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Night Biking In Charlotte

When you think about bike riding, an early morning ride on a well paved trail may be the first thing that comes to mind. But a group of cyclists are on a mission to prove you can bike all over Charlotte no matter what time of day it is. WFAE’s Sarah Delia joined them for a nighttime ride and filed this report.

Every Tuesday night, rain or shine, 48-year-old Pamela Murray is the hostess of a fabulous outdoor party, but instead of people bringing a bottle of wine to the gathering, they bring their bikes.

Murray is a founding member of Charlotte Spokes People, a group that organizes bike rides like this one which meets in front of the Common Market, a local convenience store in the Plaza Midwood neighborhood.

She says she has one bike that does everything—a blue Rivendale Betty Foy with a basket on the back with her purse attached to the handle bars—which in the shape of a red apple. 

Before the group takes off she makes sure everyone has what they need—from pumped up tires to front and back lights. She says there are a couple of reasons for having the ride at night.

"Most people have to go to work, they have to get home, let the dog out,  get their bike, and get up here. Then it's about 8:00 so that's why we leave at 8:00. The other thing is so that people will get over their fear of riding at night. "'Cause a lot of people think that it's dangerous...you'll see tonight it's not a big deal," Murray says.

Generally the warmer the weather, the more people show up.

"We usually have 100 people when it's warm and not going to rain so it varies with the temperature. So when it's 20 degrees we'll have 20 people it's like one person per degree," she says

It’s about 80 degrees—and there’s a crowd of about 80 cyclists. This is Sarah Booth’s third Tuesday night ride.

"Biking at night is cooler during the summer, it’s fun, different atmosphere, it's a completely different way to see the city," she says.

Before we can leave for tonight’s destination—which is different each week, there are some ground rules to cover. And then it’s time to ride

For the most part the group sticks together, there are periodic regrouping points in parking lots to make sure no one’s left behind.

Many of the cyclists have mini boom boxes strapped to their handlebars. Pedaling next to different cyclists, it sounds like switching between radio stations.

At times drivers seem annoyed during some of the rides, but tonight everyone shares the road.

After about nine miles we’re back in Plaza Midwood in the parking lot of Letty’s, a bar/restaurant, ready to cool off.

This weekly ride is called the PMTNR—Plaza Midwood Tuesday Night Ride. But cyclist Mickey Nash says it could easily be called something else.

"Instead of Plaza Midwood Tuesday Night Ride, it could be Pam Murray Tuesday night ride," says Nash.

Nash is a courier; he rides bikes for a living. So for him these night rides are more about meeting new people.

"Working on a bike I know everyone else who works on a bike because it’s a small enough place there aren’t a lot of us. So it’s cool to meet  other people, regular bike commuters and people who mountain bike and don’t go on the roads that much," he says.

He loves that the rides take place at night, but has mixed feelings about whether Charlotte is bike friendly.

"It’s the South, it's not NYC, they won't run you over. They might be mad at you, but they'll stop," he says.

Letty’s is hopping with cyclists. The back patio is full of people taking a moment to enjoy not climbing up a hill, including Jennifer Smith.

“It’s a good way to exercise without knowing you’re exercising, and then you get to enjoy a drink at the end of it so it’s fun for everybody," Smith says.

Unfortunately the drink is cut short. A large thunderstorm is headed our way.

It’s time to bike about three more miles back to where the group started. Which is where they’ll meet again rain or shine Tuesday night to explore a different part of Charlotte once the sun starts to go down.

Sarah Delia is a Senior Producer for Charlotte Talks with Mike Collins. Sarah joined the WFAE news team in 2014. An Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist, Sarah has lived and told stories from Maine, New York, Indiana, Alabama, Virginia and North Carolina. Sarah received her B.A. in English and Art history from James Madison University, where she began her broadcast career at college radio station WXJM. Sarah has interned and worked at NPR in Washington DC, interned and freelanced for WNYC, and attended the Salt Institute for Radio Documentary Studies.