We live in north Carrboro, about a mile from our kids’ schools. And while I’m sure both of them wish we dropped them off in the car lanes more often than we do (anything for some extra screen time), we really have no excuse.

That’s because our neighborhood (and several of the neighborhoods around us) benefits directly from Phase 1b of the Bolin Creek Greenway Conceptual Master Plan. The forethought and planning from that 2009 project plan, which informed land acquisition, partnerships, renovations, and new construction along the creek, means that we really don’t need a car in order to get to school. My kids can walk or bike along a paved pedestrian path directly to their schools without having to cross a single dangerous road.

We adore our greenway. It’s a steady, smooth stroll through the woods, along Bolin Creek, past the ruins of an old farm bridge. It snakes under Homestead Road, then up and over the creek across a truss bridge.

We adore our greenway

Unfortunately, a few weeks back, a storm came through and knocked a tree onto that bridge. And for the past few weeks, our greenway was blocked.

Last Monday, before the shooting on UNC campus and subsequent lockdowns of schools all across town, my daughter prepared for her first day as a middle schooler at Smith. She was visibly anxious.

“Which way should we go?” she asked us, nervously tying up her brand new Converse All-Stars. “The bridge is blocked. Do I have to cross the big road?”

That “big road” is Homestead. And, yeah, unfortunately, we do have to cross it now. We’re so used to walking or biking along the greenway, we’ve only had to cross Homestead a handful of times in her lifetime.

I told her that I’d walk with her. Even though she was walking with a friend and probably didn’t want her dad to cramp their style, she seemed relieved. Even more so when I told them that I’d walk far ahead of them.

Walking the main roads was a lot less enjoyable. Homestead is a main thoroughfare between rural Orange County and the towns. Car after car blared by, their drivers seemingly unable to recognize the decrease in the road’s speed limit.

Currently, only Chapel Hill High School provides any sort of crossing guard service for its students. Middle schoolers are on their own. And while the signalized intersection at Homestead and High School is better than nothing, it just can’t compare to the greenway.

Later, on my way home (after wishing the girls a happy first day and surreptitiously snapping a commemorative photo of the occasion), drivers performed dangerous and illegal maneuvers to bypass the vehicles queuing up to turn into the kiss-and-go. Traffic was backed up on Homestead as far as I could see. Drivers struggled to turn left from Winmore into the gridlock.

It’s so important to build infrastructure that encourages walking and biking to school

All of this reminded me why, even when the greenway is closed off, we walk. And why it’s so important to build infrastructure that encourages walking and biking as an alternative to driving.

Our lives have been measurably improved in so many ways by Phase 1b of the Bolin Creek Greenway. The daily commute to school for our kids is better for it.

Last year, when dealing with the school bus crisis, our neighborhood organized a walking bus for kids and didn’t have to worry about crossing a busy road. We can avoid the exhaust, the traffic, the noise of Homestead, and feel safe as we make our way around. Our cars stay off the road, we burn less fuel, and we get exercise and a boost to our mental health.

They fixed the bridge!

Today, Carrboro Public Works announced that they completed the temporary support for the bridge that was damaged by the fallen tree. That’s crazy fast, and we are impressed and grateful.

We’re so lucky we can take the greenway to school again, and we look forward to a time where more neighborhoods in town get the same benefits from the creekside expansion of the Bolin Creek Greenway.

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Michael Harrison lives in Carrboro. He currently works as a software engineer, serves on his neighborhood HOA, and has written for Wired and GeekDad. He's more than happy to nerd out about dozens of topics...