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American Tobacco Trail Offers Commuting Opportunities To Cyclists

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DURHAM — It has been 12 years in the making, but a plan to turn abandoned railroad tracks into a greenway is finally a reality.

The first three miles of the American Tobacco Trail opens Saturday. The greenway runs from Hillside High School to the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. It will eventually stretch 23 miles, linking Durham, Wake and Chatham counties.

"No less than six greenways and other trails will connect into the American Tobacco Trail so this will provide a lot of unique commuting opportunities as well as recreational opportunities," says Bill Bussey of Triangle Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

Sig Hutchinson leads a coalition of Triangle groups that want to add bike lanes to busy roads. They envision a four or five-foot paved shoulder running along Davis Drive, Alexander Drive and Cornwallis Road.

"We think it's absolutely critical to allow these transportation corridors to handle bicycles," Hutchinson says. "We believe we can reduce traffic into RTP by two or three percent."

Scott Sadler lives in Cary and works in RTP. He would ride his bike eight miles to work if he did not have to share the road with cars.

"I'm not willing to risk that, but if there was a dedicated bike lane to be able to go into Cisco, I would," says RTP commuter Scott Sadler. "Some of my friends would not hesitate to do that on a daily basis."

The Davis Drive corridor of bike lanes could be built in the next year. Commuters, who used to sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic on their way to work, could cruise past cars on their bikes.

Supporters hope to add bike lanes to Alexander Drive and Cornwallis Road in the next two or three years. Additional sections of the Rails-to-Trails greenway will open in December and January.