Looking for a leisurely road ride or want to do some exploring on two wheels? Some of Charlotte's avid bicyclists have a few suggestions about neighborhoods that offer great biking experiences ... and places you should avoid (if you value living). For our 2nd Annual Transportation Issue, we've tapped the minds of Joey Emanuel (who rides his bike for exercise and commuting) and Bart Stetler (owner of Queen City Bicycles) to lay out some of the best and worst areas for cycling around the Q.C.
Joey Emanuel: "Plaza Midwood is going to be the safest place to ride a bike, just because there are more cyclists that commute by bicycle. You know, like go to the bar or go to work. Because cars are used to seeing cyclists around here, that makes it that much easier to get around without having to worry about people running you over. There are a lot of people that I see riding to shop, riding to eat and riding to the grocery store. There are families ... moms with kids on little bikes and little seats on the bikes. That's kind of cool. I don't see a lot of that anywhere else in Charlotte. Also, around South [End] near Camden [Road], over by Phat Burrito, you see a lot of bikes over there. That's a place, apart from South Tryon, that seems like a safe area to ride. Dilworth is a pretty safe place to get around, and there are lots of places to go. There are bike shops, bars and restaurants that are used to seeing cyclists come in; so if I show up with a helmet, it's not unusual."
Stetler: "There are definitely particular neighborhoods that have much better bicycle/pedestrian amenities. [In January, we moved our office] from South Boulevard and Tyvola — where the Office Depot and the Dunkin Doughnuts is — and we're here now in Dilworth; looking at our two locations, it is a drastic difference in amenities in our area. We've noticed over here, on East Boulevard and Scott Avenue, that there are bike lanes that lead up to our parking lot. Also, East Boulevard leads to Freedom Park, which is one of the main arteries of the Sugar Creek Greenway, a paved trail. Also, there's the Booty Loop, which is known to runners and riders. It's, ultimately, one of the safer places within the Center City to ride on the road, because it's been an established route for decades. It's a three-mile route around Queen's College. So, the cars and the drivers in that area are used to having bicyclers in those lanes. ... The more bicycles that cars see, the more comfortable they get interacting with them on the street."
Emanuel: "Ballantyne. Everything just seems so much more spread out ... stores and bars aren't packed together like they are here in the city. So ... everything being so sparse out there makes it harder to get around. Getting out for a nice road ride where I'm going out for miles, I encounter a lot of people who aren't used to seeing cyclists out there. They kind of buzz right past you without a lot of caution and that thing is kind of scary. I wouldn't say go ride your bike on Independence [Boulevard]. It's not going to be safe, and it's not going to be fun. East Charlotte is kind of hit or miss — as you get out toward Sharon Amity, Eastland Mall. I used to live out there and ride to Plaza Midwood every day — a five-mile ride down Central [Avenue] — and it was pretty hard. You'd think because it has bike lanes that it would be easier for cyclists to get around. But it is so much traffic going up and down ... and countless times, I've had people almost turn into me because they don't see me."
Stetler: "That would be any of the major thoroughfares that don't have a bike lane. That would be Independence Boulevard, Woodlawn [Road], Tyvola [Road], South Boulevard and roadways like that. It's too much traffic with not enough amenities. The best way to look at it is, more than 70 percent of all trips are less than three miles from your home. When thinking about riding a bike instead of taking a car, you never want to take the same route. What people tend to do is, in a vehicle, they're going to take the most direct route — which is typically going to have the most traffic. When riding bicycles, and there aren't any bike lines and that sort of thing, you want to take the more off-the-beaten path."
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The best and worst neighborhoods for biking
One biker's 'dream cycles'
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Learn to ride, courtesy of Harley-Davidson