Dr. Traffic

Open house meetings planned for Charlotte region’s cyclists


Which of the city’s roads would you be comfortable riding on a bicycle?

Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization wants to answer that question, partly through an online survey.

The answers collected will help create a map that rates the roads in Iredell, Mecklenburg and Union counties.

Stay with me here – don’t go looking for your car keys just yet. Cycling could be just the thing to do when the weather is fine and you’re looking for exercise or a way to socialize.

Of course, there are many people who have committed to two-wheel transportation for many if not most of their daily activities.

Well, both groups could benefit from having a better understanding of roads that are most suitable for bikes.

And so the region’s transportation planning organization is investing about $100,000 to update one of the region’s cycling resources: a 1998 folding paper map.

People still ask for that old map, but the area’s road network has changed a good deal, and the planning organization now represents a much larger geographic area, said Ken Tippette, bicycle program manager for Charlotte Department of Transportation.

Many of the people who requested the map are visitors.

“In the three-county region there are just thousands of cyclists, and people ride every day of the week,” Tippette said.

When Tippette started his job in 2003, Charlotte had only a 1-mile marked bike lane, on Colony Road in south Charlotte, Tippette said.

Today there are 190 miles of “bikeways.” That includes about 90 miles of marked lanes, paths such as the Rail Trail, greenways and bicycle routes marked by signs.

The new map showing marked lanes and other information is scheduled to be available this summer in print and in a Web version that’s compatible with mobile devices.

The color-coded map will show easier, comfortable roads in green. More challenging roads will be marked in red.

Road ratings will be based on traffic volume, traffic speeds and other factors. Readers could learn whether or not a road has shoulders or bike lanes and whether to expect hills or flat terrain.

“Bicycle suitability ratings would allow you to pick up a map and help you find a route based on your comfort level with having cars nearby,” Tippette said.

The regional planning organization’s survey will be open until March 18. You could also attend an open houses to learn more or offer input:

▪ Union County: 4-7 p.m. Feb. 29, City Hall Conference Room, Monroe City Hall, 300 W. Crowell St., Monroe.

▪ Mecklenburg County: 4-7 p.m. March 1, Room 267, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center, 600 E. Fourth St.

▪ Iredell County: 4-7 p.m. March 2, Community Room, Statesville Recreation Center, 1875 Simonton Road, Statesville.

Karen Sullivan: kmsulliv@charlotteobserver.com, @Sullivan_kms