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Cyclist hit, killed in Chapel Hill

A woman on a bicycle was hit and killed Friday morning in Chapel Hill on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, according to police.

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — A woman riding a bicycle was hit and killed Friday morning in Chapel Hill when, police say, a car pulled out of a gas station and hit her.

Investigators said the 57-year-old, whose name wasn't released, was riding down a hill against northbound traffic on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard around 9:30 a.m. when the accident happened near the intersection of Hillsborough Street.

The woman was taken to UNC Hospitals, where she later died. Police are not releasing her name until they have notified her family.

A police spokesman said no charges have been filed at this time and that they continue to investigate the case.

According to North Carolina law, bicycles are considered vehicles, and therefore, cyclists are required to follow relevant traffic laws. That includes riding in the same direction as other traffic, using hand signals and obeying traffic signs and signals

Cyclists, however, say that in the area where Friday's death occurred, riding against traffic is the safest option for cyclists exiting the nearby Bolin Creek Greenway.

The trail ends at the sidewalk near the wreck, they say, and anyone exiting the trail with the intention of heading toward downtown would travel south on the sidewalk past the gas station to the intersection.

At that point, they say, they would be able to safely cross the street to enter southbound traffic lanes.

Jason Merrill, owner of Back Alley Bikes, is a member of a Chapel Hill steering committee that put together the Chapel Hill Bike Plan – a plan released this year that's aimed, in part, at improving the safety of bicycling in the town.

"People tend to ride where they feel most comfortable, even if it's not truly the safest place," he said Friday.

Merrill added that the Martin Luther King Jr.-Hillsborough Street area is an example of the existing infrastructure issues.

"I think that points to gaps in infrastructure and information," he said. "It's not clear to cyclists the appropriate places to ride their bicycles. It's not clear to cyclists or drivers where various road users are going to be coming from. There's not a designated place."

Since the release of the Bike Plan, Merrill said, the town has been working to improve such issues.

"The Town of Chapel Hill genuinely wants bicycle facilities to improve, and they are now willing to pay for it," he said. "Unfortunately, for this cyclist, it's too little too late, but hopefully for the next generation of cyclists, which I think we are going to see a lot more of, the facilities will be better and the roads will be safer."


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