Charlotte officials are looking for ways to make uptown Charlotte safer for cyclists, and a series of protected bicycle lanes across uptown could be part of the answer.
The city is about to move into the formal design phase for a cycle track on 5th and 6th streets. Bikers would be separated from cars by raised curbs topped with plastic poles, and the track would almost connect the Irwin Creek Greenway west of uptown to the Little Sugar Creek Greenway on the east side.
On Tuesday, city officials biked around uptown with a large map, asking dozens of people for their thoughts on the track.
Design will take most of the next year, project engineer Todd Delk said, with construction starting after that.
The city began studying the prospect of an uptown cycle track in 2016, and Tuesday’s conversations were the latest in a series of meetings and surveys with Charlotte residents.
The 5th-6th Street corridor of the cycle track was the top choice, by far, of about 140 people who attended a workshop to discuss bike safety in September 2016, according to a July 2017 report sponsored by the Charlotte Department of Transportation and Charlotte City Center Partners.
The 2017 report mapped out a plan for an eventual network of cycle paths around uptown, with this east-west corridor as the first phase.
The cycle track would replace one lane currently used for cars, and the 2017 study found that 5th and 6th streets can handle that change better than most other blocks uptown. Nearly 90 on-street parking spots would also disappear, according to the 2017 report.
In some spots, the exact path of the cycle track hasn’t been decided.
As people approached the biking display and map at Trade and Tryon during Tuesday’s lunch rush, Delk and other people involved with the project pointed out the options, including whether the track should follow West 5th Street or West 6th Street near North Pine Street, where an eventual north-south bike path may end up.
City staffers tracked the crowd’s opinions with colored dots on a board, marked with street names and which side of the street the bike path would follow.
The track will allow cyclists to travel in both directions, and it will mostly be on the left side of the street, Delk said.
Randy Furr, an uptown worker who commutes by bike most days of the week, said the new bike paths would make recreational cycling easier.
Charlotte City Council hasn’t approved funding for cycle track construction yet, and the cost is likely to be several million dollars, City of Charlotte Project Manager Kristie Kennedy said. A more exact figure will be available at the end of the year-long design period, which is just getting started.
For now, Furr uses the Charlotte Rail Trail to commute by bike from the South Boulevard-Woodlawn Road area, and he said he feels safe most of the time. He comes in early to avoid traffic and takes basic safety precautions.
“I light up like a Christmas tree,” he said.