Last Friday, the Town of Chapel Hill sent out their usual weekly update on the Estes Drive project, which is adding bike lanes, sidewalks, crosswalks, and other improvements along Estes Drive, along with wider sidewalks along MLK Blvd., crosswalks at the Estes/MLK intersection, and turn lanes at that intersection.

The update said that the construction is slated to end this month. This month, as in May.

The end is near

We don’t have an exact date yet, but this is really, really positive news. The project, which started in March 2022, was plagued with supply chain issues and utility relocations – and has made it very challenging to get across town and schools along the Estes stretch.

Twenty seven months may not sound like a long time if you live elsewhere in town, but think about the disruptions it caused for those who live nearby: we heard backups were so bad that some Coker Hills residents had to get up 90 minutes early to maintain their daily routine of driving by and flipping the bird at the Aura development.

One housebound neighbor is alleged to have exclaimed at an Estes Hills garden party, “Gee, maybe building suburban neighborhoods that are so disconnected that the closure of one two-lane road renders us all prisoners of a cul-de-sac hellscape was not a great idea. I was so wrong and now I support everywhere to everywhere greenways and generally support Triangle Blog Blog and just gave them a big donation and encourage you all to do the same.”

Estes concept illustration

There are only 25 days remaining in May, and we appreciate the town’s excellent communications over the course of the project – and the fact that June is right around the corner.

We’ve all been getting used to the noise of cicadas lately. But what if the sound is actually something else – something mechanical rather than natural? Like the whirring of new e-bikes being tested out by people gearing up for new bike lanes, new destinations, and new ways of experiencing our little part of the world.

Imagine the joy crossing the face of a Coker Hills resident getting comfortable riding their new bike in loops in their cul-de-sac, and remembering the fun and freedom a bike brought them as a child before life became all about sitting in or avoiding traffic jams. Imagine their pride when they realize they can safely haul a bag of groceries on their bike, or experience the pleasure of riding bikes with a friend to have a glass of wine somewhere on a warm evening. Imagine their laugh when they realize for the first time that they are so confident on the bike that they can hold the handlebars with just one hand, freeing the other to enthusiastically and earnestly flip the bird as they roll past Aura.

Stephen Whitlow contributed to this post. Guess which parts?

A sad 5/11 update: Due to cicadas space storms weather impacts on construction, the opening has been delayed to the first week of June.

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Melody Kramer is a Peabody-award winning journalist whose work has appeared on NPR and member stations around the country, as well as in publications ranging from National Geographic to Esquire Magazine....