Monthly Archives: April 2019

Clt 7th Street Cycle Track Connection

If you are a cyclist in Charlotte who hasn’t been living under a rock, you will have heard of or seen our latest bit of cycling infrastructure. It’s been touted as an awesome connection from the Little Sugar Creek Greenway to the Irwin Creek greenway on the other side of town. I had a bit of time today after a bike riding lesson. So I scouted it for an upcoming ride, and spent some time riding it in both directions all the way to where the finished construction ends at the train tracks at Imaginon/Seventh Street Station. It ended up that I wanted to write a bit of a review from an educational standpoint, just because I tend to ride everything from the point of view of how would I ride this with children.

Above is the first section of the cycle track, as you leave the greenway at seventh street. You don’t have to cross traffic to get to it, you can just hop right on. The only issue with this is that because you have hopped right on going opposite traffic on the wrong side of the street, there’s really no way to get anywhere to the right/north of 7th. Which is fine if we assume that’s what you want, to go directly towards uptown, and not use any of the wonderful connections that exist to get north of town, which only seasoned riders would know about in the first place.

So on seventh street I crossed the bridge and went through the underpass, where I faced my first point of confusion. The lane ends. It appears in the way it ends that you’re required to jump a sidewalk here, or take that left into the parking lot behind the building at seventh and Mcdowell. That’s fine, it goes all the way through, nearly to the corner of Mcdowell and 6th where you can get back onto the cycle track. One of the things I’ve always appreciated about bikes is that you can take routes cars can’t, so I was okay with that option. But again, It’s important to remember that once you pull out of the parking lot, you still have to ride a few feet on a sidewalk facing traffic before you get to the corner. At the corner you can cross over, and get onto the bike lane and continue your ride. The first part of the bike lane is one way, like most lanes, but at the corner of N. Meyers, it transitions into the two lane cycle track that was promised. I forgot to mention that on the seventh street portion, the way it is currently marked, it’s unclear if it’s a one or two way track. I’m hoping signage and road markings will improve to reflect what should happen in both directions.

Once you are on the two way portion of the cycle track it’s pretty clear what should happen. There are a few important things to remember. The first important thing to remember is that you should ride a cycle track that’s next to parking garages and pull outs the same way you’d ride a sidewalk. Never assume you are seen. The bright green paint they laid down all along sixth street isn’t to make the cycle track look super cool. Bright green paint actually marks the danger zones that exist on the track. Those pesky intersections of cars and bikes where many of us get hit. Those are to warn both you (and hopefully the driver as well) that everyone needs to be paying attention.

The other thing to remember is that people on scooters are already using this bike way as one would use a multi-use path. If you’ve done any riding on the greenway, you may tend to recognize the pattern. People who travel in groups love to travel side by side and take up the whole road in mixed use areas, which means anyone passing has to make some sort of noise to get around–sometimes loud noises, if a person is using headphones and unable to hear. Twice on the two way cycle track today, people on scooters were using both lanes, which would seem to indicate that this will be a mixed use track, and one needs to watch out for folks who don’t want to use it as suggested. But that’s kind of the case whether you are using road, mixed use path or bike lane.

I’m kind of holding off final judgement until all the signs and markings are in place, For now this infrastructure gets a “Meh.” I mean it’s alright. To a person who is experienced and confident riding in traffic, and knows all the best routes through the city, it is a limiting bit of infrastructure. However I can envision circumstances in which I would ride it or suggest it to someone as a route (with qualifiers). It’s also important to remember that it might also be the one reason someone begins bike commuting to their uptown job, and for that person, it may feel like a pretty awesome way to go. So much depends on perspective. In all, i’m all for using the various methods within our reach of getting more people in our city active, healthy and comfortable with riding bikes.

Life is Full of Shit and Also Wonder

This past weekend, I got to take a wonderful, pre-birthday trip down to Greenville, South Carolina. A group of four teacher friends went down together to unwind on this last weekend before Spring Break (and also, the weekend before my birthday).

This is my second such trip down to Greenville, and what I so appreciate about it is what a gentle experience it is to spend time in the company of wonderful people. We spent a lot of time chatting through some of the world’s biggest problems, taking in all of the multitude of spring blossoms, birds and weddings, riding bikes, and eating good food.

On Saturday we rode down to Furman University. There we snagged a chocolate chip cookie a piece and walked down to the lake to find a slice of shade on a bench, under a tree. As we’d ridden around the lake at Furman, we couldn’t help but notice all the young folk dressed in formal wear, waiting for whatever young folk dance was taking place that evening on campus. Families snapped pictures, couples hugged under shade trees and leaned against the rail of an arched wooden bridge. It was all a little bit magical. Someone celebrated a 20th birthday with friends, turtles sunned en mass on rocks and islands, ducks, geese and swans floated on the water that reflected the clear blue sky.

We, the four friends, soaked it all in.

We sat on that bench near the lake, looking out at the various goings on, when all of the sudden, we noticed a heron. Standing, somewhat like an alien, or oddly shaped human, right at the edge of the pond, looking over the water. When we first spotted the heron, it was about twenty feet away, just inching towards us, slowly scanning the surface of the water. At first we chatted among ourselves, but after realizing the heron was sidling ever closer to our bench, we became silent. There was this energy of expectation, of witnessing a miracle in progress. I sat there silently watching it, my head spinning in weird thoughts. I’ve always seen the heron as my spirit animal in the sense of it’s slow and prideful independence. I thought perhaps the universe had taken this moment, just days before my 50th birthday, to reveal itself to me. I know, looking back I totally realize that was possibly a bit of foolishness, swimming around in my nearly 50 year old head as the heron drew ever nearer. On the bench we continued to hold our collective breath and stare silently, as the heron filled our souls with something like bounty.

By the end it was within five feet. And then, I don’t know what happen in it’s heron brain…maybe…”these ladies are creeping me out,” but it turned away from us, after it had ventured so close. It just turned, and as it stalked off into the grass near the lake, it unceremoniously shat on the ground in our direction. And just then I had an epiphany about life. That this is exactly it. A never ending story of the miraculous revealing itself, followed by unceremonious squirts of shit. I walked away from that bench, back to my bicycle, back to all the hard news I’ve heard these past few weeks from family and friends, with the realization that life is full of shit, but also….wonder.