Black Mountain rolls toward bike plan

Fred McCormick

Montreat Road is a busy thoroughfare in the Swannanoa Valley. The constant whizzing of cars makes it intimidating and potentially dangerous for bicyclists of all skill levels.

The road's lack of appropriate space for cyclists will likely make it one of the primary focuses in the development of a bike plan for the Town of Black Mountain.

Jennifer Billstrom hopes so. Co-founder of Velo Girl Rides, a local business that encourages cycling in the area, she would love to see a bike plan for the area.

"Between town square and (the town of) Montreat, traffic moves at a speed that is higher than the posted limit," Billstrom said. "There are places in the road where there are holes and rough pavement. That is a road that is heavily used by pedestrians and cars, and it would be great if we had some traffic calming measures there."

In her vast experience on local streets in the area, Billstrom has seen an increase in people using bikes to get around. Her company's Cycle To Farm events bring more than 300 cyclists to the Valley every year.

Citing events like the Bookwalter Binge, Billstrom notes that Black Mountain continues to attract cyclists.

Last week, about two dozen local residents gathered at Carver Community Center to give feedback on a bike plan that will impact riders in the community well into the future.

Project manager Don Kostelec of Kostelec Planning provided a history of the project, partially funded by a grant from the N.C. Department of Transportation, as well as with contributions from the town and the Blue Ridge Bicycle Club.

"Black Mountain did a pedestrian plan four or five years ago through this same funding source," Kostelec told those in attendance.

Community members sat in small groups with members of the bike plan steering committee, which consists of town employees and various other organizations associated with the project.

The purpose of the plan, according to Kostelec, is to make the town more comfortable for people who bike. "We need safety to be paramount," he said.

Kostelec highlighted the importance of implementing a plan that provides security for bicyclists of all levels.

"A lot of research is starting to look at our attitudes toward how we bike, and it is our job as consultants to try to drill down to this," he said.

Kostelec instructed each group to look at an aerial map of the town and identify residential areas and major employment centers and destinations in Black Mountain. The groups were asked to use their knowledge of local roads and traffic patterns to identify locations that bike lanes are most needed.

Groups identified the corner of Blue Ridge Road and Old U.S. 70 as a trouble spot. They also noted a need for a bike lane on North Fork Road.

Share the road

Help create the Black Mountain Bicycle Plan here. An interactive map lets you comment about specific locales.