Road Cycling

First bicycle lanes in Lowell painted along McAdenville Road – Gaston Gazette

An extra-wide stretch of road through Lowell has taken on a new look recently, which city leaders hope will create a safer thoroughfare for bicyclists and traditional commuters.  

North Carolina Department of Transportation workers recently fitted McAdenville Road with lanes for bicycles on either side of the road. It’s the city’s first bike lanes within the city limits, according Lowell City Manager Scott Attaway. 

Hopes for increasing safety 

Painting bike lanes along McAdenville Road – also known as N.C. 7 – was identified as a high-priority project in the city’s 2019 bicycle and pedestrian plan based on driver safety concerns along the wide, two-lane road located between Interstate 85 and North Main Street. 

Drivers are known not only to speed through the 35-mph zone, but also pass other drivers waiting to turn left onto residential streets. Some even go as far to park along the highway, which the city does not permit.  

Now, drivers will notice a significant reduction in the width of the car lanes along McAdenville Road, which encourages drivers to slow down and, therefore, reduces the number of collisions and increases safety for non-motorists, according to the United States Department of Transportation. 

“It’s going to let people know you can’t sneak by people while they’re turning,” Attaway said of the new bike lanes. “It’s also about pedestrian safety. That’s No. 1 here.”  

The 0.9-mile stretch of bike lanes cost NCDOT $2,500, according to NCDOT. The city of Lowell hired a contractor to place bicycle pavement markets in the new lanes, which cost $2,200, according to Attaway. 

Embracing recreation  

Bike lanes and multi-modal projects have increasingly become popular in some North Carolina communities, especially those that experience continued population growth, said NCDOT spokesman Marcus Thompson.  

“Department request for additions of bike lanes has increased proportionally with the expansion of developments and population growth, especially in Gaston County,” he said.  

Planning to accommodate cyclists isn’t solely based on cyclist’s demand for having their own travel space, Attaway noted. The city intends to ensure Lowell remains attractive to those who are seeking Gaston County as their next home.  

Lowell leaders also believe less cyclists are using bicycles for their commute to work and more just want to exercise and soak up the outdoors. 

“With the amenity of having the bike lanes, with George Poston Park right up the street, Lowell has a good opportunity,” said Attaway, who’s known to hit the park’s trails on his mountain bike.  

“COVID has taught us we don’t have enough out there for people to do. We want to keep building that.”  

Encouraging cyclists 

When Belmont resident Michael Bissette isn’t working as an engineer, he spends the majority of his time biking public roads, from McAdenville Road to foreign roads in Europe.  

Roads located across the Atlantic Ocean are built to not only support recreational cycling, but also cycling as a common commuting option because vehicle traffic there usually flows independently from cyclists, he said.  

Bissette believes Lowell’s push for bike lanes within the city limits will have a similar result in Lowell and help normalize using a bicycle to get around. 

“It is massively beneficial. Cars will be more adequately prepared to experience the passing of a cyclist when they see a bike lane,” said the avid cyclist, who hosts the Bike Psyke podcast with his wife, Emily.  

“It also allows someone who is riding their bike in an area like that to feel more confident and safer in their ability to just maintain a predictable direction and speed, while cars might be slowing down in the road to turn left while traffic is coming their way and it’s going to take them 20 seconds.”  

You can reach reporter Gavin Stewart at 704-869-1819 or on Twitter @GavinGazette.