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Charlotte cyclists hold 'Critical Mass Ride' to raise visibility


Charlotte cyclists will hold a group ride through and around uptown Charlotte on Friday to raise visibility for cyclists in the city and call for more investments in bike lanes and other bike-friendly infrastructure.

Organizers of the Critical Mass Ride hope the event will attract regular cyclists in Charlotte as well as people who would like to ride bikes, but perhaps don't out of fear for their safety.

Jacob Unterreiner with the advocacy group Charlotte Urbanists said Critical Mass riders will have safety in numbers, and together can send a message.

"We want to see Charlotte become a place where you can ride your bike for daily transportation, not just recreation, for more people, and in more places," Unterreiner said.

Riders will meet at The Spoke Easy bicycle shop and bar at 1530 Elizabeth Ave. at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, then ride to Central Avenue, up 7th Street into uptown Charlotte, and then back to the bike shop by way of South Boulevard and Stonewall Street. The ride will be 7 miles long.

Participants are encouraged to ride bikes, scooters, tricycles, or "anything that rolls," according to a promotional flyer, and riders of all ages are welcome.

"There will be a group of people in the front to man the pace, and then a group of people in the back to make sure no one gets dropped or left behind," said Kevin Raley with the local cycling group The Fixed Federation, which is also helping to organize the ride.

This won't be Charlotte's first Critical Mass Ride. Organizers say the city's first was held in 1999 by a different group unaffiliated with the current organizers.

Critical Mass Rides are regularly held in many major cities around the world. They are usually held on the last Friday of the month, with cyclists typically using the rides to reclaim and reassert their rights to public streets.

One of the earliest rides took place in San Francisco in 1992 when a couple of dozen riders took a spin down Market Street in a "Commune Clot," as reported by the San Francisco Chronicle.

The Charlotte ride comes just as the city has released the first draft of its Strategic Mobility Plan, which calls for the cityto reduce one-person vehicle trips to half of all trips by 2040.

Both Raley and Unterreiner said they believed the city could do it — if the city invests more in bike lanes and other infrastructure that makes biking in Charlotte safer.

"Having bike lanes that are safe and protected and greenways — all those things help people feel safer taking their bike and increase riders," Unterreiner said.

Raley also said drivers should be penalized more for speeding and running red lights to help calm traffic and make streets safer for cyclists.

Both organizers said they plan to make the Critical Mass Rides a regular event in Charlotte on the last Friday of every month.

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Nick de la Canal is the host of Weekend Edition on Saturday/Sunday mornings, and a reporter covering breaking news, arts and culture, and general assignment stories. His work frequently appears on air and online. Periodically, he tweets: @nickdelacanal