City of Charlotte planning first of its kind cycle track for uptown

Uptown bike lane plans
Renderings provided by City of Charlotte DOT.
Renderings provided by City of Charlotte DOT.
Renderings provided by City of Charlotte DOT.
Renderings provided by City of Charlotte DOT.

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The city of Charlotte has more than 100 miles of bike lanes, but transportation officials are planning to bring a cycle track to uptown - something that's never been seen in Charlotte.

"A cycle track is a protected bike lane where bicyclists are physically separated from vehicle traffic with any number of different separation types. That could be a curb, flexible ballers, planters, or it could even be a larger barrier," said Will Washam, the bicycle program coordinator for Charlotte Department of Transportation.

"We do have bike lanes in uptown right now. Sometimes we've got folks that park in those bike lanes. We've got transit running on those streets - so sometimes it's not the most comfortable place to ride," he continued, "but the cycle track will provide a fully-protected facility for riders to traverse uptown."

Washam says the cycle track is planned for 6th Street for the majority of the length and then a little bit of 5th Street leading up to Irwin Ave to connect to the Irwin Creek Greenway.

City officials say the primary goal of the cycle track is to connect the two major greenway systems - Little Sugar Creek and Irwin Creek greenways and through uptown.

"The city did a study called 'Uptown Connects' about a year ago, and that study actually analyzed all of the east-west connections - streets running through uptown - to find the most direct and safest connection between Little Sugar Creek Greenway and Irwin Creek Greenway," Washam said. "Through analysis, we found that 6th Street using portions of 5th was going to have the least impact to vehicle traffic, and also provide the best and safest connection for cyclists."

According to transportation workers, there have been 222 crashes involving bicyclists since 2017. They say uptown has seen 28 of those collisions.

"Currently, when you ride the Irwin Creek and Sugar Creek greenway systems you get stopped right at the front door to uptown so this cycle track will provide connectivity and it will provide it in a safe protective manner," Washam said.

Some city workers spent Tuesday going around uptown getting input from residents about which design they prefer.

"I can't wait for it to happen because Charlotte needs something like this," says Keith Luedeman. "Because if you look at the people riding the scooters and bikes around uptown it's so much easier to ride to and from work if you've got a protected bike path."

WBTV caught up with Luedeman as he was riding his bike to go and see the renderings and give his input.

"I love riding on the greenway because the greenway is so peaceful, rolling hills. You can stop, look at the art installations, feel like it's a very safe place to ride," Luedeman said. "I also ride on the road too but I'm more suited up at that point - helmet, gloves, everything else – it's a faster ride."

Luedeman says he rides every day. He believes the cycle track will make a big difference.

"Think of the traffic that will save. Think about the people in the surrounding area that can ride their bike to work," he said. "And they'll only do it if they feel safe and they can ride in a slow controlled manner."

Right now, the cycle track is in the design phase.

City officials say they expect a full design in 2019, then there will be a cost estimate, then onto the city budget.

It's possible there will be more cycle tracks in the city.

"We do have a plan in the uptown 'Connect Study' to create what we call the ward loop," Washam said. "The potential for three other similar projects in uptown to create a loop that connects all four wards in uptown and then those facility would connect to other roads that lead folks out into the neighborhoods outside of the 277 loop."

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