Letter writer: Blue Ridge Parkway has become commuter shortcut

Graphic by Lori Deaton

The Blue Ridge Parkway was constructed to “provide opportunities for high-quality scenic and recreational experiences,” for motor vehicles, hikers and cyclists. Nowhere in its original mission will one find “as commuter highway” or “shortcut to subdivision housing.”

Knowing this, one might be surprised to see its narrow path clogged with morning and afternoon commuters in Asheville, using it not for its scenic or recreational qualities, but as just another highway. The parkway has become the de facto connector in South Asheville for those traveling east to west, and one can’t exactly blame commuters for doing so.

As a result of this, the southern stretch of the parkway has become a congested and dangerous place for anyone wanting to bicycle or hike. Vehicles disregard speed limits, blasting along in a hurry to get home.

I was bicycling this portion of the parkway recently, taking advantage of a beautiful day. Sadly, I spent most of my time pulling off the road so cars could pass, some of them blasting fumes at me or yelling to get off the *&@# road. Since there is no shoulder, there’s nowhere to go.

So, who’s the problem here? Me on my bicycle enjoying the parkway’s mission or commuters who just want to go somewhere fast?

I would love it if there were a bike path on the side, so I could just enjoy my ride and be out of the way of traffic. I don’t foresee that happening, so maybe the parkway needs to return to its mission and simply restrict its use for commuting?

We don’t allow bicycles on interstates; why do we allow commuters on scenic roadways? Why should my tax dollar subsidize the development of ill-planned subdivisions and sprawl? How about the parkway just be closed to commuters during rush hour, so those who want to enjoy it can?

— John C. Tripp

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36 thoughts on “Letter writer: Blue Ridge Parkway has become commuter shortcut

  1. John

    People in cars have just as much right to the parkway as you have on your bike. Maybe they enjoy the scenic parkway on their way home from work. If you don’t want to share the road with cars, you should consider another location to ride your bike. The cars certainly aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

  2. YouKnow

    Sorry, but cars have the right to be on the parkway as much as you do. It is a very popular roadway, one of the most popular in the US, what do you expect?

      • Parkway Rider

        I appreciate the link to the Parkway rules about bikes, but nowhere in there does it say that “vehicles have the right of way” or “all cyclists must yield to vehicles”.

        • Parkway Driver

          You’re wanting quotes… “When cycling in a group, adjust your spacing to allow motor vehicles to pass safely.” <- That means vehicles have the right of way because you cannot maintain the speed of a vehicle. Also the page says that you must adhere to all "Motor Vehicle" rules and regulations. Let me reiterate that one part "MOTOR". So yes, while the quotes you kindly pointed out were my opinion, the parks department seems to feel the same way.

  3. Jason

    I agree with everyone else; unless you’re in a commercial vehicle; you can drive it to and from wherever; for whatever reason…
    This article is a waste of space/time.

    • Jason

      I’ll chime in and agree with the author. It’s not a matter of law, it’s a matter of respect and decency to all travelers. I drive cars, motorcycles and ride bikes, all on the parkway. The parkway was built for cars to enjoy it. Take advantage of it and enjoy it, even on your daily commute. But the next time you use it as a shortcut, think for a moment about honoring the tranquility that those of us who ride bikes seek. There are few safe spaces for us to ride, and even fewer that gorgeous. Legislation is not the answer to this problem. Empathy and decency are. Motorists and cyclists- be mindful of your choices and respect space.

      Ps- tires blow, potholes happen, swerving is inevitable. Please give cyclists plenty of room. We feel closer than you might think.

      • mynameis

        What’s funny is these motorists who talk about now using the Parkway for their commuting shortcut (apparently to piss off cyclists) don’t even think of the effect they might be having on the drivers who are on the Parkway for its recreational purposes. It’s not indignation they’re showing, it’s selfishness and self-righteousness.

  4. Jason

    I’ve already thought about it; and I’m going to use it as a shortcut from brevard road to east Asheville every time

  5. Lulz

    LOL, it used to be 45 MPH until all the congestion forced it to go 35 MPH. And I’m pretty sure a big part of it is because of cyclist clogging up the road lulz.

    • Scotty_Mack

      Oh yeah, sure. Roads weren’t even invented until 1905 with the advent of Ford’s Model T. Before that everyone just crashed through underbrush everywhere they went.

      What is it about cars that turns normally decent people into competitive, impatient, selfish jerks? This thread is an excellent example.

      • mynameis

        Only about 2 meters of space between them and the next person, At which point it becomes “I don’t care if they live or die”.

        Pretty much is true for driving, and for the Internet.

  6. Leepa

    Commuting on the Parkway is nothing new. I did it when I lived out south 35 years ago. The big difference between then and now is there were no cyclists on the Parkway then…or very few.

  7. The letter writer only points out the obvious, that cars rule this town. If you get around any other way, watch out! The smug self-entitlement of car drivers as evidenced by these letters is no surprise. Car drivers think of anything in their path as a nuisance and have an absolute disdain for bicyclists, pedestrians, scooters or slower moving vehicles. And probably squirrels. In their minds, they think the road way is just for them and that speeding along the Parkway is their God given right. They live in the culture that author James Kunstler calls “happy motoring”. A culture that has destroyed farm land, given rise to endless banal sprawl, and turned much of America into a land of strip malls and obese people driving from one place to the other, never stepping outside of their mind numbing bubble. So, the idea of sharing the road way or considering others is an assault on their way of life. They literally hate cyclists, just as they hate anything out side of their narrow perspective. That cyclists can’t just enjoy their ride without being run off the road is symbiotic of much bigger problem in this country. We are no longer a civil society, we are a culture of hatred and division. And loneliness. I feel sorry for anyone who’s never enjoyed the Parkway on a bicycle, or hiked a trail along side it. Maybe if more people stepped away from their cars and took the time to enjoy the Parkway’s beauty, the idea of keeping its beauty intact would be widely supported.

    • Lulz

      LOL, let me guess., you’re referring to white men lulz. Here, let me shed a tear for the division that people like you hoist upon others LOL.

    • Big Al

      “.. smug self-entitlement of car drivers..”

      Talk about pots calling kettles black.

    • Jason

      Why don’t u just move back to Japan! I’m an avid cyclist; and avoid the parkway! There are no sidewalks; and its dangerously curvy. Cyclists put themselves at risk….. It’s not the “entitled” Floridian cutthroat driver who’s at fault

    • Scotty_Mack

      Preach it, brother Chaz!

      Cars are the engine of capitalism. I can’t wait till they’re gone.

  8. AshevilleBill

    “Return to it’s mission”? It’s mission was to provide automobile access to and through the Blue Ridge and jobs building it. It was not designed to accommodate either bicycle or pedestrian traffic. I’m no fan of our society’s addiction to cars but that is exactly what the parkway was built to service. It has not become a commuter’s route, it has not had it’s on and off ramp locations changed since it was built. ALL roads in and around Asheville are a lot more congested. When you double a city’s population in 30 years that’s what you get. Throw the push for tourism on top of that and all bets are off. The simple truth is that if you desire a safe and leisurely peddle along the parkway the answer is a simple “No you may not have that.” It’s nothing that should cause anger and name calling. Surely you’ve heard that word before. If you can’t live with being told no then get together with other cyclists and build a bicycle parkway for that purpose.

    • Cars come first, as I wrote. So much for any other form of recreation or transportation. Guess I’ll just get the Hummer out next time I want to enjoy nature.

  9. Even commuting is far less wasteful than the automotive sightseeing for which the parkway was built. Those sections that do not get used for commuting should be allowed to crumble so that desperately needed housing can be built in the viewsheds.

  10. Bicycles should be allowed on interstates, which have ample paved shoulders for bicycle safety, unlike the Parkway. My grandfather used them extensively and got in trouble repeatedly for doing so,

    • Yared Sharot

      And have an 18-wheeler breeze by at 75 mph, knocking you clear off your bike. Um, no, there are reasons for why bicycles are not allowed on the interstate.

      • 75 is illegal and 18 wheelers are over 10 feet away from a full lane paves shoulder. They don’t knock anyone at that distance unless they are criminals. There is no reason to prohibit bikes from superhighways with full paved shoulders.

  11. Commuther

    I am a commuter on the Parkway, the 15 minutes I get for a break in the day on the way home is the only vacation I get and I’m taking it on the BRP instead of ugly Hendo road

    • That’s understandable. The real failure is with road planners and developers who have created the ugly landscape of suburban sprawl.

  12. Winyan

    What I find disturbing is the attitude of bicyclists riding those roadie framed models , well, most of them. And the author of this opinion kinda proves the point. They know they are on this road with cars – they know the roadway is filled with curves, inclines, and blind spots, yet many of them take their “share” of the road farther from the shoulder than needed. It’s almost an act of defiance – self-entitlement – giving no regard for the cars that come up behind them, or those passing in the opposite lane. We horrible drivers, because we’d rather not add vehicular homicide to our list of life’s events, slow down, sometimes to a crawl and wait for our opportunity to pass them by crossing over the divider line hoping that we aren’t about to play chicken with oncoming traffic. We also risk being rear-ended causing a chain reaction pileup. This not being the case, or I haven’t hear of it happening, you have to give drivers props. In any case, these road bikers not only put themselves in harms way, they also risk drivers and their passengers. Locals and terrorist, I mean tourists alike travel the Parkway, so blaming locals who use this route to avoid the insanity on Hendersonville Rd or I-40 is not an accurate assumption, unfair, and more than slightly pompous. My husband and I ride mountain bikes -we choose to go off road with our recreational peddling or we go to Carrier Park, ride the track or share the paved lanes with the walkers and canines. What we found riding the track at Carrier, with our clunky mountain bikes, is there are a lot of pompous and self-entitled roadies there as well. For whatever reason, as they are traveling in their racing packs, they act like that track is theirs and we were more than once the object of their fowl language and rude actions. Maybe because they are so into their “sport” that they feel we are not serious bikers because our tires are phat-er than theirs or somehow we don’t respect their dedication or whatever…. they are still rude and highly unpleasant humans. Again, this author seems to prove what I perceive them to be. In an ideal world there would be dedicated bike lanes along all roads and just maybe their dedication to the sport would or should motivate them to work toward what is obviously what they want in the first place; to ride unimpeded and un-bothered by those of us who drive cars and ride our phat bikes. If you have a problem, want it fixed, and all you are doing is bitching, then you bring nothing to the table but useless drama.

    • Parkway Driver

      Great response. I too was once a bike rider in my teens and early 20s. I road highways and secondary streets in Charlotte, NC (often 20 miles or more per ride) and while we did ride in the road, if it was unsafe, we gladly took our bikes on the grass or dirt and when there was none, we road single file on the white line constantly looking back and waving to vehicles when it was safe to pass us. Whether 10 speed, mountain bike, dirt bike or freestyle, whatever we rode, we always respected the vehicles on that road and would get off and walk if need be. I agree about the attitudes, and the more gear they buy (spandex, fancy helmets, gloves, special shoes, etc) the more pompous they become. From the Parkway to Paris Mtn in Greenville, blind curves are no place for a bike rider, yet, we still tolerate them. Many props to you for taking your ride off the road and onto bike paths and trails.

    • When I rode my bike, and later my 20 mph moped which was hardly any faster, I kept right as far as possible and considered it unwise and inconsiderate to do otherwise even though it is my right. That said, drivers should buy cars that can cruise efficiently behind bikes without wasting fuel, and they should leave home early enough to do so in case it is necessary. My favorite moped road is 25/70 between Weaverville and Marshall, which is almost a superhighway but I found the wide shoulder more than compensates for the fast traffic, which is why I’m sure bikes on superhighways would work just fine. The worst road was 63 because it has the traffic without the shoulder. My 1 liter, 3 cylinder car is good at cruising behind bicycles in addition to being narrow enough to squeeze past them. Though my beloved old ’78 Datsun F-10 was even narrower.

      • The new Daewoo built Chevy Spark might be narrow enough to squeeze by a bicycle, and the 3 cyl diesel version they make in India might also be able to cruise efficiently behind a bicycle as well. Too bad they don’t import that engine because it lacks emission controls. They make some in Hanoi though so owners could be Hanoi Jane’s. I’m not sure the emission regs treat small engines fairly it they limit parts per million and the small engine produces fewer millions than something like a Cummins 7.3L. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chevrolet_Spark

  13. Held off posting a reply because, hell, who cares what I think? Weighing in finally: I work near Biltmore Village, and I’ve started using the Parkway whenever I need to get to Hendersonville Road from 74A/Charlotte Highway near Fairview. I previously would get up on I40 and make the short hop either to Sweeten Creek and then navigate through the Village onto Hendersonville Road, or get off on the next exit that puts you heading south on it. But have you SEEN the traffic in the Village and heading out Hendersonville Road lately? !? It’s positively nuts, folks. What should take, in reasonable traffic, no more than about 5 mins to get from the edge of the Village to, say, the light at Huddle House, has sometimes taken 20+ minutes. And not necessarily just at rush hour. Try it during the middle of the day and you’ll see what I mean as you sit through multiple (and long) traffic light cycles. So yeah, the Parkway route is my new best friend. Most likely the same for anyone trying to get from east AVL to south AVL. I don’t go over the speed limit, I don’t flick butts out the window, and I don’t honk my horn at bike riders. I just do what I have to do in order to stay sane and get from point A to point B within an acceptable amount of time. I don’t know if the whole traffic congestion thing in AVL is an instance of “be careful what you wish for” (tourism, new business and industry, expansion to the south, etc.) coming to fruition, but the bottom line is that everyone is complicit in making this mess because you made the choice – like I did – to live here.

  14. The Parkway commuter route saves clutches and brakes even when it doesn’t save time because it’s speed is more constant even when it is slower, so I have actually made time to use it for the sake of my car. commuting is the parkways most legitimate purpose since leisure motoring is a total waste of gasoline and the viewshed also causes homelessness. The commuter sections are the ONLY portions of the parkway that should continue to be maintained.
    Commuting is caused primarily by zoning and will be necessary until Asheville repeals the UDO. Bikes should not purposely block cars more than necessary because doing so wastes gas, and wasting gas defeats a major purpose of riding a bike in the first place; though blocking cars wastes far less gas than maintaining sections of road entirely for leisure motoring,

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