Gerry’s story: 7 days of biking around the Queen City

A guest post by Gerry Kinglsey, NoDa resident and steering committee member for the Charlotte Regional Transportation Coalition steering committee member

Gerry Kingsley

Gerry Kingsley

When I was asked to write a story about bike riding, I was a bit taken aback.  I’m no writer, I thought to myself; no one wants to hear my boring bike stories.  So I decided to give you seven consecutive paragraphs, one for each day in a week, telling you about my bicycling adventures.  I started on a Tuesday – you’ll see in Day 1 below that I hadn’t ridden in a few weeks – and that was my first day back on my bike.  So, here you go: 7 days of biking around The Queen City.

Gerry Kingsley_1Day 1 – Retrieving my bike.  Well today is the first day I took off my “boot” – one of those medical boots that I’d been wearing for about 3 weeks. Why I was wearing a boot is another story, but suffice it to say that I’d left my e-Bike in uptown Charlotte, close to my office, for the past 3 weeks.  What, didn’t anyone steal it, you may ask?  Turns out I’d left it in a bike cage, so it was perfectly safe.  My employer provides these cages in some of the parking decks uptown.  Yours doesn’t?  Ask ‘em!!  We did, and it worked.  They’d had such cages in one parking deck, but when they built a new office tower on the other side of uptown a couple of years ago, they were not planning to include bike cages.  We wrote a petition, got it signed by a couple dozen other employees (who also ride bikes), sent it to upper management, and voila! They added a bike cage to the parking deck in the new building too.  Advocacy can be small, like asking for a bike cage or even just a bike rack somewhere.  Anyway, on my first day of biking, I took the bus to work that morning, went to the bike cage after work to grab my bike, and rode home.  First day back on my bike since hurting my foot.

Gerry Kingsley_2

Day 2 – Free Wheelin’ Wednesday. On Wednesdays I meet some friends for coffee and breakfast on my way bike commuting to work.  We bike separately from our homes over to the coffee shop, then commute together the rest of the way into uptown. On this particular Wednesday, I had to work from home, but I biked from NoDa over to Plaza Midwood to meet my pals.  It was chilly and clear, about 40 degrees: a nice sunny morning and a beautiful day for a bike ride. On my way home I got honked at – a sorta dangerous thing to do to a cyclist.  I couldn’t quite tell what they yelled out the car window as they zoomed by, but since it was February 14, I’ve concluded that they thought I was hot and were shouting Valentine’s Day greetings.

Gerry Kingsley_3Day 3 – Biked to work and ran some errands.  I had to drop off a package at FedEx so I strapped it onto my bike – it was too big to fit into my panier bags – and off I went. It was loads easier than driving, as the FedEx store in Uptown is right on South Tryon and there’s nowhere to park a car. But it wasn’t an issue on my bike! There are plenty of bike racks on the sidewalks up and down North and South Tryon in uptown.  I ran a few more errands on the way home from work. I had to swing by the post office and the uptown cycle track took me the whole way there, completely separated from traffic.  Then it was on to the UPS store on 7th Street, so I used the tunnels that go under Kings Drive and Charlottetowne Avenue, and then went through the newly refurbished Independence Park.  My last leg took me up Hawthorne Avenue (they have bike lanes) through Belmont and Villa Heights on my way home to NoDa.

Gerry Kingsley_4Day 4 – Another bike-to-work day. Nothing out of the ordinary, although I did ride on Parkwood, between Parkwood Station and Belmont Avenue close to Optimist Hall.  If you’ve been over that way, you’ll know that the city is extending the protected bike lanes on Parkwood.  Currently they go along Parkwood from The Plaza to North Davidson Street.  Now the city is extending the protected lanes all the way over to Caldwell, just past Optimist Hall.  They took a car lane in both directions, so the road is now 2 lanes instead of 4. They narrowed this many months ago (the slow pace of construction is another story), but the point is that it hasn’t resulted in any additional congestion; no car backup at all.  A win for cyclists without impeding auto traffic in the slightest.

Gerry Kingsley_5Day 5 – Saturday Lunch. Well it was Saturday so I biked over to NoDa Bodega to grab a sandwich for lunch.  I also got a free bag of chips, and you know, who doesn’t like free chips?  I used my Bike Benefits Discount.  You buy a sticker for 5 bucks from any of the 100 or so vendors who support Bike Benefits, then ride your bike to their business, flash the sticker, and get a discount.  Some give free food (like my free bag o’ chips), some give a 10% discount, and so on. Great program!!  Look at all the local participating vendors!! See a full list of participating vendors here.

Day 6 – pleasure ride around the hood.  On Sunday I decided to take a little ride around some local neighborhoods.  In order to plan a safe route and minimize the number of busy streets and intersections, I used a bicycle route planning app.  There are a number to choose from – Strava, Map My Ride, Ride with GPS, and so on.  I use the latter (Ride with GPS).  I plan the route using their website on my PC, then pull up the route on my phone, which sits in a “holder” attached to my handlebars.  As I bike, the app shows me the route and even reads out audible turn-by-turn instructions similar to, say, Google Maps.  Nifty!!  But wait, there’s more!! If you want help planning a route, just post a route question in our social media group and we’ll fall all over ourselves with great route advice (“Oh a route question [cracks knuckles] I’m on it!!”)

Gerry Kingsley_7Day 7 – Another pleasure ride. Well Monday was a holiday, so once again I jumped on my bike for no particular reason – just to ride around.  This time I rode out to University City where they have some great greenways – my old stomping ground from when I came to Charlotte ages ago.  Back then, the Mallard Creek / Clark Creek Greenways were sort of the flagship greenways in Charlotte.  By now we’ve built a lot more, of course.  But it was nice to go back out there for an afternoon ride.  Here’s the thing…by the time I biked out there, then rode 10 miles of greenway out and back, I was tired.  So, I jumped on the Lynx Blue Line, bike and all, for an easy lift home.  Bikes are welcome on CATS transit – they have bike hooks in every blue line car, and buses are equipped with bike racks on the front of every bus.  Nice convenience, eh?

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