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'Critical Mass' ride planned in Charlotte as cyclists push for more access to roads, improved safety

Cyclists will ride through and around Uptown Friday evening to protest the lack of bike-friendly infrastructure investments in Charlotte.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Charlotte cyclists will cruise around Uptown Friday for a "Critical Mass" ride to raise awareness for bikes, calling on city leaders to invest in bike lanes and infrastructure for alternative transportation. 

Organizers of the ride say the event is in protest of the Department of Transportation's focus on cars as the priority for roads. The group says the roads belong to everyone and that it's cheaper to build new infrastructure designed for bicycles instead of new roads. 

"Imagine 50 cyclists show up, it’s a bit of a nuisance they occupy a block but if 50 cars show up, that’s a literal conga line throughout the entire city," John Holmes with the Charlotte Urbanists told WCNC Charlotte.

The Charlotte Urbanists, a group that supports the Critical Mass ride, said the group isn't protesting "car-friendly plans," but instead the lack of bike infrastructure improvements, particularly in lower-income areas of the city. 

“We need events like this to remind people that demand is there," he said.

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Friday's ride begins at 6:30 p.m. Riders will assemble at The Spoke Easy bicycle shop on Elizabeth Avenue before starting the 7-mile ride through Uptown and back. The group is asking riders to bring "anything that rolls," including skateboards and scooters, to show how critical the infrastructure investment is for Charlotte. Cyclists of all ages and experience levels are encouraged to join the ride. 

"Come see what your city would be like if the bicycle was the main choice of transit," a flyer for Friday's ride states. 

Click here to learn more about Charlotte Critical Mass

The wheels have been turning with the city of Charlotte too. Earlier this week, the Charlotte Strategic Mobility Plan was released, detailing efforts to make moving around the city safe and equitable.

A big part of it is reducing the number of trips made in a car to 50% by 2040.

“I don’t think we have a choice. To be a successful, prosperous city, we can’t simply rely on cars as the way we’re going to move people," Ed McKinney, deputy director of the Charlotte Department of Transportation, said. "So, transit, bike walk, all of those things are part of our long-term vision to make that happen."

He said shifting priorities can help improve equity too, as 24% of Charlotteans don't use a car to commute.

"If we truly want to be equitable, if we really want to reduce the cost of housing and transportation, a real strong way we can do that is extend other choices and other opportunities through every neighborhood in our city," he said.

McKinney said progress has been made. Last month, the first 7 miles of the CycleLink opened, with plans for continued investment to connect it to a larger network of protected, safe bike lanes.

Meanwhile, the group of cyclists plans to hold these critical mass rides on the last Friday of every month.

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