Author Topic: biking in an unfriendly city  (Read 2518 times)

hb187

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biking in an unfriendly city
« on: February 22, 2016, 01:23:54 PM »
Hi All,

I'll be moving back to the United States in a few months, looking at either Charlotte, Charleston, or Savannah. I've asked a few people online in other forums about bike commuting in those cities, and for Charlotte and Charleston at least, I've heard that the drivers are quite unfriendly to cyclists and it can be a bit unsafe. I'm wondering if anyone here lives and bikes in those cities, or in a different city with unfriendly drivers, and if so how do you handle it? Is there any sort of bike safety course I should consider? Cameras on my bike as well?

I should note I've never bike commuted. I walk to work right now. I'm riding a stationary bike to get in shape for it. Planned move in August so I should have some stamina by then.

Thanks for any advice.

Jack

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Re: biking in an unfriendly city
« Reply #1 on: February 22, 2016, 01:36:57 PM »
Disclaimer: I've only visited Savannah and Charleston a few times, so I don't know them all that well.

Last time I was in Savannah it struck me as a hipster sort of place that would be easy to be a pedestrian or cyclist in (and it was a pain in the ass to drive through and park a car!), at least if you stuck to the Oglethorpe grid part.

I think Charleston would be less bike-friendly (just because it's easier to drive around). I can't evaluate Charlotte because I've never been there.

acroy

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Re: biking in an unfriendly city
« Reply #2 on: February 22, 2016, 01:37:20 PM »
I am in north Dallas area
It is unsafe because the city is not built for it and drivers are not used to it.
I would not say the drivers are negative or unfriendly; it's just not part of the culture.
Of course there's the occasional jackass or 2; but this happens everywhere.

Do the the best you can. Be extremely defensive
-Assume you are invisible
-stay out of the way
-hi-vis clothing (I have a RED RED backpack)
-lights (day and night). Daytime headlights are good to keep from getting pulled out on
-stay off main streets as much as possible. Find sneaky routes.
-basically, don't assume drivers see or will yield for you. You will be safe if the drivers never get a chance to run you over :)

Best of luck to you! It can be done!

131071

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Re: biking in an unfriendly city
« Reply #3 on: February 22, 2016, 01:46:19 PM »
My family and I live car free in Charlotte.  Happy to answer any specific questions you have. 

The  city seems to be improving for people who bike and walk by the day, but there's certainly a long way to go.  Charlotte's center city and "close-in" neighborhoods around the 277 loop have a deserved reputation for pedestrian and bicycle friendliness, but predictably, also have higher rent and home prices (though there are deals to be found).  The further out regions have been planned poorly - designed around dependency on automobiles.  If you have questions about specific neighborhoods, I'm happy to answer to the best of my ability.

Overall, I find the drivers relatively courteous.  I've taken a few safety courses, Cycling Savvy (http://cyclingsavvy.org/) is a good one that's offered here.  If you're not familiar, the gist is to ride very similarly to the way you'd drive a car (in the travel lane), which makes you visible and predictable to other road users.  The increased visibility also encourages drivers to pass in a different lane, preventing the same-lane overtaking collisions that are most common between bikes and cars.  Occasionally I'll get some unfriendliness from a driver who doesn't understand the laws, but it's relatively rare.

Charlotte has a great cycling culture that I found very welcoming when I moved here. There are recreational, social, long and short-distance rides every day of the week.  If/when you visit, I'd be happy to meet you at one of these and introduce you to other folks plugged into the biking scene.  There are a number of organizations working to improve Charlotte as a biking city. 

Some resources to check out:
Cross Charlotte Trail - 26 mile trail for ped/bike, some parts existing, some currently under construction, some being planned.  http://charmeck.org/city/charlotte/charlottefuture/CIP/CrossCharlotteTrail/Pages/default.aspx
Charlotte Spokes People - Advocacy group. They organize lots of social rides.  If you are only able to do one, be sure to check out the PMTNR.  It's a slow rolling party.  http://cltspokespeople.org/
Transportation Choices Alliance - Advocacy group (part of Sustain Charlotte), funded by the Knight foundation.  http://www.movecharlottesmarter.org/
Bicycling Program - Information from city of Charlotte. http://charmeck.org/city/charlotte/Transportation/PedBike/Pages/Bicycle%20Home.aspx
Bicycle Map - Existing infrastructure.  http://charlotte.maps.arcgis.com/apps/PanelsLegend/index.html?appid=00e8015ea3e54607a880fe31cc7e2fbf

hb187

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Re: biking in an unfriendly city
« Reply #4 on: February 22, 2016, 01:51:48 PM »
Disclaimer: I've only visited Savannah and Charleston a few times, so I don't know them all that well.

Last time I was in Savannah it struck me as a hipster sort of place that would be easy to be a pedestrian or cyclist in (and it was a pain in the ass to drive through and park a car!), at least if you stuck to the Oglethorpe grid part.

I think Charleston would be less bike-friendly (just because it's easier to drive around). I can't evaluate Charlotte because I've never been there.

Yes, Savannah seems the most bikable of them, but the least likely to provide me with the employment I'm looking for.

hb187

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Re: biking in an unfriendly city
« Reply #5 on: February 22, 2016, 01:52:23 PM »
My family and I live car free in Charlotte.  Happy to answer any specific questions you have. 

The  city seems to be improving for people who bike and walk by the day, but there's certainly a long way to go.  Charlotte's center city and "close-in" neighborhoods around the 277 loop have a deserved reputation for pedestrian and bicycle friendliness, but predictably, also have higher rent and home prices (though there are deals to be found).  The further out regions have been planned poorly - designed around dependency on automobiles.  If you have questions about specific neighborhoods, I'm happy to answer to the best of my ability.

Overall, I find the drivers relatively courteous.  I've taken a few safety courses, Cycling Savvy (http://cyclingsavvy.org/) is a good one that's offered here.  If you're not familiar, the gist is to ride very similarly to the way you'd drive a car (in the travel lane), which makes you visible and predictable to other road users.  The increased visibility also encourages drivers to pass in a different lane, preventing the same-lane overtaking collisions that are most common between bikes and cars.  Occasionally I'll get some unfriendliness from a driver who doesn't understand the laws, but it's relatively rare.

Charlotte has a great cycling culture that I found very welcoming when I moved here. There are recreational, social, long and short-distance rides every day of the week.  If/when you visit, I'd be happy to meet you at one of these and introduce you to other folks plugged into the biking scene.  There are a number of organizations working to improve Charlotte as a biking city. 

Some resources to check out:
Cross Charlotte Trail - 26 mile trail for ped/bike, some parts existing, some currently under construction, some being planned.  http://charmeck.org/city/charlotte/charlottefuture/CIP/CrossCharlotteTrail/Pages/default.aspx
Charlotte Spokes People - Advocacy group. They organize lots of social rides.  If you are only able to do one, be sure to check out the PMTNR.  It's a slow rolling party.  http://cltspokespeople.org/
Transportation Choices Alliance - Advocacy group (part of Sustain Charlotte), funded by the Knight foundation.  http://www.movecharlottesmarter.org/
Bicycling Program - Information from city of Charlotte. http://charmeck.org/city/charlotte/Transportation/PedBike/Pages/Bicycle%20Home.aspx
Bicycle Map - Existing infrastructure.  http://charlotte.maps.arcgis.com/apps/PanelsLegend/index.html?appid=00e8015ea3e54607a880fe31cc7e2fbf

You are awesome and I'm looking you up when I visit (Julyish probably)!

Hvillian

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Re: biking in an unfriendly city
« Reply #6 on: February 23, 2016, 09:50:50 AM »
I will add a +1 to everything notnebtp said.  I am not in Charlotte, but did take the Cycling Savvy class there and ride some for transportation in the suburbs.  I think the class is well worth the cost, and tell everyone I know to take it.

The area in and around the city center along with some of the hipper neighborhoods are fine for biking.  I know a couple families that live car-free by choice.  The culture seems to be there, and the infrastructure is catching up (slowly, as always).  Charlotte has one of the most extensive bike benefits programs in the country.
http://cltspokespeople.org/bicycle-benefits/

The outer areas and suburbs are just not designed for it.  I will say that I was surprised how courteous most drivers are, but it is still tough to bike on narrow roads, with higher speed limits, in heavily traffic.

GuitarStv

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Re: biking in an unfriendly city
« Reply #7 on: February 23, 2016, 10:00:23 AM »
I should note I've never bike commuted. I walk to work right now. I'm riding a stationary bike to get in shape for it. Planned move in August so I should have some stamina by then.

A stationary bike may not prepare you very well for the complexities of cycling in traffic.  You really want to get used to shifting gears, braking, starting/stopping your bike, and getting on and off the saddle until they're habitual motions that you perform without thinking.  I'd strongly recommend you try to ride outside as often as possible.