We spent a long weekend in North Carolina, tasting out way through its famous barbecue and the Brit sampling many of Asheville’s craft beers. Of course I couldn’t resist trying out Charlotte’s bike-share system. That included a ride on the Little Sugar Creek Greenway, a waterway that until recently was a polluted mess and partially concreted over. Now it’s a welcoming linear park with fountains, benches and restrooms, a cleaned-up stream and some mixed-use development that seems to have been attracted by the still-uncompleted project.
The goal is a 20-mile trail to the South Carolina line that fits into a broader two-state network of trails near 2.3 million people (but not part of the East Coast Greenway, which goes through Raleigh quite a bit to the east). Yes, the power of connecting trails! We only rode a few miles, until B-cycle ran out, so this really isn’t much of a training ride. I hope B-cycle will keep following the trail past Freedom Park, and include directional signage to docking stations, particularly that one in the medical center that took us too long to find.
As for the bikes: 3 speeds, like Citi Bike, but lighter. Easier to dock — definitely no temptation to slam it in just to make sure it locks. In fact locking and unlocking was far easier than in NYC. I like that you hear three beeps when it locks and you can get a confirmation text. Citi Bike, I’d be happy with just the text. The bike also has a proper basket (guess B-cycle cities don’t worry that their residents will treat them like trash cans) and a cable lock attached to the basket for running an errand where there is no docking station (something else Citi Bike doesn’t have.)
B-cycle is a different company than the one behind bike-share programs in big cities like New York and Chicago. There’s a Trek connection, and it has about two dozen second-tier cities signed up in the U.S. But there’s the same 30-minute limit for each ride when you have a day pass. We used seven bikes apiece in our explorations, and the coverage area was pretty limited.
And Charlotte? Pretty bike-friendly. There’s a nice, busy multi-use trail along much of its lone light-rail line (and lots of new condos too that seem dominated by Millennials, in case you needed visual proof that they prefer more of a city lifestyle to that of the suburbs). We biked quite a bit of it, until B-cycle ran out there too. On the whole, traffic wasn’t bad, especially when you’re used to New York City. And motorists are far more polite!
Maybe next year the East Coast Greenway ride will end in Raleigh and I can discover another part of North Carolina.