Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Bicycling in Chapel Hill

I've ridden my bike most everywhere within a 15-mile radius of home in the last 3+ years. But even though it's relatively close to home, I don't go to Chapel Hill very often, even though the town has a very bicycle-friendly reputation. Let's discuss!

First off, let's have a look at a map:

View Larger Map

When I ride south or east to Cary, I have a lot of route options, which is good. But when I ride to Chapel Hill...not so much. Unless I want to go way out of my way, the highlighted route - which includes a decent portion of a two-lane, no shoulder road which gets a decent amount of traffic - is the only way to get to Chapel Hill.

Of course, once you're in Chapel Hill, you have plenty of bicycle-friendly route options. Bike lanes! Greenways! Wide shoulders! The catch? Hills. Lots and lots of hills.

I know it doesn't look impressive at all in a picture, so you'll have to take my word for it: Chapel Hill has the steepest hills in the Triangle. Nowhere else do I have to occasionally walk my bike up a hill. (Yeah, compared to mountain ridges, these "hills" really aren't all that bad, I imagine. I don't know how those people do it.)

So, I basically do a Chapel Hill bike ride whenever I'm feeling really ambitious. This happens about two or three times a year. (Compared to downtown Durham or Cary, which I ride to, say, ten times a year.)

Despite being closer to home than both the Duke and NC State campuses (both of which I've ridden to multiple times), Saturday was actually the first time I had ever ridden through the UNC campus: (All of my previous Chapel Hill bike rides avoided the campus.)

(Side comment: How much money do you have to donate to the university to get one of those parking spots?)

Another fun fact about Chapel Hill: not only does it have the Triangle's meanest hills, it's also the only place in the Triangle where I can really get lost. Seems like every time I go here, I miss a turn, make a wrong turn, or something. On the previous ride to Chapel Hill, a key connector road was roped off by the police, and I had no clue how to get around it without looking at Google Maps on my phone. I don't have an issue with the main roads in Chapel Hill - I know those pretty well. It's the residential roads that mess with me. Like here, for instance:

View Larger Map

Which direction am I going? Who knows?

Speaking of not knowing where I was going, one of my goals while on the UNC campus was to find one of the campus's primary landmarks, the Old Well, and get a picture of my bike with it. I suppose it might have helped if I knew where it was, or even what the name of it was, going in. At least if I knew the name of it, I would have probably been able to find it on a campus map. But I didn't want to waste my energy going all over campus, either. Gotta save my energy for those hills! So, no, I did not find the Old Well...this time.

Well, Chapel Hill certainly makes for a good workout. I just need to do more research before I head over there next time, I suppose. And get myself in better shape, too.

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