Sunday, July 14, 2013

Bike Lane on the Blue Ridge Parkway

I recently read a print article in a local outdoor magazine that posted a question about having bike lanes installed on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I thought it was an interesting debate - one worth thinking about - so ventured to the on-line story. Skimming through the comments, I found the back and forth over whether or not to have specific bikeway or shared roadway for cyclists an interesting peak into the changing culture of the country and region.
Driving on the Blue Ridge Parkway
The Blue Ridge Parkway was designed to allow folks to take in the majestic, rolling landscape from the comfort of their automobile. The tight turns, breathtaking views and narrow road are designed to have folks take it easy. A ride down this national treasure is a much different experience than driving some other regional highways like 85, 40 and 77. Here the road was designed to help people relax, slow down and enjoy the ride.

So, since we are expanding the idea of  what"enjoying the ride" means as a society to include the idea of hopping on bike instead of just getting behind the wheel, why should the Parkway be changed to include bike lanes?  

Reasons in favor of bike lanes:  Providing enhancement (like bike lanes, bike path, bike racks, etc.) will make the route more appealing to those on bikes, which can mean an economic boom to communities near the route and the National Park Service, slowing traffic would enhance safety for all.

Reasons against bike lanes:  Widens the asphalt footprint, drivers who are caught up in the scenery might veer into a bike lane, slowing traffic down too much, political opposition, cost changing things would alter the experience and is that what folks want. 

There's also discussion about allowing those on bikes to have preference on certain sections or on designated days of the week or portions of a month as a way forward. This would be a way to change the programming of the route without as much potential or investment in changing the actual road itself.

All interesting ideas to consider. The southern-most portion of the parkway ends west of Asheville, North Carolina, not too far from the Upstate. Last fall I ventured up that way after a family wedding, and it was breathtaking. Taking a ride along this feasible, fun option to consider, especially in the hot months of July and August. (Just remember to bring enough water and plan properly!)

So, what is place of the bicycle - on this road, on any road and as a part of the American way of life? To me it's exciting we are at a point as a society to engage in this debate! I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on this topic by posting in the comment below.


  1. I'm glad you found it interesting. Since I was involved with the piece, my opinion is clear, but I can see the argument for some form of bike lane discussion on the parkway. I'd rather see those developments elsewhere, but I agree with you that the fact that it's even considered is significant.

    The Parkway was designed as a byway for cars, but is a unique, special experience on a bike. With the cost of gas rising, motorist tourism will likely continue to decrease. The Parkway should try to embrace cyclists however they can.

  2. I agree that the Parkway should embrace cyclists, and it may take some time to figure out what's the best way to allow both those in cars and those on bikes.

    Thanks for your work on the original article and your comment here!

  3. Good post and interesting debate!