Bicycles and Walking
In which we demystify Charlotte's sometimes-confusing bicycle laws
- Biking is not prohibited on sidewalks, except for in uptown. But that doesn't mean it is recommended everywhere. Use common sense.
- Bicyclists are considered vehicular traffic and must abide by all regular traffic laws, including stopping at stop signs, obeying traffic signals, and traveling on the right side of the road.
- If you're under sixteen, you gotta wear a helmet.
- Reflective clothing or bells are not required.
- At night, cyclists must have a white light and wear a red reflector, although flashers are more visible and safer than the reflectors.
- There are no restrictions on parking a bicycle in the city. • When traveling in groups, bicyclists must ride single file.
Is Charlotte Bicycle Friendly?
We asked Ken Tippette, bicycle program manager for Charlotte Department of Transportation, if Charlotte is a bike-friendly city. He assures us that it is, and that Charlotte has made a ton of progress in this area in the past decade. "It's only been in the last ten years that active transportation has begun to take root," he says. By "active transportation" he means walking or biking. He points out that like all New South cities, we've grown outward, and cul-de-sacs and gated communities were popular when Charlotte was booming the most. "We are trying to retrofit," he says, to become more bike friendly. "I wish we had started earlier." But he says Charlotte is actually not a bad place for a cyclist, and he offered the following as evidence. We were impressed.
Charlotte is rated as a bronze-level bicycle city by the League of American Bicyclists. The ratings are for communities that promote bicycle friendliness through actions and advocacy. This is an uncommon designation for an East Coast city.
When Tippette started in his job in 2003, the city had all of one mile of bike lanes. Today, it has almost sixty.
Counting greenways, signed bike routes, and bike lanes, Charlotte boasts 150 miles of bicycle "facilities."
Holt Smith is owner of Mercury Messengers, a bike messenger company
I got tired of working for the man, so I left, figured I'd start my own business and if it didn't work, I'd go back to the man. There's theoretical freedom to it, juggling orders, mostly legal documents, prioritizing it all, and pedaling for eight hours a day. There's two of us at Mercury and about six total in the city. We each pedal forty-plus miles a day, up to fifty-or sixty-plus back when it was good business. Some of the new guys, their tongues drag at first, but after a week or two you get used to it, just like with the weather. You dress for it, but eventually you acclimate to it. Ninety [degrees] is a marker for me personally. Once it hits 90 with all the humidity you really feel it, but after a few weeks you get used to it. And usually if the weather's bad enough, everything shuts down anyway, so we're not really out there trudging through everything. When we are out there, though, we really have to pay attention — there are car drivers, cabbies, buses — you have to look out for yourself. There aren't too many injuries, but it happens, ultimately because either a driver or cyclist isn't paying attention. — As told to Samantha Bare
How Walkable Is Your Hood?
The website walkscore.com compiles walkability ratings for cities across the country. The site uses an algorithm that awards points based on the closest grocery store, shopping, school, and other amenities. You can even get a Walk Score for your home address (and yes, iPhone users, there's an app for that).
Scores are on a 100-point scale. Any score over 90 is deemed a "walker's paradise." Below 25? That's "car dependent." According to the site, Charlotte has a Walk Score of 39. Which is not as bad as, say, Mint Hill, which has the lowest score in the state: 19.
10 Most Walkable Neighborhoods
- Fourth Ward 89
- First Ward 87
- Downtown 86
- Cherry 84
- Dilworth 76
- Elizabeth 76
- Commonwealth 73
- Brookhill 70
- Third Ward 69
- Eastover 68
5 Least Walkable Neighborhoods
- Coulwood East 9
- Sardis Forest 16
- Coulwood West 16
- Stonehaven 18
- Pawtuckett 19