Sunday, October 14, 2012

North Carolina Bike Summit Closes Out!

The N.C. Bike Summit is now closed and in the books with plans already underway for the second annual bike summit. Day two of the summit ran from 8:30 a.m. until high noon at the McKimmon Center on the campus of N.C. State UniversityDay one set the stage for an in-depth look at the state-wide North Carolina Bike/Ped plan.

Known as WalkBikeNC, the plan looks to take North Carolina forward in developing appropriate pedestrian and bicycling infrastructure across the entire state. The plan developers shared predicted growth patterns for the state over the next 40 years and repeatedly indicated that today’s transportation facilities are already inadequate for the growing population and will become even more inappropriate as the demographics of our state change over time.

Citing a prediction that has the region from Birmingham, Alabama to Washington, DC as being the largest growth corridor in the country, project planners report that the existing urban areas in North Carolina are destined to become even more urban and that roads and thoroughfares designed to move goods to market will be outdated. The transportation infrastructure needs will be more for moving people in more efficient ways as the urban centers grow.

For those of us from the rural areas of North Carolina, the message seemed to be that the dollars would be flowing even more to the large urban areas of the Piedmont than to the smaller rural communities of the mountains and the coast. When asked about this, the presenter was careful to say that plans were being incorporated to address that very concern and that there was much awareness of the economic development potential for areas such as my home Western North Carolina in relation to tourism and cycling.

Time will tell as to how the money gets dispersed and historically in this state, I’d have to say the lion’s share hasn’t come to the mountains. (Yes, I admit I’m biased on this one…) The good news in the plan is that a much wider view of transportation is being taken in the plan. Specifically, the health of the populace is now an important voice at the table and it will no longer be just moving cars and trucks from point A to point B. As you would expect, there was a wide range of opinions and suggestions from the assembled group. I look forward to the summary of the input, which should be posted on the internet in the next couple of weeks.

We also have to keep in mind that our state will have a new governor come the end of the year and the likelihood of a new or more entrenched legislature is assured. Plan developers are working with both sides of the aisle to increase the chances of the plan moving forward and not being put on the back burner.

I had the opportunity to meet Sig Hutchinson, a local Raleigh leader running for the N.C. Senate. It was a great pleasure to speak with a candidate, who was knowledgeable about bike/ped issues. Hutchinson has been a leader in the Raleigh area in greenway and bike/ped infrastructure development. The local attendees from Raleigh clearly had strong positive regard for him. By all reports, he would be a strong advocate in the N.C. Legislature. I wish him well in his campaign.

All in all, this was a weekend well spent in the capital of my home state. I hope the enthusiasm of the participants carries forth and infects my fellow advocates. We need all the “boots on the ground” we can muster…

Sad news… Just prior to leaving town, the Navigator and I were informed of the death of a fellow cyclist and friend, Mark Parris.

Mark Parris, cyclist, runner, friend.(Mark Parris 03/14/1950 – 10/11/2012 – RIP!)

Mark was a well known native of Waynesville and Haywood County. He was one of the best overall athletes to ever come from the area. He was an avid cyclist, among other pursuits, and was seen daily walking his dogs along the streets of Waynesville. Mark always met you with a smile and inquiry as to how you were doing. A piece of Waynesville will be missing…

A scholarship fund for a local high school student to attend Western Carolina University has been established. Donations may be made to Mark D. Parris Scholarship Fund, c/o Suntrust Bank, 135 North Main Street, Waynesville, NC 28786

Until later,

- Zeke

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