St. And Charlotte St does not have that many bikers either.
I’m in the ‘wait and see’ camp. I keep trying to recall the halcyon days of four lane traffic, but what I remember is a nightmare. There are not four usable lanes, when half the time, the left lane is blocked by someone fixing to turn left. The right lane was a zoo, with people zooming in and out, trying to get past obstacles on the left. A business owner on Merrimon that I patronize said that she was in for giving it a fair trial. She hopes it slows people down a little. Full disclosure: I work at home, so I am not commuting at rush hour.
I’d say it’s clear this was a Council misstep and no amount of light timing is going to improve it especially with the growth expected. NCDOT was strong-armed into this. This was done for the bike lobby. Please sign the petition: https://www.change.org/p/save-merrimon-ave-before-it-s-too-late?recruiter=1231957557&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=sms&utm_campaign=psf_combo_share_initial&recruited_by_id=82b9b1e0-39be-11ec-8566-773448950fbb&share_bandit_exp=initial-34817979-en-US
How can you say that light timing won’t improve until the project is done and light timing has been adjusted? Are you asking people to sign your petition based on a hunch?
The bikes lanes are very wide. The middle turn lane is not wide enough. I’ve seen several cars that are in the turn lane with the back of their car still in the drive lane.
This costly project is bad for business. It’s bad for driver safety. It’s bad for residents as well as current and future community growth. It’s dangerous for the 1 or 2 bike riders.
These are the things that should be top of mind for gov’t. Very bad decision.
All I ever wanted was decent sidewalks….
It is not at all a surprise to me that the bike lane isn’t being utilized. Like many of the bike lanes it is very short and abruptly ends.
I have to use intersection of Chestnut and Merrimon regularly. When TJ’s and HT first went in the traffic was a nightmare. If someone was turning left from chestnut and heading north on Merrimon I would fairly often sit thru a couple of light’s. It took quite a while but it is now rare that happens. The timing of the lights is better and people have figured it out. I think people should give it some time. I feel much more comfortable driving Merrimon now. The narrow lanes and dodging cars was anxiety producing.
When the tarmac is done and stenciled bike icons appear, I will try the bike lanes. A few weeks without seeing damaged orange drums will be a critical confidence builder.
I’m very disappointed in this article. The Merrimon Road Diet is under construction. People complaining about a road that is under construction is not newsworthy. How about waiting to evaluate the situation when the work has been completed? Who would expect to see bicycles riding on the road that has not been paved and still has barriers sitting on it? How can you reasonably evaluate the change when only 1/3 of the road has been paved, the lights have not been timed, and the limited lines that are painted are temporary? I think it’s poor judgement to be broadcasting complaints at this time.
Maybe Asheville should hire this gentleman?
4 Ways to Make a City More Walkable | Jeff Speck
The above TEDx video is only 18:37, but YouTube has longer videos of him.
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