By Blake Robinett
Over the last several months, Chapel Hill residents have witnessed a change in the infrastructure of the town. The expansion to Weaver Dairy Road has been very noticeable recently, so the ECHO investigated the need for the expansion. The increasing numbers of students who ride mopeds to school, as well as a bad bike crash on Weaver Dairy, both raise awareness of the importance of the planned expansion.
On Sept. 2, 2010, freshman Grant Molnar was biking down Weaver Dairy Road towards his house when he was involved in a bike crash near the entrance of Silver Creek.
“My whole face was roughed against the sidewalk,” Molnar said. “But there were no broken bones.”
He did, however, sustain a serious concussion, and even now, a month after the accident, he still follows a half day schedule and can’t remember any of his accident.
“From how I was laying, it’s likely that I braked sharply and flipped over the handle bars,” Molnar said. “It’s possible that a car came out of the road [in front of me] and wasn’t visible until it was right in front of me”.
In past years, mopeds have remained a small presence by the bike rack, but this year they seem to overflow onto the sidewalk. More students are driving mopeds to school, which puts more students at risk of being in dangerous moped crashes.
To operate a moped in North Carolina, a person must be age 16 or older and must wear a helmet while operating the vehicle. A driver’s license is not required and there are not rules about being registered or inspected regularly.
This presents the possibility that less experienced drivers will get mopeds in lieu of getting their license and a car, and the presence of less experienced drivers on the road in small vehicles that do badly in crashes seems like an awfully risky idea.
Officer Rex Gibson noticed an increase in the number of students riding mopeds to school.
“I think [students] get them for lower gas prices for sure, and because they aren’t required to have a license,” Gibson said.
Gibson, a motorcycle rider himself, believes it is risky that the only safety gear that is required to drive a moped is a helmet.
“[When you ride a motorcycle, you also want a] jacket and gloves because if you take a spill you want to be protected,” said Officer Gibson.
He added that Chapel Hill and Carrboro are safer than most towns for cyclists and moped riders though, because most people are more used to them.
Senior Eleanor Bellamy said that she doesn’t think driving a moped is dangerous, except in certain situations.
“Most of the time, people are passing you, which can get a little scary” Bellamy said.“My moped gets so many miles per gallon, and it’s cheaper than a car,” said Bellamy about why she bought it.
With the increase in moped drivers comes an increase in dangerous moped driving, such as the weaving between cars and driving off the road that occurs during East’s morning traffic jam on Weaver Dairy.
“If you see that kind of dangerous and reckless driving, it’s just a matter of time before you see more police and enforcement action,” said Officer Gibson.
Part of the problem that is the morning traffic jam is Weaver Dairy road, but the expansion should help to alleviate the lines of cars outside the school.
“The expansion is long overdue,” Gibson said. “Having one lane to turn left is a hazard, and the expansion will help with that”.
But he also had gripes with the expansion.“While they’re rerouting the road and it’s going to be a headache. It will compound the morning traffic while the expansion is happening,” Gibson said.
Most East students could expound on another annoyance of the expansion. Many trees are being cut down, which is an eyesore and bad for the enviornment, but the expansion is necessary, so it will continue.