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New bike lanes, businesses featured in Sustain Charlotte's Biketoberfest

Sustain Charlotte biketobefest preview 1.JPG
Dashiell Coleman
Sustain Charlotte
Shannon Binns, executive director of Sustain Charlotte, leans back in his bike saddle during a ride through uptown on Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2022.

Cycling in Charlotte is getting better. At least, that's the view of Shannon Binns.

The wind whipped through his salt-and-pepper hair as the executive director of Sustain Charlotte leaned into his handlebars and pedaled smoothly along the new, protected bike lane on 6th Street in uptown Charlotte.

The lane opened in April with a grand ribbon-cutting by city staff, and Binns said he believed his nonprofit group, Sustain Charlotte, played a critical role in getting the project off the ground.

"We created an actual online petition in 2016 and asked the city to build a safe, protected bike lane connecting the Little Sugar Creek Greenway to the Irwin Creek Greenway," Binns said. "We didn't specify which street, we just said we'd like to see a safe connection, and it just opened earlier this year."

Now, the lane will be included in Sustain Charlotte's annual Biketoberfest fundraiser this Sunday, Oct. 30, which will take participants through one of two routes showcasing local businesses and some of the city's best bike infrastructure.

Binns is hoping hundreds of cyclists, runners, joggers and walkers will sign up for the event and make a donation to the group, which advocates for bicycling, public transit and other green initiatives that encourage "smart growth" in Charlotte. He said he hoped to beat last year's total — when nearly 700 people registered and attended.

Sustain Charlotte's Biketoberfest 2022 map (645 × 800 px).png
Sustain Charlotte
Biketoberfest 2022 participants will either follow a four-mile route (yellow) or an 11-mile route (blue.)

Those who participate will get to choose from two routes. Those who prefer a shorter walk or ride can take the four-mile route that loops around South End.

Those who prefer a longer journey can take the 11-mile route that starts in South End and takes participants through the Sedgefield and Dilworth neighborhoods, through Midtown and into Center City, and then into west Charlotte and the Five Points area before looping back into South End.

"We try to carve out a route that's really safe for people of all ages, all abilities to really explore their city and find businesses and parks and greenways that maybe they've never seen before," Binns said.

In addition, participants will collect stamps at nearly 30 interactive stops — including businesses, nonprofits and government departments — for a chance to win raffle prizes at the event's afterparty at Triple C Brewing. Volunteers and signs will help guide participants along the routes.

Cyclists who take the 11-mile route will also get to enjoy the splendor of riding along three county greenways — Little Sugar Creek, Irwin and Stewart Creek — as well as some of the daily cycling headaches, such as cars illegally parked in bike lanes and unclear signage at some intersections.

The city has plans to build seven additional miles of protected bike lanes throughout Charlotte, and eventually connect them to more than 40 miles of bike lanes around the city. For that reason, Binns said he was optimistic about the direction Charlotte was heading, but said the city could still do more to make cycling safer for residents.

Law enforcement could do a better job ticketing illegally parked cars, and the city could encourage more densely developed neighborhoods with sidewalks and bike lanes so more residents might feel more comfortable swapping out their four wheels for two.

Binns said he hoped to use this weekend's event to applaud the city for the progress it has made and encourage the city to keep pedaling in that direction.

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Nick de la Canal is a reporter for WFAE covering breaking news, arts and culture, and general assignment stories. His work frequently appears on air and online. Periodically, he tweets: @nickdelacanal