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How Charlotte's $4 million bike plan will make it easier to get around the city

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Adam Raskoskie has lived in Charlotte his entire life. A few years ago, he started biking everywhere he goes, and he's seen more and more people riding bikes, too.

Soon, he and other cyclists will have safer options for getting around the city.

This month, the Charlotte City Council approved a budget that includes $4 million for the Charlotte BIKES plan, adopted last year by the City Council in an effort to build a bike-friendly city.

The plan was last updated in 2008, and this is the first time since 2010 that the bike plan has received specific funding as a standalone program. The delay was because of shifting priorities, said Vivian Coleman, the city’s transportation planning program manager.

Since the 2008 update, the city added 20 miles of greenways and painted bike lanes on 40 miles of roads.

The city will build on that progress with this plan. Most of the money will go toward building bike lanes or shared-use paths to help cyclists better travel the city, though specific roads and areas have not been finalized.

The plan also places a priority on adding two traffic circles per year and also connecting existing bike lanes. Both of those steps will make it easier for cyclists to get around the city. The city is also encouraging more people to ride bikes through various programs.

The plan is supposed to be updated every five years, and Raskoskie, chair of the City/County Bicycle Advisory Committee, doesn't think the city will go so long without an update again. The next revision probably won't dramatically change, he said, but it will reflect what the city has learned.

The $4 million is a part of a larger push by the city to diversify transportation options in Charlotte. The budget also includes $30 million for sidewalks and pedestrian safety and $2 million for Vision Zero — an international effort to bring the number of traffic fatalities to zero. Charlotte had over 39,000 crashes in 2016, with 85 fatalities and 18,000 injuries.

Coleman said the city has pushed to create a "multimodal” approach to transportation. She said after World War II, the city went 50 years without building sidewalks and focused on automobile transportation to connect suburbs.

But that’s changing. Now, Coleman said people are craving sidewalks and alternative methods of transportation, so the city has to build things in hindsight, which is more expensive.

Diversifying transportation methods through bike lanes, sidewalks or transit is a result of Charlotte’s rapid growth, Raskoskie said.

The city does not have concrete numbers for how many people ride bikes in Charlotte — a process that will be attempted now that the program has funds — but the dockless bike share program does.

Launched last November, residents have taken over 120,000 trips using the bikes since their introduction. In April alone, residents took over 34,000 trips, up from 19,000 in January.

And with about 60 people now moving to Charlotte every day, Raskoskie said the city doesn’t have the space to build streets so everyone can drive cars for every trip. Offering different modes of transportation ensures the city isn’t choked with traffic.

“The end goal is to just make sure that we have a complete and robust transportation system in the city that gives people choices for how they want to get around,” he said.

 “We’re talking about something that we can turn around within a fiscal year,” he said.

Raskoskie said it’s also about creating a city that doesn’t assume everybody owns a car.

“If we design our cities just for cars,” he said, “we don’t design our cities for people.”

SOURCE: https://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/local/article213534314.html