Invasion of the Bike Shares

(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." Read more here.

Bus ridership is tumbling in Charlotte. Can a new CATS plan bring people back?

(By Steve Harrison, The Charlotte Observer) Shannon Binns is the executive director of Sustain Charlotte, a nonprofit that advocates for alternatives to driving, including walking, biking and transit use. Binns said he believes CATS will redesign the bus system to funnel passengers to the light-rail line, which will cover roughly 20 miles when the extension opens in March. Binns said he also wants CATS to increase the frequencies on some bus routes. Read more here.

City officials consider closing sidewalk gaps

(By Justin Vick - The Charlotte Weekly) The city is considering changes that would create safer conditions for pedestrians. The Charlotte City Council is scheduled to vote on revisions to sidewalk construction standards Nov. 27. The changes create more triggers for the construction of sidewalks and planting strips along thoroughfares. Joe Padilla, executive director for the Real Estate and Building Industry Coalition, told the council during the Nov. 13 public hearing that no one is questioning the need for sidewalks, but he wanted them to understand potential tradeoffs. Tearing up and replacing substandard sidewalks represents additional costs in grading and clearing that will be passed on to tenants or buyers of new buildings or multifamily housing, he said. Padilla said additional regulations not only add to costs, but also could hurt city initiatives such as providing more affordable housing and preserving 50 percent of the tree canopy. He suggests adding exemptions for affordable housing developers that encounter site constraints. Kate Cavazza, bicycle program manager for Sustain Charlotte, said the amendments would close loopholes allowing developers to sidestep having to build sidewalks for new or phased developments. Read more here.  

Pedestrian-friendly development thwarted by projects along Blue Line, critics say

By: Ely Portillo (Charlotte Observer) Developers say that apartment residents still expect – and need – to own a car, even if they live next to the light rail. Lenders also expect new apartments they’re funding to have the same ratios of parking spaces-to-bedrooms that they’re used to in other parts of town. That’s generally one space per bedroom. The big parking decks add millions of dollars to a building’s cost, pushing rents higher when the apartments open, and critics say they implicitly encourage residents to own more cars. Shannon Binns, executive director of Sustain Charlotte, said this year that by not having rules mandating less parking at new buildings along the Blue Line, the city is squandering an opportunity. “When we don’t maximize the land use around the transit investments, we really are undermining those investments,” said Binns. Read more here. Read more here:  

As Charlotte’s new rules stall, bad growth multiplies

By: Shannon Binns (Special op-ed for Charlotte Observer) A recent Observer headline laid out the challenge: “First test for City Council newbies: What to do about Charlotte’s growth?” Indeed, Charlotte’s five new council members – along with their re-elected colleagues and new mayor Vi Lyles – have their hands full dealing with exponential growth at the same moment that a massive rewrite of our rulebook for managing growth is seriously bogged down. Our soaring economy requires never-ending construction that, if not properly managed, threatens our quality of life. The challenge is compounded as Charlotte’s traditional low-density, car-oriented development pattern no longer fits the preferences of many residents, especially our burgeoning millennial population. And Charlotte’s appalling economic inequity compels us to ensure that new developments offer affordable housing throughout the city. Read more here: Read more here: Read the full op-ed here.  

First test for City Council newbies: What to do about Charlotte’s growth?

(By Ely Portillo - The Charlotte Observer) Shannon Binns, executive director of Sustain Charlotte, said he hopes the new council members will be receptive to expanding bicycle lanes and transit, encouraging less car-dependent growth, capping the maximum amount of parking near light rail stations to make it less attractive to drive and making new developments more walkable. The group promotes environmentally friendly development patterns, as well as biking and mass transit. All five new members are under 40, and some, such as District One’s Larken Egleston, have participated in Sustain Charlotte programs like Biketoberfest. “We’re hopeful, given that the new members are younger, they’ll be more excited about the type of growth we advocate for, as well as improving transportation choices,” said Binns. “There seems to be a stronger interest in compact development, walkable development, which we advocate for as well.” Read more here

Charlotte, North Carolina: A City with One of the Lowest Economic Mobility Rates in the Nation

(By Ethan Ehrenhaft - The Davidsonian) “I’ve heard it framed as if it’s almost like there are ‘two Charlottes,’” commented Meg Fencil, the Program Director of Sustain Charlotte, a non-profit organization. According to Fencil, those two hypothetical cities consist of the “shiny, economically vibrant Charlotte with the banking center and uptown” and the other Charlotte, “with intergenerational poverty,” bearing the 50th out of 50 cities label. Charlotte has more than doubled its population since 1990 and now boasts 842,051 residents in 2017. The city can expect to add over 400,000 people in the next 25 years. Public transportation and roadworks have lagged far behind the population swell, as have housing projects. A study carried out by the University of Utah found that of 162 “urbanized areas” nationwide, Charlotte had the 5th worst urban sprawl, as measured by compactness of residential areas. “One of the things that has no doubt had an impact is the way Charlotte has grown over the last three decades,” stated Dr. Vikram Kumar, the current Chair of the Economics Department. While the prosperity of Charlotte’s financial, healthcare, and energy sectors “has lead to a redevelopment and renaissance of the uptown area, it is also true that people who have lived here for many generations historically, including underprivileged households, have likely had to have moved away due to increasing tax burdens and increasing property values,” according to Kumar. Sustain Charlotte works on addressing many of the issues linked to Charlotte’s economic immobility. One of the more pressing problems, visible to any Davidson student who frequents I-77, is the drastic need for improved transportation infrastructure. The rapidly increasing population sprawl also means building a cohesive public transportation system is especially important. Read more here

Sustain Charlotte and City Partner on Protected Bike Lane Across Uptown

(By Casey Wilson - Charlotte Stories) Sustain Charlotte is excited to announce that they are partnering with Charlotte Department of Transportation (CDOT), Charlotte Center City Partners (CCCP), Mecklenburg County Park and Rec, and dozens of citizen volunteers to install a two-mile protected bicycle lane spanning all of Uptown on the morning of October 22nd. The lane, which will run along all of 6th Street and part of 5th Street, will be open for public use at noon, just in time for Sustain Charlotte’s Biketoberfest, and remain in place for one week — until October 29th.During the demonstration, CDOT will collect data and feedback from users to inform the design of a permanently protected bicycle lane on these streets. In March of 2016, Sustain Charlotte launched a campaign to show public support for safer, and more connected bike facilities so people of all ages and abilities can get where they need to go by bike. Read more here 

City testing out protected bike lanes in uptown this week

(By Ashley Fahey - Charlotte Business Journal) The Charlotte Department of Transportation, in partnership with Charlotte Center City Partners and Sustain Charlotte, have set up a temporary protected bike lane across uptown this week to give bicyclists a taste for what a more permanent solution could feel like. Starting Sunday, CDOT closed one lane on parts of Fifth and Sixth streets, allowing cyclists to exclusively use that lane from the intersection of McDowell and Sixth streets to Fifth Street and Irwin Avenue, near Ray's Splash Planet. The part of the route from the Lynx Seventh Street Station to Pine Street is two ways. The rest of the route — the stretch from McDowell Street to the Blue Line/Rail Trail as well as from Pine Street to Irwin Avenue — is one-way. The protected bike lane will be in operation until Sunday. The idea is to test whether a permanent bike lane connecting Little Sugar Creek Greenway on the east side of uptown and the Irwin Creek Greenway on the west side is feasible, said Ben Miller, bicycle program manager at CDOT. Read more here 

Protected bike lanes will be tested in uptown Charlotte

They're known for promoting cyclist safety across Charlotte, and now -- Sustain Charlotte has partnered with the city and county to test bringing a protected bike lane to Uptown Charlotte. Watch the interview with Kate Cavazza