There are many important things a city can do to gain our consideration for this list: segregated bike lanes, municipal bike racks and bike boulevards, to name a few. If you have those things in your town, cyclists probably have the ear of the local government—another key factor. To make our Top 50, a city must also support a vibrant and diverse bike culture, and it must have smart, savvy bike shops.
Above is the first paragraph from the Bicycling article of the 50 best cities for biking. I’m sure you’ve seen the article. I take issue with the criteria and results. Charlotte is a great place to ride your bike. We may not have segregated bike lanes or bike boulevards but we do have buses and light rail trains equipped with bike racks. We have the support of the city transportation department through the installation of bike detection signals at many intersections so bike can trigger the traffic signal and safely cross. We have many municipal bike racks and building codes that require new buildings to provide both covered and uncovered bike parking. Light rail park and ride stations have bike lockers where you can store your bike in a covered locker to secure your bike and all accessories. Some buildings even provide bike lockers. Bike culture in Charlotte is growing and diverse. Not only does Charlotte have a variety of charity and race events such as 24 Hours of Booty and the Novant Criterium, we have great mountain biking, cross, and track events on local area trails, such as the Whitewater Center and the Rock Hill velodrome. We have great local bike shops of all kinds. We have a thriving Bike Benefits program that is the largest program in the country. We have 190 businesses who support cyclists riding to their business by thanking them with an economic incentive. We have bicycle events year round. We have a great resource of Trips for Kids / The Recyclery that provides low income children a mountain bike experience they wouldn’t have otherwise. TFK also has an earn a bike program and a shop that trains volunteers to work on bikes. What a great community resource! While some Charlotteans are intimidated by changes in temperature and thus do not bike year round, Charlotte does have a temperate climate that enables one to bike all year. I have biked year round for years. I sometimes think the temperate climate decreases people’s likelihood to bike year round because small changes in temperature or weather seem to throw us. But in places like Chicago, NYC or Madison where people are cooped up all winter, they burst outside to bike as soon as the daytime temperature hits 50 degrees or so. It’s also similar in places like Seattle or Portland when it’s sunny. Any time there’s a positive break in weather, people get outside. I feel we in Charlotte often take for granted our pleasant climate.
Charlotte also has a thriving bike sharing system that has been a big hit. We have a great tree canopy and a beautifully lush landscape. Riding under the shade of the trees down streets full of unique homes is a daily treat in our hometown. Neighborhoods are filled with beaming homeowners who take great pride in their homes. Charlotte is a nice and clean city. Cycling it is fairly straightforward. For instance, while arterial roads do have to be used in some instances where creeks, rail road and utility rights of way cut through or where cul de sac neighborhoods were once built, most neighborhoods are connected. We don’t have miles of bike lanes because they aren’t necessary. Most of the streets are bike friendly. I have a dislike for badly built bike lanes anyway even though that is part of the criteria for being rated in best cycling cities (See blog post). My opinion on this is based on my riding experience with over 29,000 miles ridden in my career as a cyclist, as opposed to city planners who don’t usually ride bikes, but still make decisions for those of us who do.
Charlotte also has several signed bike routes to help you get from one part of town to another. There is a growing multiuse path trail that will cross 30 miles through town when connected. Many sections are complete and well-used. In much of the city, it is possible to use your bicycle as your primary mode of transportation. I live in Plaza Midwood and I can use my bike for everything. Some of the younger people moving into town often choose to cycle exclusively, never owning a car in the first place. I believe cycling is part of the future of Charlotte.
Through PMTNR we’re trying to help people get back on a bike, support local Bike Benefit businesses and share routes with them all while building road riding confidence. Most people will ride on the greenway or around their neighborhood but wouldn’t otherwise be riding around on a Tuesday night. Our Tuesday group averages about 100 people each week during all but the coldest part of the year. Our stop almost always includes a bicycle benefits business. This helps to familiarize new riders with all the places their bikes can take them in Charlotte. It’s the highlight of my week. It’s great to see so many smiling faces each week with flashing lights for blocks and blocks just riding around. Come ride with us!
PMTNR is quite a thing now. I bet there'll be fewer fair-weather riders in Charlotte in the future.
You'd be surprised how many people ride year-round in Chicago. Fat bikes, studded tires, plowed bike lanes all make it possible.
PMTNR rode all last year. We never cancel the ride. And I know plenty of people that ride year round here. Hope to see you out there.