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Natural Awakenings Charlotte

Charlotte Area Bike Alliance

Oct 02, 2009 03:05PM
Creating a bicycle friendly community

By Lisa Moore

Cycling offers an array of health benefits for all ages, while enjoying the freedom of being outdoors. In Charlotte, cyclists can hit the pavement year round to improve cardiovascular fitness, increase joint strength and mobility, lose weight, boost immunity and reduce pain and stress levels.

Riding as little as 30 minutes every other day meets the American Heart Association’s recommendations for a healthy heart. Plus, the Vitamin D generated from 15 minutes of sunshine a day may help prevent prostate and breast cancer aw well as osteoporosis.

The Charlotte Area Bike Alliance (CABA) works to create a bicycle friendly community through cycling awareness, education, safety advocacy and promotion of bicycling for fun, fitness and transportation. The non-profit group advocates for bike lanes, greenways, bicycle master plans, bike racks, neighborhood connectivity, safe routes to schools and access to mass transit. They also lobby for bike-friendly ordinances, laws and law enforcement.

CABA promotes bicycle awareness, safety and educational programs and hosts an annual Bike Week, charity rides and other events in addition to bike maintenance classes, and learn-to-ride clinics in schools and elsewhere.

Executive Director Martin Zimmerman says public policy works on two levels: elected officials (the mayor and city council) and public servants (Charlotte Dept of Transportation and CATS). “There is a congruence between both components that bicycling and walking are not only essential elements of a balanced transportation, but that the funds and staff resources be advanced to make sure this happens,” he says. “That is why Charlotte is one of the only cities in the country with full-time staff working solely on bicycling  programs.”

Zimmerman stresses that bicycles are considered legal road vehicles in NC, meaning anyone riding a bicycle has the same right to use the roads as someone driving a motorized vehicle. He says that creating bike lanes is an inexpensive way to share the road and is particularly advantageous for bicyclists who lack the experience or confidence to ride in auto traffic lanes. The developing greenway system is another built-in incentive as is the option to put bikes on all buses and on all cars of LYNX light rail.

It is estimated there are 300,000 bicycles gathering dust in the garages of Mecklenburg County and Zimmerman urges those who are taking up cycling to make sure their bike is in good shape, buy a helmet, a bright orange safety vest and quality lights front and rear. Limit riding to neighborhood streets and greenways until experience and confidence rise. Running short errands or taking a child to school or to neighbors by bike is a good start, he says.

The environmental benefits of cycling are a bonus – cleaner air, securing energy independence by reducing oil dependence and less wear and tear on street pavings, plus it saves money. According to the American Automobile Association, a savings of $8200 per year is accrued when not owning a car.

“Charlotte is one of the only cities in the country with full-time staff working solely on bicycling programs.”

“This amounts to almost $200,000 from the time a baby is born until he or she enters college,” says Zimmerman, who doesn’t own a car and relies on biking, walking and public transportation. “Talk about a long-term savings plan that works!”

For more information on becoming a member of CABA, visit

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