FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 3, 2016
Sustain Charlotte Announces Campaign for Protected Bike Lane in Uptown Charlotte
In front of an audience of more than 140 people, local nonprofit organization Sustain Charlotteannounced the launch of their #IBIKECLT campaign to connect Irwin Creek and Little Sugar Creek Greenways via an east-west protected bike lane through Uptown Charlotte.
Protected bike lanes are on-street lanes separated from traffic by curbs, planters, parked cars, or posts. While protected bike lanes have worked well in places like Denmark and the Netherlands for many decades, they have only recently arrived on U.S. shores. Between 1874 and 2011, only 78 of these facilities were built nationwide. In mid-2015, the U.S. Department of Transportation officially endorsed this type of bike facility and the count was up to 213. The number is expected to keep growing dramatically. However, Charlotte has yet to build a protected bike lane.
At Thursday evening’s “The Future of Transportation is YOU!” event, Sustain Charlotte’s Bicycle Program Director Jordan Moore set forth a vision and a challenge for the city: “By 2017, let’s make Charlotte known as the most forward-moving city in America for active transportation. We won’t be the world leader, but let’s be the city working fastest towards that goal. By building this protected bike lane, Charlotte will raise the bar for how we dignify the pedestrian and bicyclist experience in our city, and join the growing legion of cities who have already taken this step.”
Moore invited attendees and all area residents to sign an online statement of support asking the City of Charlotte to invest in a protected bike lane connecting the east and west sides of Charlotte through Uptown by January 1, 2017. He also revealed the campaign’s new webpage, sustaincharlotte.org/ibikeclt, which offers a library of short films featuring Charlotteans who ride bicycles for daily transportation, as well as simple steps that anyone can take to help make Charlotte a more bicycle-friendly city.
In cities where they have been implemented, protected bike lanes yield proven benefits for the local economy, safety of all street users, traffic congestion, and social equity.
Economy: Protected bike lanes can be part of street redesigns that greatly boost retail performance. After the construction of a protected bike lane on New York City’s 9th Avenue, local businesses saw a 49 percent increase in retail sales. A study published found that for every dollar spent on bike-related infrastructure, cities can receive anywhere from $6 to $24 in cost savings. Due to our region’s auto-dominated transportation network and sprawling land use patterns,, Mecklenburg residents spend on average 26% of household income versus a national average of only 19%. Protected bike lanes would provide a safe, efficient, and highly affordable transportation option for workers of all income levels.
Safety: Protected bike lanes reduce bike-related intersection injuries by about 75 percent compared to comparable crossings without infrastructure. When protected bike lanes are installed in New York City, injury crashes for all road users (drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists) typically drop by 40 percent and by more than 50 percent in some locations.
Traffic congestion: Over the width of one traffic lane, cycling and walking can move five to ten times more people than driving. After a protected bike lane was installed on Chicago's Kinzie Street, bicyclists accounted for a majority of all eastbound traffic (53 percent) and more than one third (34 percent) of total street traffic.
Social equity: There is abundant evidence that protected bike lanes increase rates of bicycle commuting and create a safe, inviting transportation for people who would not ride without protection from automobiles, including the elderly, children, and disabled persons. In the two U.S. cities that first started building modern protected bike lanes, New York and Washington D.C., bike commuting doubled from 2008 to 2013. 62 percent of people who live near protected lane projects "would be more likely to ride a bicycle if motor vehicles and bicycles were physically separated by a barrier."
The event also focused on creating a safer and more accessible transportation network for pedestrians and people who ride public transit including buses, streetcar, and light rail. The attendees participated in a simulation game in which they were asked to imagine they had just moved into a neighborhood that lacked sidewalks, crosswalks, bike lanes, and a bus stop. In small groups, they brainstormed ideas of the first three steps that they and their neighbors could take towards making their neighborhood a safer place to walk, bike, and ride transit.
Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts addressed the audience with a challenge to change the way we think about transportation in order to meet the needs of a rapidly growing population. “Today we are a City of 800,000 residents and are the 17th most populated city in the nation. By 2040, Charlotte will add another 400,000 residents. That level of growth provides great opportunity but also creates numerous challenges for our community. How we deal with these challenges will set the foundation for what our community will look like for generations to come.”
Roberts cited the strides that Charlotte has made in transportation over the past 15 years including the opening of the Blue Line in 2007, current construction of the Blue Line Extension, development of over 140 miles of trails, bike lanes and bike routes, and approval of funding for the 26-mile Cross Charlotte Trail.
However, Roberts also pointed out the many challenges that remain: “2016 will be a pivotal year for the City as we undertake a number of related transportation and land use plans. We are updating the City’s multi-modal transportation plan, the Transportation Action Plan, as well as our Bicycle Plan. The City will also look to adopt its first Pedestrian Plan this year. CATS is updating their Countywide Transit System Plan and studying transit options in the Southeast Transit Corridor. The Planning Department is undertaking a huge task in revising our zoning ordinance and developing a community character manual.”
Shin-pei Tsay, Deputy Executive Director of Transit Center, shared insights about Charlotte’s process of planning and funding transportation projects. She discussed her findings as reported in A People’s History of Recent Urban Transportation Innovation."TransitCenter is delighted to partner with Sustain Charlotte and the Mayor of Charlotte to engage and inspire change on their streets. With a rapidly growing population that reinforces strong resident leadership, a mayor committed to tangible progress, and an award-winning Department of Transportation, Charlotte is poised to embark on a path of transformation that will ensure that its streets serve the people of the City for many years to come," said Ms. Tsay.
This event was held at Sugar Creek Brewing. it was hosted by Sustain Charlotte and Transit Center, funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and supported by community partners including AARP North Carolina - Charlotte, Green Mobility Planning Studio USA, Alta Planning + Design, Bike Routes 4 Fitness Inc., The Central Piedmont Group of the Sierra Club and the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.
Shannon Binns, Executive Director
Sustain Charlotte is a nonprofit organization working to advance a region-wide sustainability movement by serving as a catalyst for change. Our mission is to inspire choices that lead to a healthier and more vibrant community for generations to come. We advocate for more safe, affordable, and convenient opportunities to bike, walk, and ride transit. For more information visit www.sustaincharlotte.org.
* Facts about protected bike lanes cited in this article are available at People For Bikes.