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  1. #1
    sniffin' glue zoltani's Avatar
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    Car free in Raleigh, NC?

    I'm looking at Raleigh as a possible relocation destination and was wondering how easy it is to be car free. What neighborhoods? Office would likely be located near I-540 @ Capital, but I would really prefer an area that is walkable/bikeable. How easy is it to bike from downtown to around 540?

    How is the public transit in the area? In particular how easy is it to take the train and/or bus to explore the whole triangle?

    Thanks!
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  2. #2
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zoltani View Post
    I'm looking at Raleigh as a possible relocation destination and was wondering how easy it is to be car free. What neighborhoods? Office would likely be located near I-540 @ Capital, but I would really prefer an area that is walkable/bikeable. How easy is it to bike from downtown to around 540?

    How is the public transit in the area? In particular how easy is it to take the train and/or bus to explore the whole triangle?

    Thanks!
    Hopefully someone that live in Raleigh will be able to chime in. Raleigh is a poster child for urban sprawl. Mass transit basically doesn't exist, there is no commuter/light rail. They are just now starting to consider a bicycle as an alternate form of transportation. They have no money to spend on transit and when they do it is all about widening the freeways.

    It is possible to live in some parts of Raleigh and cycle, but choose very carefully. Hate to sound so down on Raleigh. My office is in Apex, but I am seldom there. I would rather live in Boston than Raleigh, even with the weather and higher cost of living.

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  3. #3
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    I grew up in NC about an hour from Raleigh. I know it's changed since I've been there. Still, NC cities have experienced extremely rapid growth over the last 15-20 years and managed it poorly, and I doubt Raleigh escaped the trend. In my hometown (Greensboro) there was no urban planning--developers bought tracts of land and built strip malls and housing developments as far as the eye can see while neglecting the city's core. The bus system is a joke, and there's no such thing as a bike lane there, at least not since last time I went home. Raleigh has a livelier downtown area for sure, and there may be very walkable/bike-able neighborhoods, but I'd imagine getting around everywhere by bicycle could be tricky.

  4. #4
    sniffin' glue zoltani's Avatar
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    Hmmm, sounds a lot like Knoxville. When I looked where the company office is located and saw it so far from the downtown core my heart kind of sunk a bit.

    I have a few opportunities on the horizon:

    Phoenix, AZ - The definition of urban sprawl. I would imagine it would be difficult to be car free here also.
    Madison, WI - Like what I hear/read about the city but the winters scare me.
    Raleigh, NC - Really know nothing about it.
    Seattle, WA - Would love to move there but this is the least likely option job wise thus far.

    I feel like a lot of cities managed growth poorly in the past and know we are trying to correct the mistakes. Knoxville also has poor planning, no mass transit, huge interstates running through town, and 10 years ago downtown was a ghost town after 5pm. It's turning around a bit, and you can find places to be car free, but it takes planning and living close to the office and downtown. Actually there are quite a few useful greenways here, but for the most part bike lanes are nonexistent.
    Those who are easily shocked should be shocked more often.

  5. #5
    Senior Member slide23's Avatar
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    I went to school in Durham and rode all over the Research Triangle. I was car-free at that time. Depending on how nervy you are, I recall Raleigh as being okay for bike commuting. Not as easy as Chapel Hill or Durham, but still workable. The one thing I recall the most is that, even when shoulders were lacking, drivers tended to be considerate. I had been biking for a week or so and something felt off... oh, nobody buzzed me, yelled at me, or laid on their horns! I had encounters, but nothing worth remembering.

    Prior to Durham, I lived in Seattle from 1995 to 2001 and it could be utterly dreadful. I was hit five times and had nearly constant encounters with raging drivers. RTP in comparison was bicycle shangri-la.
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  6. #6
    sniffin' glue zoltani's Avatar
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    Interesting, thanks for your input. Do you think Seattle has changed in the past 9 years? I know they have since built a light rail and plan to expand. I wonder if the cycling facilities have improved also. You always hear of Seattle as being great for cycling so it is nice to get a different perspective.

    I had similar experience when living in SF, it is supposed to be good for cycling, always rated in the top 10, but I got buzzed, yelled at, and almost hit numerous times. there seems to be some kind of war going on there between cyclists and motorists, but overall it wasn't that bad.
    Those who are easily shocked should be shocked more often.

  7. #7
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zoltani View Post
    Interesting, thanks for your input. Do you think Seattle has changed in the past 9 years? I know they have since built a light rail and plan to expand. I wonder if the cycling facilities have improved also. You always hear of Seattle as being great for cycling so it is nice to get a different perspective.

    I had similar experience when living in SF, it is supposed to be good for cycling, always rated in the top 10, but I got buzzed, yelled at, and almost hit numerous times. there seems to be some kind of war going on there between cyclists and motorists, but overall it wasn't that bad.
    I suspect that the more cyclists you have anywhere, the more pushback you have from motorists. Then you reach a critical mass of cyclists and it again gets friendlier for the cyclists. Generally in life it's better to be in a small isolated minority, or in the majority. It's in between where you have the most problems.


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  8. #8
    Senior Member bbunk's Avatar
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    I was not car free when I lived in the Phoenix metro area but I did cycle a lot. Phoenix has added light rail and the buses have bike racks on them. Bike lanes are getting better but nothing is perfect. Summer would be the hard part since it is very hot during the day.
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  9. #9
    Senior Member slide23's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zoltani View Post
    Interesting, thanks for your input. Do you think Seattle has changed in the past 9 years? I know they have since built a light rail and plan to expand. I wonder if the cycling facilities have improved also. You always hear of Seattle as being great for cycling so it is nice to get a different perspective.
    The bicycle infrastructure has definitely gotten better. But whenever I visit Seattle, I am reminded why I hated driving there. I don't mind congestion so much, as long as drivers can abide by some semblance of a social contract. That said, warts and all, I'd take Seattle any day over anywhere in RTP, but I just don't like the south much, specifically because of heat and geography.

    I think Roody hits the nail on the head regarding a critical mass of cyclists in proportion to drivers.
    "Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

  10. #10
    Senior Member sggoodri's Avatar
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    There are some good areas of Raleigh for convenient and pleasant utilitarian cycling, but Capital Boulevard@540 isn't one of them. Just spend a few minutes with Google Maps and look carefully at the roads there. Capital Boulevard is slated to be converted to a full freeway, but there are few alternate routes, especially for crossing the 540 and 440 freeway loops, and those alternates are pretty nasty, with high posted speed limits, narrow lanes, and heavy traffic.

    Downtown Raleigh is a nice place to ride. I live in Cary (to the west of Raleigh) and sometimes ride into downtown Raleigh, do some exploring and sightseeing on the bike, then ride back. The street grid downtown is great for cycling - lots of alternate low-traffic routes, and low speeds. There are lots of entertainment/restaurant destinations downtown, but not much in the way of groceries and other staples. Cameron Village may be the most desirable area for living car-free, since there is a thriving shopping area with a supermarket, and there are lots of pretty, historic homes in that area. It's close to NC State University, which has lots of students who live car-free and use transit, but it also has some of the traffic issues, and high real estate prices due to demand.

    For proximity to entertainment and restaurants, Glenwood Ave near Peace and Hillsborough Streets, and Fayetteville Street would be the hot spots for a car-free resident. Are you looking for a condo, townhome, apartment, or detached home? Most of the detached homes downtown will be older; by comparison there is a glut of new condos in the area. I have a friend who is selling his condo near Peace Street since he purchased a house....

    The bus system in Raleigh caters more to people who can't drive than people who want a pleasant alternative to motoring. Biking is usually faster than the bus but in harsh weather you may prefer the bus. If you must travel up Capital to 540 the bus would probably be more pleasant than cycling.
    Last edited by sggoodri; 12-08-10 at 03:19 PM.

  11. #11
    2nd Amendment Cyclist RichardGlover's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sggoodri View Post
    There are some good areas of Raleigh for convenient and pleasant utilitarian cycling, but Capital Boulevard@540 isn't one of them. Just spend a few minutes with Google Maps and look carefully at the roads there. Capital Boulevard is slated to be converted to a full freeway, but there are few alternate routes, especially for crossing the 540 and 440 freeway loops, and those alternates are pretty nasty, with high posted speed limits, narrow lanes, and heavy traffic.

    Downtown Raleigh is a nice place to ride. I live in Cary (to the west of Raleigh) and sometimes ride into downtown Raleigh, do some exploring and sightseeing on the bike, then ride back. The street grid downtown is great for cycling - lots of alternate low-traffic routes, and low speeds. There are lots of entertainment/restaurant destinations downtown, but not much in the way of groceries and other staples. Cameron Village may be the most desirable area for living car-free, since there is a thriving shopping area with a supermarket, and there are lots of pretty, historic homes in that area.

    The bus system in Raleigh caters more to people who can't drive than people who want a pleasant alternative to motoring. Biking is usually faster than the bus but in harsh weather you may prefer the bus.
    I live in Cary, too. Everytihng that sggoodri says is pretty spot on. One thing I'd add is that the south-west quadrant of Raleigh is mostly given over to NC State. That area has a lot of college students, so it's fairly friendly to those without cars.


    You might want to check out google maps, and turn on the bike routes feature. It'll show MUPs and roads that have been identified as good for cycling. Still in beta, so information is sketchy, but it'll give you an idea.
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  12. #12
    Senior Member sggoodri's Avatar
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    Although there's no subway or commuter rail, the Amtrak service out of Raleigh provides good transportation to Charlotte and points in between, including Durham, and the Raleigh station has baggage service that accepts bikes. I think there are three trains per day, but I haven't taken it for a few years. GoTriangle will link you with more about local transit.
    http://www.gotriangle.org/

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