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Carolinas Dealer Tour, Day 2: Infrastructure connectivity a challenge as Charlotte cycling community grows

Published October 26, 2016

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (BRAIN) — On its final day in Charlotte, Bicycle Retailer’s Carolinas Dealer Tour covered a wide range of shops and a sizable geographical area as it traveled from Uptown Charlotte to the city’s southern reaches. 

The group was fortunate to have local advocate Jordan Moore, who formerly ran the bicycle program for Sustain Charlotte, a nonprofit dedicated to addressing the city’s sustainability challenges, guide us through the city as we navigated city streets and a maze of greenways to visit four shops. The tour covered about 28 miles on day two. 

As the group made its way east toward the first shop of the day, Espada Bicycles, we saw firsthand the challenges cyclists face making safe connections to the city’s greenways, its sole separated bike lane and other designated lanes as they ride from outlying neighborhoods to Uptown Charlotte. 

Moore said the city is working to improve connectivity, including a push to build a separated bikeway along Trade Street, which would connect Uptown with the 4-mile-long Little Sugar Creek Greenway — Charlotte’s longest and busiest. 

And, an expansion of the city’s Lynx Blue Line light rail train currently underway will include the addition of several more miles to the rail trail network that connects Uptown with neighborhoods southwest of the city center. The easterly expansion into the redeveloped North Davidson, or NoDa, neighborhood and others should greatly improve connectivity to Uptown and the rest of the city. 

Steve Maleski, who owns and operates Espada Bicycles in NoDa, is looking forward to the rail trail completion, which he anticipates will bring even more riders and commuters past the store. The path will run along the track directly in front of his store, which he opened six years ago in another location just down the street. Espada, a one-man show, specializes in custom and steel bikes, with the majority of its business coming from service. 

“When I opened in this area, it was already pretty busy for cycling and commuting, but I think with the path and light rail, it’s going to grow,” Maleski said.

After Espada, we rode back into Uptown Charlotte and south on Trade Street, past the Federal Reserve building, courthouse and county jail. Moore pointed out the potential for a dedicated and separated cycle track as we neared the Little Sugar Creek Greenway en route to Bicycle Sport Charlotte. 

Located in the Myers Park neighborhood, Bicycle Sport is a full-line shop that has been in business primarily as a road shop since it opened in 1982. Current owner Ben Cooley bought the shop in 2011, and over the years its customer base has evolved to include more mountain bikers and families — something that is reflective of the changing neighborhood as more families move in. 

Rolling south from Bicycle Sport, the group rode about 10 miles on a mix of city streets and the Four Mile Creek Greenway to the Trek Store of South Charlotte, located in the Ballantyne neighborhood. Owner Doug Korniek opened the shop three years ago. Until last summer, when NC Velo opened a couple of miles away, it was the only retailer serving the area. 

Both the Trek Store and NC Velo serve a growing population of cyclists as the fast-developing part of the city gets even busier. But being on the fringes of Charlotte, the area is close to mountain biking trail networks in local parks and makes for easy access to rural roads — something NC Velo’s owners said will help bring more people into the shop as the cycling community grows. 

“We’re in the skirt of Charlotte, and it’s a prime development location,” said Kyle Wyatt, who owns the store along with brother Jay Wyatt. “It’s also a fairly affluent neighborhood with access to some of the best country roads. You hear bad stories about the cars, but you see more cows and horses on rides than cars. We want to make an impact here because it’s a lifestyle we want to promote.”

And although there are a lot of shops in Charlotte, NC Velo’s Kyle Wyatt said he feels there is room for everyone to work together. 

“It is pretty saturated (with shops) in Charlotte, but we can be thoughtful about things and make smart decisions,” he said. “We also won’t succeed by making enemies and will work to have good relationships with other shops in town.”

BRAIN’s Carolinas Dealer Tour heads to Columbia, South Carolina, for the third and final day to visit Outspokin’ Bicycle and Cycle Cycle Center before heading to Lexington to visit the headquarters of Dealer Tour sponsor Hawley. Finish Line, Hutchinson Tires, SmartEtailing, PeopleForBikes and Interbike are also sponsoring the tour. 

Keep tabs on the tour on social media including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #braindealertour.

Watch for web updates this week and a full report in the December 1 issue of Bicycle Retailer & Industry News.

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