Thursday, June 18, 2020

The Plaza Bike Lane

While bikes have every bit as much a right to city roads as cars do, it doesn't always feel safe to hit the streets on two wheels. Especially with young riders. We've only just gotten comfortable with letting the kids leave the sidewalks, and only under certain conditions, like quiet neighborhoods or protected bike lanes. While there are plenty of side streets, designated bike-only lanes are few and far between. Fortunately, there are groups, like Sustain Charlotte, working to change that.

Recently, thanks to the efforts of neighbors, and a partnership between the Charlotte Department of Transportation, Charlotte Fire, and Solid Waste Services, a new, innovative permanent separated bike lane opened. It runs the length of The Plaza, from Central Ave. to Parkwood Ave., connecting the residential neighborhood with adjacent business corridors.

This 1-mile stretch is a fun option for taking a recreational spin, but, importantly, it's also a very practical connector for commuting to a number of destinations.

At the Central Ave. end of the protected bike lane, you can head west toward uptown, south toward the Elizabeth neighborhood or take designated city bike route No. 8 east toward Evergreen Nature Preserve.

At the Parkwood Ave. end of the bike lane, you can take designated city bike route No. 7 to get to NoDa.

Check out the City of Charlotte designated bike route map for directions and other route ideas.

Of course, there are lots of restaurants and shops around The Plaza and Central Ave. We like to ride to the bike lane, take a lap up The Plaza and back, and stop for something to eat at one of the many establishments nearby. The novelty of riding on a "busy street," holds lots of appeal for the kids and everyone enjoys a treat afterwards.

I hope organizations pushing to make bike riding safer and more accessible around Charlotte will keep up the good work. The Plaza separated lane is an asset and a model that should be replicated.

How to get there:
The bike lane segment of The Plaza runs from Central Ave. to Parkwood Ave. If it's not feasible for you to ride to this stretch, you can park on neighboring side streets. Another option is the on-street spaces along Commonwealth Ave., a block south of the Central Ave./The Plaza intersection. Be careful about parking at local businesses; they will tow.

Don't forget to pack:
  • Helmets: Never ride without one.
  • Lights or reflective gear: If it's getting anywhere near dark.
  • Water: Bring plenty for your ride and to rehydrate afterwards.
  • Sunglasses and sunscreen: This route is only partially shaded.

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