Ten years ago Charlotte did not have too much in the way of bicycle infrastructure. Now the city boasts more than 60 miles of bike routes, bike lanes popping up all around the city, some incredible greenway connections, and even the occasional sharrow. Not only has the infrastructure expanded, so has the culture – exemplified by like the 24 Hours of Booty and a slew of races including the Presbyterian Hospital Invitational Criterium, the Noda Grand Prix, Dilworth Crit and Urban Assault Ride.
Topping the list of bicycle infrastructure is our new bicycle-sharing program, Charlotte B-Cycle. This seems to be the next logical step for the city of Charlotte as it positions itself for sustainable growth in the 21th century.
Certainly, the right infrastructure is important to support such a system, but adding a bicycle lane to every street simply is not practical, and it ultimately has diminishing returns in terms of safety. Studies from cities across the world report that safety is best improved through increased ridership. With more bicyclists on the street, the risk of injury or death in a crash with motor vehicle declines exponentially. This is because of raised awareness that bicyclists are commonly present. Additionally, incidents are particularly low among B-Cycle users, perhaps because of their increased visibility thanks to front/rear lights and the unique appearance of the bicycles.
Of course, following the rules of the road is imperative to the safe operation of all vehicles, including bicycles. For those who may not be as knowledgeable about the rules of the road as they pertain to bicycling, it is simple: act like you are driving. This means turn signals, stopping for traffic signals, and not moving to the front of the queue while waiting for one to turn green. There will be a learning curve, but Charlotte is full of smart people who will manage to pick it up quickly. After all, it is just like riding a bike!
As we climb the learning curve, change is eminent. Other cities have found an increased number of cyclists and shifts in the types of cyclists taking to the streets, not just on B-cycles but across the board. This is because bike share tends to encourage a broader range of people to think about bikes as transportation because the commitment to purchasing, maintaining and storing a bicycle is diminished. Cost savings tend to reinforce the idea. Capital Bikeshare in Washington DC reports that members save an average of $891 per year in their system while AAA calculates car ownership at upwards of $9,000 annually.
Although members tend to find savings, it is being discovered that some of these savings are going to local bikes shops. It seems counter intuitive at first glance, but bike share encourages people to invest in their own bikes and accessories to make their ride even more enjoyable. This has led many to describe bike share as “a gateway” to bike ownership.
Cleaner air, healthier people, cost savings, and a boon for local businesses through a privately funded venture – seems like a good thing for everyone.
Are you ready to go out for a ride yet? Check out the casual bike ride calendar for a schedule of dates and times when you can meet a local cyclist or two at a station near you for a short ride around the city. The $8 daily membership will apply, but if you love it – that cost is applied toward an annual membership of $65 if you purchase within 24 hours.