In May we ran a story in CharlotteFive titled “Five strikes against Charlotte as a bike city.” It got a lot of attention and feedback, specifically from Jeff Viscount, “The Mayor of Biketown” and owner of WeeklyRides.com.
Viscount didn’t think anything in the article was necessarily wrong, but he wanted to get more specific. I met with him to talk more about it.
According to Viscount, here are the four things the city needs to improve on to become a better bike city.
(1) Better bike traffic counts.
This sounds simple, but getting an accurate count of how many people ride bikes is important for the city.
The League of American Bicyclists rates Charlotte as a bronze city. One thing keeping the city from a silver rating is the need for more rigorous bike counts, as pointed out in this November PlanCharlotte article.
How do you do that? There are electronic and video options, but the most basic way is to strategically deploy volunteers to street corners with a clipboard to count passing bikers.
(2) Better advocacy.
In this area the city seems to be making progress.
In May, the Knight Foundation Cycling Fund awarded Sustain Charlotte a $204,000 grant to “develop and promote bicycling events and programs in the Charlotte area,” according to an Observer article.
— Sustain Charlotte (@Sustain_CLT) May 12, 2015
What could an advocate like that do? Organize a bike count, for one. But he/she could also be involved with bike education programs and be a voice for the cycling community about any local and state laws that affect the community.
“A full-time staff person to focus on cycling specific issues and to help connect people and ideas within the cycling community is long overdue for a city our size,” Viscount said.
(3) Better infrastructure.
Charlotte’s bike infrastructure has come a long way, Viscount said, but it could still be better. That infrastructure includes bike lanes, bike paths and bike parking.
One project he’s excited about: The 26-mile Cross Charlotte Trail that’s in the works.
“That’s going to have huge economic impact on the city,” he said. “It’s going to allow people to move over such a large area.”
— CharlotteFive (@Charlotte_Five) July 4, 2015
(4) Better connectivity
This is related to infrastructure, but slightly different. Viscount said the city overlooked pedestrians and cyclists for years when it came to city planning.
Improved connectivity between neighborhoods allows cyclists to commute easily without using main roads, keeping drivers and cyclists safer.
Roads like Independence Boulevard and I-277 — Viscount calls it “The Great Bike Barrier” — aren’t easy to cross and cut off neighborhoods.
The exception with 277: South Tryon’s bridge over the interstate between South End and uptown. It’s wide and has bike lanes, making it easy to ride with traffic. More options like that would help.
If you live in southeast Charlotte like I do, your options for bike commuting uptown are Randolph (nope), Monroe (nope again) and Independence (HECK no).
“Better connectivity leads to more commuting and cycling in general, better health, cleaner air and happier people,” Viscount said.
Photos: Diedra Laird/Charlotte Observer; Davie Hinshaw/Charlotte Observer; Morgan McCloy/Charlotte Observer.
Corey Inscoe is editor of CharlotteFive and a very slow cyclist. Follow him on Twitter @CoreyInscoe.