Words of wisdom from one of Charlotte’s friendliest cyclists. And featured stories of interest. Submit yours.

In honor of Al P. Gorman

I must admit, I never personally knew Al.  Everyone always saw him riding his bike around Plaza Midwood.  This is a picture from July 4th, 2015 that my daughter took of Al as he rode down The Plaza.  As you can see he was on his way home from Harris Teeter.  He rode his bike everyday.  Just as many of us do.  Slow down, pay attention and put down the phone.  Rest in peace, Al.


Bike Lanes Are A Bust For This Cyclist

by Dave Roberts
There used to be a time when I loved sprinting down East Boulevard aiming to time the lights so that my exodus from Uptown would be quick and have off to much more peaceful riding home. It was a guilty pleasure to shoot past so many cars stuck in stop-and-go traffic. I had a nice wide lane, seldom used, stretching for several miles. I was supposed to be here and it was safe.
The first incident quickly made me realize that people totally forget that bike lanes are there. Just because cars are stopped doesn’t mean the bike lane is jammed too. As I came rolling up to an intersection someone who had grown tired of waiting for traffic to move took an opportunity to pull a hard right into Dilworth. I barely had time to react but I managed to stop and avoided a collision. I’m certain the driver never knew I was there. I carried on.
The second incident affirmed the first and established a theme. A driver pulling left on to East from a side street swung their vehicle very wide and way into the bike lane just as I was approaching the same spot. There was about a foot left for me to use but I managed. The close proximity gave me a chance to smack the truck’s doors hard enough to truly frighten the driver into slamming on the brakes. I carried on — shaking my head.
The third incident established once and for all that riding on East Blvd in the bike lane was pretty risky. It was the Friday before Memorial Day 2014 and traffic was very light due to the holiday. I zoomed through the green light at Scott Avenue picking up a good amount of speed. I noticed a car in front of me slowing down but no turn signal was blinking. I thought, “probably lost or on their phone,” so I backed off a teensy bit. This continued for several blocks and caused other cars to catch up and build-up behind.  After passing Cumberland Avenue the car drifted a little on to the white line of the bike lane — which caught my attention — but still no turn signal. I began to prepare for a much slower descent down the hill because of this driver.
Then it happened… the driver made a hard turn into the Showmars parking, still no signal, and after my attempts to brake without flipping over the bike — all while yelling for the driver to stop —  I slammed into the car and went down. Luckily no part of me — or the bike —  ended up under the vehicle. My head did hit the pavement but the helmet did it’s job well and I buy good gear.
All I could hear was the thudding of my heart in my ears as the driver asked me if I was OK over and over again. He was very shocked and scared but courteous to me as I looked for damage first on myself and then on the bike. I wanted to yell at him but quelled that urge. Anger would not make this accident go away. I escaped without road rash but knew that I had hit the car very hard, bracing against it with my left arm before slamming against the pavement onto my left thigh. Parts of me were a little numb but I could move and there was no blood gushing everywhere. What a relief.
With all the adrenaline pumping I felt OK. I got the driver’s number and assured him and the other bystanders that it was likely I could ride home. But I couldn’t. Once I mounted the bike and tried to put any weight on the left arm the pain made me see stars. I would later learn at the urgent care that I had a radial head fracture. My elbow was broken. I was off the bike for more than 2 months and it took another 2 to rebuild my strength and stamina. I had lost a Summer of riding. What a real bummer.
So… bike lanes don’t really do much for me now. I’m extremely wary when I use them and I don’t feel safe. There are no guarantees that a driver will pay attention to the lane or its occupants. Also, the lanes are constructed in such a way that vehicles aren’t prevented from entering them. To me, this just means that the road is a little wider, there are some markings laid out that folks should notice but the cyclist is never safe. I may as well ride in the road where I can be seen both as a cyclist — and a true obstruction — and not be forgotten about until it’s far too late.

Call for Assistance

I’m sharing this message from Stacy Williams Dugan regarding Bethanie Johnson.
” Bethanie was hit by a car while riding her bike home last night [Thursday]. She is ok, home and resting but needs support. A link has been created to help with meals and assist in any monetary way possible (link in comments)….please share but use this one link so we have a central location. Reach out to me if you’d like to help in another way, too. Thank you! Blessed to have a strong tribe that will surround her now ?”


Here is the link if you are able to help out with meals: SignUpGenius

And here is a fundraising link for Bethanie:

Cross Charlotte Trail (XCLT) on NPR’s “Charlotte Talks” – Tomorrow

Please see the following copy of a Charmeck email for more information on the Cross Charlotte Trail:



Good Afternoon,

You are receiving this e-mail because you either signed up to receive periodic updates about the 26-mile Cross Charlotte Trail or you were one of the approximately 200 people that attended the Cross Charlotte Trail Master Plan meeting on June 30, 2015. The meeting was a tremendous success and we could feel the energy and enthusiasm for the Cross Charlotte Trail (XCLT) throughout the rooms!

Attendees were asked to identify trail preferences such as amenities, where the trail should be built in sections where options exist, and how and where they would travel along the trail. Staff shared how trails improve quality of life through recreation, commuting and connectivity options while encouraging economic development and tourism.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts about the XCLT with us. We asked, “How do you think the XCLT will benefit Charlotte?” Here’s what we heard from you: XCLT video

Want to hear more? Tune in to WFAE onJuly 21, 9 a.m.

On Tuesday, July 21, 2015, Charlotte Talks will dedicate a one-hour episode to the XCLT on at WFAE, 90.7 FM.

Program guests will include:

  • Joe Frey of City of Charlotte Engineering & Property Management, XCLT Project Manager.
  • Jay Higginbotham of Mecklenburg County Asset & Facility Management, Greenway Project Manager.
  • Ty Houck, Director of Greenways for Greenville County, SC, expert on Greenville’s popular and successful Swamp Rabbit Trail.
  • Candace Damon of consultant firm HR&A, expert on economic development potential of urban trails.

The show will air live Tuesday at 9 a.m. and be rebroadcast at 9 pm. It can also be streamed from the station’s web site, WFAE, Charlotte Talks.

Share your thoughts about the XCLT on the interactive trail map below.

You can view and comment on the proposed alignments, add destinations or propose new routes with the interactive trail map. To access the map portal, click on the map below.


Interactive Trail Map

The City of Charlotte is partnering with Mecklenburg County to create a 26-mile trail and greenway facility that will stretch from the City of Pineville, through Center City and on to the UNC Charlotte campus and Cabarrus County line. This trail is being named the Cross Charlotte Trail (XCLT). When completed, residents will be able to travel seamlessly from one end of Charlotte to the other. Approximately 98,000 jobs and 80,000 residents will be within a half mile of the proposed trail, which will connect to many treasured places and major employment centers. 

Intros & Updates

Howdy all,


Quick blog post to provide an introduction, some updates, and news for the coming weeks.  Firstoff, my name is Paul Benton, and I’ll be helping out with the website as Ryan Stachurski readies for his move to the Florida Keys.  Ryan’s work and expertise can be seen all over this site – even more so on the back end – and his help will be missed.


The next housekeeping matter is an update to the structure of the blogs.  In the past, we’ve had separate sections for different authors (Pam’s blog, Bethanie’s blog).  The Blog link at the top of the page should now take you to a chronological listing of all entries – we’ll do our best to remind you throughout the post who is writing, and the author will be tagged at the top of the entry.  We’re hoping this will simplify things a bit, and perhaps open the doors a bit to more contributors and guest bloggers.  If you are interested in helping out with this, drop us a line.


Public Input is sought on pedestrian and bicycle improvements and connections along Independence Blvd (including Monroe Rd).  The meeting is this Tuesday, June 23rd at Ovens Auditorium (map). You can drop in any time between 5 – 7:30pm.  More information here.


Finally, I’d like to ensure that all Charlotte Spokes People are aware of the upcoming Public Meeting for the Cross Charlotte Trail.  In case you’re unfamiliar, the Cross Charlotte Trail will connect 26 miles of trail and greenway facilities from Pineville to UNCC and the Cabarrus County Line.  Through the upcoming meeting, those planning this trail seek information on how the trail will be used and by whom.  I think it is critical that cyclists are represented in all of these public meetings – please make plans to attend.  The meeting is Tuesday, June 30 at the Charmeck Government Center (4th St. & S. Davidson St. uptown).  Drop in any time between 4:30-7:30PM.  Additional bicycle racks will be available in the plaza on the Fourth Street side of the building.  Facebook link (RSVP) here.



One Year Car Free

Last year when Bethanie joined the National Bike Challenge I was lucky she signed up for our team, the Charlotte Spokes People.  She’s a little competitive.  Somewhere along the way of pedaling everyday and racking up lots of miles on her bike, she got the idea to go car free.  Now it’s been over a year.  Here’s a snippet of her blog post with a link below to the entire story.

This is my favorite part:

“You can inspire people with something as small as a bicycle.  It doesn’t take lots of money or even a fancy bike.   Sometimes all it takes is a 1983 Schwinn, which is red, with white highlights.”


Read the rest:  Bethanie’s blog link

Bethanie inspires me everyday.  We can all inspire each other.  Come ride with us.  And be on our Charlotte Spokes People National Bike Challenge team.  Sign up for the Challenge then join our team Natl Bike Challenge team leader board.


As edited by: Anna Benton
Photos: Carl Wilson


A few years ago, I read about the S24O (sub 24 hour overnight bike camping) on the Rivendell Bicycles website.   However, the opportunity to embark on such a trip within the Charlotte area involved some difficult metrics. The closest campground is the McDowell Nature Preserve, a short 18 mile journey; yet the only plausible route involves 10-12 miles on South Tryon. South Tryon is predominantly a four lane highway with a 45 mph limit until it crosses I-485, at which point it transitions to a 55 mph limit.  Equipped with the skills learned in Cycling Savvy, I felt prepared to ride South Tryon all the way out to camp with my seven trusty companions.

Start of our trip

We convened on the little sugar Creek greenway at 3pm on a sunny Saturday. The weather was perfect.  The high was mid 80’s and the low was about 58F.  It was an impressive crew of  bikes to behold as we saddled up alongside the glimmering silver ball that abuts the Charlotte skyscape.   The group consisted of Matt, riding his carbon road bike with full Campy group, with whom we met near Olde Mecklenburg Brewery. Next, was Carl riding his handmade steel frame fully loaded with a tent, stove and provisions. Then Geoff atop camp2a Lemond road bike with his tent and gear in a messenger bag on his back.  Paul rode a Surly Big Dummy cargo bike, pulling a Burley trailer with his 2 year old son behind him, and fully loaded with tent, gear and provisions.  Anna rode her Bruce Gordon touring bike loaded with ortlieb panniers for the family.  I (Pam) was on my Rivendell Betty Foy, equipped with an Eno hammock, bug net and chair in my Green Guru Freerider Pannier and a wicker basket pannier. Amanda was on her Schwinn Varsity (called Rosalita) with panniers loaded with a hammock, home made sleepsack and down comforter.  Our bikes streamed down Charlotte streets in colors of red, black, green and blue.


In spite of our heavy loads, we made great time on the ride out and had mostly nice encounters with motorists, with the exception of a few SC drivers (SC KUD 298?).  Sure, we got an occasional honk but most people politely flowed around us. Also, by taking the lane we certainly increased our field of sight and our visibility to the drivers around us. We all commented on our relative comfort along the route and enjoyed the overall smooth journey.


We stopped around mile 16 at the Publix in Steele Creek, 3 miles away from the camp site.  Everyone picked up something for dinner and we refilled our water bottles. After that it was a quick ride to camp with Carowinds towering tall in the distance and an oasis of trees waiting for us after our journey on the pavement.


camp13 camp12

We set up camp in three large camping sites with a good mix of hammocks and tents. After that, Andrew met us with his Hobie Mirage tandem kayak (pedal driven) and took everyone out on the lake.  It was a beautiful sunset over Lake Wylie followed by a cool evening by the fire.




Great weather, great company and all around a wonderful first S24O camping trip. Come join us next time. Until then, lets get out and ride!



Group Ride Safety Tips for the Uninitiated

Wahoo Turns To Ouch

Original photos by Craig Deal and Michael Hernandez


I was out on this past Tuesday’s PMTNR and I started looking around and noticing a few things.  The first thing I noticed was that there were a whole bunch of new people.  The second thing I noticed was a bit more immediate to the ride; we had two accidents in the first fifteen minutes of riding, which was something I hadn’t really seen before.  Since I was close to both crashes (nobody was injured in the making of these crashes by the way), it was easy to see how they happened.  Too many people bunched in too close proximity, and not familiar with the unwritten rules of group riding that you learn over time.


All that said, here is a list of what I hope are some helpful tips if you are new to group riding.

1.  Know thyself.  Only you know how comfortable you are on a bike.  When on a group ride, people can get squashed together. It’s good to know how much personal space you need.

2:  Increase your sphere of awareness.  Here’s a great rule I learned guiding a raft.  On a group ride, there will be people all around you.  Pay attention to what’s happening.

3.  Stopping and starting.  If during a ride you need to stop for any reason and there are people behind you, let them know.  You can do the slowing/stopping hand signal, or you can yell, “stopping!” loudly enough for the people around you to hear.  This will keep the people behind you from crashing and they will appreciate your consideration.  When starting make sure you have enough space.  If you are a wobbly starter, you need more space…make space for yourself to get going

4.  Passing.  It is so helpful when you are passing someone to yell out, “On the right” or, “On the left” to the person you’re passing, especially if you are trying to squeeze by in a small space.  If the person in front of you doesn’t know you’re coming, they may swerve and you will have caused the accident by not letting someone know you’re there.

5.  Gear.  Wear a helmet and have appropriate lighting.  Check your tires before heading out.

6.  Remember this is a ride, not a race.  There are no trophies at the finish line, and hey, there isn’t a finish line.  This has been a difficult concept for me since I can be just a little competitive.  But a few weeks ago on a ride I heard someone say to a friend, “This is the perfect pace for just relaxing after a hard day.” It really struck me that that was the point of PMTNR, to have a nice relaxing time after work.   It’s important on a group ride to make sure we can all finish safely.  Look out for your fellow riders by not trying to blow them away with your super human speed.  There are other wonderful rides in Charlotte if you want to practice going fast.

7.  Final tip–have fun.  That’s what you came to do!


F.A.Q. 1

  1. Can I come ride PMTNR?  Do I need to register?  Pay?
    Of course you can come ride.  Everyone is welcome to ride with us.  No need to register or pay.  Just show up.
  2. Any other requirements?
    Lights – front and rear, a helmet and a road worthy bike and a positive attitude.  No Debbie Downers, please.
  3. I want to ride but don’t have a light?  Helmet?  Can I borrow one?
    PMTNR 5/12/15 Credit - Kaitlyn Akers

    PMTNR 5/12/15
    Credit – Kaitlyn Akers

    Yes, but let me know a day ahead of time so I can remember to bring it.  Bring $5 as a deposit.  You’ll get your money back when I get the borrowed light or helmet back.

  4. What does “road worthy” mean?
    Have you ridden your bike recently?  Have you pumped up the tires within the last week?  Have you checked your chain?  Do your brakes work?  Ride around the block a few times and make sure everything is ok.
  5. What bike should I bring?  Road?  Mountain Bike?
    Any bike that works if fine.  You’ll see all kinds of bikes.
  6. Do you think I’ll make it?
    If you’re unsure, go ride 10 miles and see how you feel.  Since we stop at 10 miles for a short break this is the most pedaling you’ll be doing.  The return is generally about 5 miles.  If you’re still unsure, bring $2 and put your bike on the bus.  Or look at the route and plan to peel off early.
  7. When will I get home?
    The ride usually tries to return to the start by 10:30.  We usually get to the stop at the 10 mile mark around 9:30.  We allow time for a drink and restroom break then return.  Sometimes this is delayed if we have mechanical issues along the way, if we have a large group, etc.  Look at the route before the ride and plan accordingly.  If you need to leave early, bring a friend so y’all can make sure you both get home.
  8. Why do you leave at 8 pm?
    Most people have a hard enough time getting to the start by 8.  By the time most people get home, let the dog out, and get their bike, it’s about 8.
  9. The forecast looks iffy.  Will you still ride?
    YES!  We NEVER cancel the ride.  If it’s Tuesday at 8 pm, we’re riding.
  10. When did you start the ride?
    April 2013.
  11. Where do I get a Bike Benefits sticker?
    At area participating businesses.  You can look at the Bike Benefits website and look for the sticker icon.  Or just ask me, I always have some.
  12. How much is a Bike Benefits (helmet) sticker?
  13. Does it expire?
  14. Where do I see all the Bike Benefit offers?
    On the pocket list.  Print one off once a month since they change as we add businesses.
  15. Do you have a car?
    Yes, I have a car.  I just don’t like driving as much as I enjoy riding my bike.

+Street Safety in the Here and Now

Guest blog post by: Bethanie Johnson


Yesterday morning pretty much began with the cycling community on facebook posting a photo and news story about a cyclist who was hit on Wendover fairly early in the day.  The first thing cyclists ask whenever there is a bicycle down in Charlotte (and, I imagine, everywhere else), and someone posts a news story, is  this, “Who’s bike is that?”  Cyclists are generally known best for their bikes.  For instance, it is well known among my cycling friends that I don’t ride a “real bike” most of the time.  I’ve got an old trek–a 96 model, blue, single track 930.  When I’m not riding that one—when it’s not rainy, snowy or sleety with slippery roads, I ride an old red and white Schwinn, circa 1983.  I usually sport mismatched panniers from Target.  So yesterday, when someone looked at the photo closely and noticed that the child carrier attached to the bike in the photo was yellow, they asked if it was Marley’s bike and I said, “No, Marley’s Peugot is red and white.”  Someone mentioned that the child carrier looked a lot like one that’s been at the Tuesday Night Ride recently, and my friend Pamela confirmed that it did belong to that person.  Anna is her name.  She’s a wife and mom and this year she decided to go car free.  I remember this because we talked about it at the grand opening of a local bike shop called The Spoke Easy a few months ago.  I’d never met her before that but we sat and talked about what it was like not to drive.   She asked me questions about how I managed and we talked until the ride was leaving.  What I liked about her was what a down to earth and sweet person she is.  No facade, just real.

Yesterday she got hit by a driver who ran a red light.  She was stopped and waiting for her turn to go, and the motorist ran a red light and drove into her.  We found out later that there weren’t any serious injuries.  Her child who was in the carrier at the time was fine.  Ana has a broken nose and some scratches.  I was frustrated.  I was frustrated because once again, no immediate charges were filed, and because I feel very often cars don’t see us, and even more often aren’t paying attention to the road.  Later when Pamela Murray looked at the comments section of one of the articles that was posted about the story, she noticed a deluge of negative comments about cyclists.  Here, a cyclist following traffic rules who was hit by a motorist breaking the law, was being criticized online for what? For the act of riding a bike?

Yesterday Anna was fine, and I breathed a sigh of relief for her and for her child–and for her husband.  She was also not at fault, since the driver ran a red light at an extremely precarious intersection.  But every time I see a cyclist down around Charlotte, I know that it really could happen to any of us.  I know this because I rode all summer.  I know this because as I ride I often pass drivers who are distracted.  Or drivers who are distracted pass me–often too closely.  When I ride my bike I have all my antennas on high alert.  Sometimes I give lights an extra few seconds to judge the next move of any car that’s close enough to hit me. When I ride downtown in the right lane, which doubles as parking in Charlotte, I watch each car I pass for “what if” scenarios…what if that car pulls out…what if someone opens a door?  Any time I post online about riding at night or near misses or a friend who gets hurt, I’m told to “be careful.”  I have to say, I don’t think I could possibly be any more careful than I general am.  I now know a whole lot of cyclists, and I don’t know of even one who has a death wish.  We like life and the living of it.  It’s probably the reason we are mostly so passionate about riding bikes.

To be honest, I do a lot of my riding on the greenway.  When I commute to work, at least half of my ride is there.  I’d rather not ride in rush hour traffic.  I am lucky in this since the greenway starts at the bottom of my street and literally ends at my school.  I hardly ever have to deal with cars during the school year.  I can really do a lot that I need to do from the greenway since I’m close to it and most of the shopping I need to do is conveniently located close to it as well.  It’s a terrific situation for me as a car free mom most of the time.  But everyone can’t ride the greenway all the time, because the greenway doesn’t go everywhere.  Also on nice days it can quickly become congested with pedestrians and thus dangerous for cycle commuters trying to get from point A to point B.  On rainy days it very often floods, so then an alternate route is necessary and as I discovered this winter, on snowy/icey days it can stay covered in snow and sheets of ice for several days longer than main roads.

In the summer I have a longer commute that isn’t on the greenway, it’s a 26 mile round trip of a combination of greenway, bike lane and riding on the rode.  I rode that trip every day I worked this summer without incident.  But again, I’m careful. Like Anna and myself, and of course Pamela Murray, if you are a mom, you are careful.  I have a kid and I would love to hang around and see what happens to her, so I’m as safe as can be, and that’s how I know that Anna was being safe as well, outside of the news report.  She was towing her child and she was following the rules, because if you are a Mom, that’s what you do.

This year of biking I’ve met so many people who are car free and what we have in common is that we will always try and find the safest routes to and from where we are going.  Greenways, neighborhood streets, quiet roads.

But sometimes, as Anna did yesterday, we have to get on a busy street.  She was going to Home Depot.  She was riding with another mom (safety in numbers) who was towing another child.  She was following traffic rules. And inspite of negative comments, she has the right to do that.  In North Carolina, bicycles are legally defined as vehicles.  That’s from the NCDOT website, and I just looked it up yesterday because I wanted to make sure I was not misunderstanding.  As vehicles, cyclists are asked to follow all traffic laws, wear helmets, and have a front and back light mounted for night riding.  They are asked to make their turns clear by signaling.  Those are the rules.  Many of our advocates now fully support what is called “control and release” because that’s the best way to be seen on the street.  Much of the time drivers aren’t paying attention to the roadside, or if they are, they are not sure how much room they should leave us when passing (3 full feet of passing room is the rule of thumb and the law in many states, but not ours–because we are designated as vehicles in NC and can take the whole lane if we choose to do that).  I’ve learned to become comfortable with getting out into the lane myself, even though it goes against my personal philosophy of not taking up too much space and not being a bother to people.  I became very comfortable with it earlier this winter when, twice in the same week two different drivers made illegal left turns right into me when I had the right of way.  I want to be seen by traffic, and in being seen, safe.

I was so upset yesterday when I heard that it was Anna who was down in South Charlotte, and so relieved to know she wasn’t hurt.  One of my fellow riders commented on the strong community we’ve developed, and how amazing it is to be part of cycling in Charlotte where our community cares what happens to us and will reach out and help.  It’s so true, and I’m grateful for that every day. But yesterday’s accident made me think hard about the rules of cycling, about riding on roads with cars (in an accident the car is going to win), about being present and paying attention.  I believe what’s at the heart of our problem is the here and now and our increasing inability to be present in the moment.  One of the reasons I love to bike is that it sets you down right in this moment right here and makes you be right here and right now.  It’s nearly impossible to talk on the phone while riding a bike.  It’s also unlikely that you can text friends or check messages.  That would be dumb.  As a person in the moment on a bicycle, I am paying attention.  As a cyclist, I continue to believe that the rush, the need to be two steps ahead of ourselves, and the need to be part of an electronic web of everything at all times keeping us from doing our best to keep ourselves, and one another, safe.

I am so thankful that my new friend Anna is safe and well this evening.  I would so like the future of cycling to be one where we are accepted as the vehicles we already have the legal right to be, and that both motorists and cyclists can do our best to be present in the here and now and thus keep the roads safe for all of us.