‘A city of people on bicycles’: Sustain Charlotte’s big vision

March 31, 2016

Michael Andersen, Green Lane Project staff writer


A rendering of  a planter-protected bike lane being used by Sustain Charlotte's campaign. Rendering by Jessi Flynn.

A vision of grand transformation isn't the only way to improve a city. But it certainly can help.

Sustain Charlotte, a group pushing for a new east-west protected bike lane through Uptown in North Carolina's largest city, has no shortage of vision.

"When I travel and people find out I’m from Charlotte I want their first response to be, 'Oh? Do you ride your bike everywhere!?'" bicycle program director Jordan Moore wrote last week in the Charlotte Agenda.

"In my mind, I see Charlotte being a city of people on bicycles," he told WSOC-TV this week. "It is the Copenhagen of the South."

Sustain Charlotte has prepared a petition, hashtag campaign and video series about Charlotte residents who get around by bike. Here's Charles Langston, who gets to work and college by bike:

"If people were to understand what bicycling actually does to the body," Charles says, "I feel like that'd better the community -- like, getting people out, getting to know each other."

And Salena and Davin, who use bikes for most of their everyday trips:

"We realized everywhere we were going was less than two miles from our house," says Salena. "It felt really silly to be getting in the car for less than three minutes."

These Charlotteans are choosing bikes in their daily lives, not thinking about Moore's longer-term vision for the city. But improving biking requires real choices and tradeoffs. Without a big goal, people who don't bike themselves won't understand that the point of ambitious bike plans isn't to make cities better for people who currently bike, it's to use biking to improve the city for everyone.

When people bike, good things happen: health premiums drop, more poor children escape poverty, air stays cleaner and there's room for more people on roads. Charles, Salena, Davin and Jordan are making it more likely for more people to understand that.

The Green Lane Project helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets. You can follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook or sign up for our weekly news digest about protected bike lanes. Story tip? Write [email protected]

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