(By Ryan Pitkin, Creative Loafing Charlotte)
For Phillip Sanford, a Charlotte cyclist who regularly advocates for more bikeability in Charlotte, the rollout of dockless bike-share programs has left him sore. He worries that the constant photos on social media of neon bikes strewn about like litter on the city's sidewalks is giving cycling a bad name.
"Our city is close to capacity for cars and we need to utilize mass transit and bike commuting as the area grows," Sanford said. "We need proper infrastructure. We need a public base that is very pro-car and anti-anything else to have a positive view of bike commuting and its possibilities. Flooding the area with cheap bikes with little oversight and a lack of acknowledgement of legitimate concerns just perpetuates the idea that biking is just a fad very few people should be a part of."
Kate Cavazza, bike program manager with local cycling advocacy organization Sustain Charlotte, thinks otherwise. She said she has high hopes for the programs and wouldn't mind seeing more in the area.
Sustain Charlotte has been consulting with each company about where their bikes could be best used as they arrive in Charlotte, Cavazza said. She pointed out that while the groupings may seem crowded during the first months of operation, once people start to ride them throughout the city — especially as the weather warms out — they won't be as noticeable.
"Each new bike that gets dropped, they kind of stand there and people look at them. With time, we hope that people get on these bikes and they're spread out into communities all over Charlotte," she said.
Cavazza is optimistic that dockless bike sharing can help bring bikes to parts of the city not usually associated with cycling and help provide more people with a dependable mode of transportation.
She said she's aware of some of the bad publicity the dockless bikes are getting, even from within the cycling community, but hopes she can rely on the folks who want to support bikeability concepts in Charlotte to lend a helping hand in the first months of the rollout.
"I would say, for other bike advocates, if you see a bike that's down, pick it up, move it over," she said. "It doesn't take that much effort. If you have a problem with it, move it three feet to the left."