Charlotte, A City of Bikes

April 24, 2017 1:12 pm

Charlotte, A City of Bikes

In October 2011 we released the 2020 Vision Plan, a blueprint for how Charlotte could continue to grow and become a viable, livable, memorable and sustainable city. The plan was the culmination of a collaborative process undertaken by dozens of individuals representing government, corporate, and non-profit partners in Charlotte-Mecklenburg.

This vision for the center city’s future was designed to encourage job creation, strengthen Charlotte’s neighborhoods, sustain investment in 21st century infrastructure, and to preserve and enhance the natural environment. Six years into the 2020 Vision Plan, many of the projects conceived then, exist now, or are on their way toward completion.

One of the plan’s eight goals was the creation of a multi-dimensional transportation network for Charlotte. Bicycle transportation and bike infrastructure were specifically mentioned among the implementation strategies to set the conditions for Charlotte to become a “City of Bikes”.

We see bike transportation as an important feature in Charlotte Center City that helps reduce traffic congestion, encourages street-level retail development, contributes to the overall health of city residents and attracts talent looking to live in a complete urban places.

In order for Charlotte to become a “City of Bikes” the plan had four essential recommendations:

  1. Updating the City of Charlotte Bicycle Plan
  2. Developing a bike share system
  3. Providing a range of quality end-of-trip facilities throughout Center City to encourage and support bicycle commuting.
  4. Creating dedicated and shared bicycle facilities

I am proud to say that the Charlotte B-Cycle program today is thriving with 25 stations and expanding by an additional 25 over the next 18 months. Our program sponsors are happy and have re-committed to the program. When B-Cycle first started here we had a hard time getting people to understand what a bike share program was. Today, we are getting calls from developers who see B-Cycle stations as an amenity for building tenants and are asking for stations.

We are seeing more end-of-trip facilities for bike commuters as part of the culture of innovative companies. I recently visited 525 North Tryon. Their inclusion of bike storage and locker room facilities in their building is an excellent example of how developers are recognizing and reacting to market demand for the use of alternative forms of transportation. Today this seems like a pioneering move, but we believe this is the beginning of a trend in Charlotte Center City development projects that will reduce barriers to bike commuting.

Thursday’s public discussion about a protected bike lane pilot through Uptown Charlotte represents another important step toward realizing the goal of making Charlotte a City of Bikes. While all streets within Center City should accommodate bicycles in the travel lanes, protected bike lanes have shown to increase ridership reduce injuries and have an overall positive effect on economic development in cities where they have been installed.

I am looking forward to continued discussions and thank everyone who participated in the public forum for taking the time to inform this important work of our community.

 

Michael Smith

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