Guest column

Jim Tynen: A narrower Walnut Street isn’t the answer

Guest columnistOctober 28, 2013 

You probably wouldn’t think much of a cardiologist who told you, “What we’re going to do is clog up one of the arteries leading to your heart.”

But that’s more or less what Cary is thinking of doing to one of the main traffic arteries to downtown.

Cary is asking residents what they think of a plan to reduce Walnut Street from four lanes to two lanes, while adding a median and bike lanes, on a stretch between Cary Towne Boulevard and Kildaire Farm Road.

The plan would – obviously – make driving on it more difficult. In theory, maybe the same number of cars could travel on it. In the real world, however, traffic would bog down.

Going to or from downtown Cary would be slower and more annoying. That would happen just as Cary would be spending our money on building up downtown.

The big changes to Walnut offer little to offset this disadvantage. Would the median beautify the area? People don’t drive down Walnut Street to savor the scenery.

Another notion is that the above plan would make Cary more “bike friendly.” But I’d agree that the narrower road would put bicyclists at greater risk.

Years ago, I used to ride a bike 10 miles a day to work, and the part that scared me most was riding in a bike lane. After all, lines painted on the pavement are hardly much protection when a driver yakking on the phone swerves into the bike lane.

And I could see drivers growing exasperated by slow traffic on a narrower Walnut, and trying to pass slow cars by veering impatiently into the bike lanes.

What worries me more is that this plan is just the latest evidence of the strange disconnect between the thinking of town officials and the obvious consequences of their more far-fetched plans.

A doctor who can’t make the right diagnosis can do great harm. So can a municipal government that keeps floating ideas that are more concerned with airy notions than concrete reality.

Jim Tynen lives in Cary and works as the communications director for the Civitas Institute in Raleigh.

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