Enhancing Bike Connectivity in Davidson, North Carolina
TO: Travis Johnson, Davidson Town Planner
FROM: Livesey Pack, Political Science Major, Davidson College
SUBJECT: Enhancing Bike Connectivity in Davidson, NC
Enhancing Bike Connectivity in Davidson, NC
In the year 2000, the town of Davidson had a population of approximately 7,140 residents.[i] In a market analysis report published in 2007, Davidson was projected to triple its 2000 population by 2030.[ii] Such anticipated population growth will substantially impact the local economy and environment and increase density and congestion. Davidson can proactively confront these issues through the increased promotion of a mainstream bike culture and through enhanced bike connectivity within Davidson and through to Cornelius and Mooresville. As the only North Mecklenburg County municipality to receive Bronze-level recognition as a Bicycle Friendly Community, Davidson is already a leader in bike-friendly policies.[iii]As a resident and cyclist in Davidson, I have experienced frustration with the gaps in bike infrastructure, from a lack of signage to poor bike lane connectivity, that are inconsistent with the town’s bike-friendly label. However, the town can address these gaps and reach Silver-level recognition through the improvement of bike connectivity from within residential areas to pre-existing bike lanes, the placement of wayfinding signage in downtown Davidson, and the expansion of bike parking to local parks and commercial areas.
How does Davidson move from Bronze to Silver?
For the years 2010-2014, Davidson received Bronze-level recognition from the League of American Bicyclists for being a bike-friendly community.[iv] For the years 2015-2019, Davidson again received Bronze-level recognition.[v] Davidson should aim to achieve Silver-level recognition. The following policy options are based on the recommendations offered by the League of American Bicyclists.
- Increase cycling education and encouragement efforts byofferingcycling safety courses, implementing a town-wide bicycle safety campaign, distributing printed copies of bike routes, and encouraging town-wide cycling events
- Collaborate with the Davidson College community (faculty, staff, and students) to implement the nationally-recognized Bicycle Friendly University Program
- Improve bicycle connectivity and infrastructure, including increased connectivity in residential neighborhoods, improved wayfinding signage, and the expansion of bike racks to local parks and commercial areas
Option and Decision Review
In analyzing the proposed options, I will consider the following five criteria: economic costs and benefits, environmental costs and benefits, social costs and benefits, political feasibility, and technological feasibility. The criteria are ranked on a scale of 0-1 based upon the priorities espoused in the introduction to Davidson’s Walks and Rolls Master Transportation Plan. Accordingly, the policy options are ranked on a scale of 1-3. This ranking is based on overall feasibility, given the costs and benefits associated with each option, 1 represents the low-end of the scale, while 3 represents the high-end of the scale.
Economic Costs and Benefits
The implementation of bike-friendly policies positively influences local economies, while saving individuals and municipalities money.[vi] Davidson’s current bike-friendly policies and infrastructure have saved the municipality $331,000 per year.[vii]Therefore, if biking participation increased, based on improved cycling infrastructure and education, the potential economic benefits would also increase. While the economic benefits are similar for each policy option, the economic costs differ. The town of Davidson has already invested in bike connectivity and infrastructure. Davidson would incur costs in order to improve pre-existing bike routes, and to put up signage and additional bike parking. In contrast, Davidson has spent minimally on the development of cycling education and encouragement programs. Overall, the first policy option would be costlier to implement than the third policy option.
Environmental and Social Costs and Benefits
Research has shown that bicycling carries high social benefits. Some of the social benefits of bicycling include reduced exposure to air pollutants, and increased physical activity, which improves one’s general health.[viii] The third policy option has no associated social costs. The greatest social cost to the implementation of the first policy option is counter-acting behavioral norms regarding driving. This is a social cost that also restricts the second policy option. Data has also demonstrated the high environmental benefits of bicycling in comparison to other forms of transportation. These environmental benefits include decreased carbon emissions, and improved air quality.[ix] These benefits apply to all three policy options.
According to the town’s website, “bike-friendly streets” is on the list of “Things We Are Thinking About at Town Hall,” therefore the implementation of bike-friendly policy is currently a focal point of town policy. Therefore, the third policy option is highly politically feasible because of its emphasis on improving bike connectivity. The first policy option faces challenges in that the town of Davidson would have to develop educational content. However, the strengths of this option lie in the town’s ability to partner with local businesses and organizations, such as Summit Coffee or the Spirited Cyclist, to coordinate town-wide cycling events. The second policy option has a lower political feasibility because it is not already included in the MTP. However, provided that the College assumed primary economic responsibility for the implementation of a bike policy awareness program, the town could be more open to partnership with, and inclusion of the college.
It is technologically feasible to add additional bike-friendly infrastructure, including additional bike lanes, wayfinding signage, and bike racks. Therefore, the required technology for the third policy option can be successfully implemented, but economic costs and the town budget will restrict the timeline for this process. Engaging with the Davidson College community and local businesses is also technologically feasible. Davidson College already has infrastructure in place through which to reach out to students. The first policy option is least technologically feasible. While the town of Davidson can draw upon the education efforts of other municipalities, it will take considerable time and effort to develop a comprehensive and Davidson-specific bicycle education program. It will also require significant time, effort and coordination to implement a town-wide bicycle safety campaign, and to host regular town-wide cycling events.
The recommended policy decision is to have the town of Davidson adopt the third policy option. This option, which advocates for the improvement of pre-existing cycling infrastructure and connectivity, will enhance Davidson’s eligibility for Silver-level recognition from the League of American Bicyclists. Notably, the first and second policy options further qualify the town of Davidson for Silver-level recognition. Therefore, I advise they be considered as well as the town of Davidson works to improve its bike-friendly infrastructure and to institute a mainstream bike culture.
Policy Matrix Table
[i] “Davidson, North Carolina,” UNC School of Government
[ii] Appendix III-Market Evaluation, 2007
[iii] Award Database, 2015
[iv] “Town of Davidson Named a Bronze Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists: We’re Pleased to be a Bike-Friendly Town,” 2015
[v] “Town of Davidson Named a Bronze Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists: We’re Pleased to be a Bike-Friendly Town,” 2015
[vi] Flusche, Darren, “Bicycling Means Business: The Economic Benefits of Bicycling Infrastructure,” 2012
[vii] “Chapter 1: Introduction,” Davidson Walks and Rolls: Active Transportation Master Plan, 2012
[viii] “Statistics Library/Health Statistics,” People for Bikes
[ix] “Statistics Library/Environmental Statistics,” People for Bikes
- “Appendix III-Market Evaluation,” NC 73 Area Plan, Available at http://www.ci.davidson.nc.us/DocumentCenter/Home/View/779. (Accessed 21st March 2016)
- Darren Flusche. “Bicycling Means Business: The Economic Benefits of Bicycling Infrastructure,” League of American Bicyclists, Available at http://bikeleague.org/sites/default/files/Bicycling_and_the_Economy-Econ_Impact_Studies_web.pdf. (Accessed 21st March 2016)
- People for Bikes, “Statistics Library/Environmental Statistics,” Available athttp://www.peopleforbikes.org/statistics/category/environmental-statistics. (Accessed 11th April 2016).
- People for Bikes, “Statistics Library/Health Statistics,” Available at http://www.peopleforbikes.org/statistics/category/health-statistics, (Accessed 11th April 2016)
- The League of American Bicyclists, “Award Database,” Available at http://www.bikeleague.org/bfa/awards. (Accessed 20th March 2016)
- The League of American Bicyclists, “Davidson, NC,” Available at http://www.bikeleague.org/sites/default/files/bfareportcards/BFC_Spring_2015_ReportCard_Davidson_NC.pdf. (Accessed 20th March 2016)
- Town of Davidson, “Town of Davidson Named a Bronze Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists: We’re Pleased to be a Bike-Friendly Town,” Available at http://www.ci.davidson.nc.us/CivicSend/ViewMessage/message?id=6016. (Accessed 19th March 2016)
- Town of Davidson, “Chapter 1: Introduction” in Davidson Walks and Rolls: Active Transportation Master Plan, Available at http://www.ci.davidson.nc.us/DocumentCenter/View/4301. (Accessed 21st March 2016)
- Town of Davidson, “Chapter 9: Implementation” in Davidson Walks and Rolls: Active Transportation Master Plan, Available at http://www.ci.davidson.nc.us/DocumentCenter/View/4316. (Accessed 21st March 2016)
- UNC School of Government. “Davidson, North Carolina.” Available at http://www.iog.unc.edu/programs/cednc/stbi/cases/pdf/davidson.pdf. (Accessed 3rd May 2016)