Jackson Country commissioners are currently supporting the idea of safer, wider bike lanes along N.C. 107, which runs just south of the Western Carolina University campus.
Commissioners were convinced to support the idea after a troop of bicyclists rode their bikes to the commissioners’ meeting to make their appeal.
Commissioner Chairman Brian McMahan praised the bikers for riding their bikes all the way to the county meeting in Sylva while offering his support as well.
This four-mile stretch of highway currently has no bike lane and no shoulder, which has earned it the popular nickname of “the gauntlet” among bicyclist students and faculty.
“They call it the gauntlet,” said WCU student Jay Mahan. “It is by far the most dangerous section of road in the area to ride on.”
The narrow winding route is scheduled for an overhaul by the N.C. Department of Transportation, which will include wider shoulders and lanes, as well as the straightening of curves. Roadwork will stretch along the highway four miles from the intersection of Old Cullowhee Road to N.C. 281.
“The campaign is a great idea,” said Professor Brian Railsback, Dean of the Honors College. “I once biked from Cullowhee all the way to Highlands and faced that route. It was impossible and I would never do it again.”
Revision plans for the highway consist of a four-foot paved shoulder as well as a four-foot grass shoulder. The bicyclist troop suggested scaling back on the grass to increase the pavement shoulder up to six feet.
“I know a lot of the older local riders in the area are pulling for the same thing,” said Mahan.
The roadwork may allow an increase from the current 45 to 55 miles per hour.
“Western should be more of a biking community than it is,” said Railsback. “Anything we can do to advance biking makes sense because it is a great place for it.”
County commissioners have now drafted a formal resolution asking for six-foot bike lanes, and have sent them to the Department of Transportation.