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Petition to undo Merrimon Avenue ‘road diet’ changes (signed by 30 business-owners) presented to council
Thursday, 25 May 2023 21:45

From Staff Reports

A petition seeking to reverse a “road diet” on Merrimon Avenue, signed by 30 distressed Merrimon business-owners, was presented to Asheville City Council on May 10.

The petition was presented by Rusty Olson, the owner of Jeremiah’s Italian Ice, who is one of the business-owners impacted by the narrowing of Merrimon from four lanes to two lanes, with a middle turning lane and flanked on both sides by bicycle lanes.

The petition, which asks council to take Merrimon back to its original configuration, stated that many businesses on Merrimon are suffering since the road diet was implemented. 

To that end, Olson said many people are concerned about the safety and the economic impacts of the road diet.

The petition also asked for the city to provide data on a multitude of concerns, including:

• Traffic counts on Merrimon, pre and post reconfiguration

• Traffic counts on major intersecting arteries

• Vehicle accident counts — types and severity

• Cyclist and pedestrian accident counts — types and severity

• Vehicle speeds traveled pre- and post-reconfiguration

• First responder response times pre- and post-reconfiguration

“Olson said there was never a district survey for neighborhoods or businesses to see if they wanted the road diet to happen,” Asheville television station WLOS (News 13) reported on May 10.

“Yes, Merrimon may be safer for pedestrians, but there are other methods to slow traffic without sacrificing two full lanes on a U.S. highway,” Olson was quoted as saying by News 13.

Also interviewed by News 13 was Rye Knot owner Bob Byron, who said he “takes back roads to work every day just to avoid being on Merrimon.”

“I was totally against it when it was proposed, and I shook my head when it was decided to happen,” he was quoted as saying by News 13. “And now I avoid Merrimon at all costs.”

The TV station also reported that “Byron said the changes to Merrimon have hurt his business, and he’s sure it has cost other businesses, too.”

In the interview, Byron add, “I have to think if there’s people like me who will avoid Merrimon just because of the way it’s set up and they won’t be a walk-in because they didn’t see it driving by.”

To that end, News 13 added, “Byron said he didn’t know of anyone in favor of the road diet. If anything the road should have been widened instead of taking away two lanes of traffic,” he told News 13.

Also interviewed by the TV station was Wild Birds Unlimited owner Casey First, who agreed with the petition, saying the road diet has definitely impacted his business.

News 13 noted that “First said many people don’t want to deal with the constant congestion of Merrimon Avenue.”

First was quoted by News 13 as saying, “It just gets so congested, you know. We’re running up and down here all throughout the day going to the bank and running errands, and it slows things down.”

Further, News 13 reported, “Byron and First said they don’t see anything different when it comes to bicyclists. They have not seen an increase in people using the bike lanes, which was a big part of what the road diet was intended to do.”

Byron was quoted as saying, “I read that it was for the bikers. I don’t see any more bikers on Merrimon Avenue.”

News 13 concluded its story on the Merrimon “road diet” undo request by noting that the petition signers “hope City Council members will listen to what those who live and work on Merrimon Avenue are saying and consider reversing the corridor back to how it originally was.”










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