An Insider’s Guide to Charlotte’s Booming Road Cycling Scene

Everyone from the city transportation department to local breweries and bike shops have gotten on board with the Charlotte cycling scene.
Everyone from the city transportation department to local breweries and bike shops have gotten on board with the Charlotte cycling scene. Madhan Karthikeyan
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The road cycling scene in Charlotte had humble beginnings, launching a decade ago with a 3-mile ride through the historic Myers Park neighborhood on the Booty Loop. Since then, road cycling in the Queen City has evolved at warp speed, propelled by community advocates, a focus on healthy and active living, and a commitment to infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians. Everyone from the city transportation department to local breweries and bike shops has gotten on board, aiming to develop more routes, bigger events, and the bike-friendly culture that will make cycling a part of everyday life.

Vision & Local Advocacy

With the adoption of a five-year bike plan, the Charlotte City Council has thrown its weight behind the city’s cycling movement. Why is this an essential piece of the puzzle? Historically, Charlotte has been an automobile-oriented city, with a less-than-congenial relationship between motorists and cyclists. As a result, the effort to embrace cycling is as much about changing attitudes as it is about adding bike lanes.

The plan emphasizes safety and access for all, with protected bike lanes on busier streets and a network of connections to bridge the gaps between neighborhoods. Also included are demonstration projects to test the viability and design of proposed routes before investing capital. A recent example was the installation of a temporary separated bike lane in the booming Plaza-Midwood neighborhood. As the city experiments with projects, it’s also working to create a comprehensive bicycle corridor map and put in place safety measures, such as red light cameras that deter motorists who tend to speed up at yellow lights.

A plan is well and good, but year-over-year implementation is equally important. To keep the plan on track, community advocates like Sustain Charlotte are raising community awareness and advocating for continued funding. Sustain Charlotte is focusing on smart growth, as the city continues to deal with the environmental, transportation, and infrastructure pressures of double-digit population growth.

XCLT Trail & B-Cycles

Perhaps the most visible game-changers on the Charlotte road cycling scene are the Cross Charlotte (XCLT) Trail and the 24 bike-sharing stations that are spread out across the city. The XCLT Trail master plan calls for more than 30 miles of paved greenway connecting neighborhoods and entertainment districts from Pineville through uptown and north to University City.

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With 200 bikes on the ground, urban bike sharing program Charlotte B-cycle is flourishing. On any given sunny weekend, you’ll find most B-cycle stations nearly empty and swarms of cyclists enjoying South End’s Rail Trail, LIttle Sugar Creek Greenway, or a lap around Freedom Park. Over the next year, B-cycle plans to double the number of stations.

Weekly Rides

Every day of the week offers an organized ride somewhere in and around Charlotte, and you’ll find the most comprehensive list of group rides on weeklyrides.com. Each listing includes ride pace, terrain information, no-drop and show & go policies, and a website for more details. To get GPS coordinates for meet-up spots, you just click the "map to start" button on the Weekly Rides website.

Some of the most popular rides are the Plaza Midwood Tuesday Night Ride, Unknown Brewery’s Friday night Booty & Beers, Saturday Bike & Brew, Rhino Market’s Saturday morning Rhino Rhide, and Olde Mecklenburg Brewery’s Sunday Bike Up. Weekly Rides is also the go-to source for information about regional charity rides, competitive and noncompetitive Gran Fondos, and other cycle-related public meetings and events.

Special Events

As the Charlotte road cycling community grows, the city is becoming home to a growing number of annual bike-centric events. Held four times a year, Open Streets 704 blocks off a 5- to 6-mile route across uptown for an afternoon of biking, walking, and running in a car-free environment. B-cycles and Trips for Kids, a community nonprofit dedicated to refurbishing donated bikes and distributing them to underserved kids, provide bikes to anyone new to cycling, while local arts, wellness, and environmental organizations line the route with family-oriented interactive activities.

In spring, the transportation department and transit system team up for Bike! Charlotte, two weeks of rides and educational events designed to make biking a part of everyday life. During the event, bike shops offer free tune-ups, you can take your bike on public transit for free, and local attractions reward participants with discounts.

At Sustain Charlotte’s adult-oriented fundraiser Biketoberfest, you can explore the uptown area by bike. Cyclists ride through uptown to get a passport stamped at local businesses like the Wooden Roboto and Blue Blaze craft breweries. Then, riders finish up at Triple C Brewing in South End for raffle prizes and an after-party.

The Booty Loop is the site of a midsummer Charlotte tradition, 24 Hours of Booty. Since 2002, cycling teams have registered for this non-competitive ride, gathering overnight along the 3-mile Myers Park route to raise funds and positively impact the lives of people affected by cancer. Through this event, the 24 Foundation has raised more than $17 million to support cancer navigation and survivorship, a testament to the Charlotte road cycling community’s growing size and impact.

Originally written for OrthoCarolina.

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