Are we bike friendly?

Winston Salem has many signs of being a bike-friendly community with competitive cycling races, recreational bike rides on roadsbikes_on_reynolda and greenways and even biking commuters pedaling to and from work.

Biking falls into three categories: competition, recreation and transportation.  When I was about nine or ten, my dad got me my first serious bike, a Schwinn Tiger sold then by the Harley Davidson dealer on Brookstown Avenue.  You could say it was for recreation, but at that age, it was my freedom machine and my main form of transportation.  But back in those days, I didn’t think of a bike as something adults would use.  Now, adults are on bikes are everywhere.

Competition

As far back as 1978, competitive cycling was in Winston Salem.  The Hanes Park Criterium began that year and became an exciting day of racing each summer.  Bike racing teams continued to glade_02use Winston as a stop on their seasons expanding into exciting nighttime races downtown.  The most recent evolution is the Winston Salem Classic, a part of the US Cycling championship races.  Additionally, a national olympic cycling training site is setting up facilities in our downtown.

Recreation

bike_rideEach Sunday evening (during summer months and afternoon the rest of the year) a community bike ride group supported by the City of Winston Salem heads out on a relaxed 10 to 15 mile ride around the city.  Also, area bike shops lead after work rides on other days.  On meetup.com you can find our Clip In & Ride roadbike group and a mountain bike group.  A rail to trail initiative will be complete by the end of 2016 to convert the old Norfolk & Western tracks that run through downtown into a multi-use greenway to connect to the Salem Lake greenway and trail.

Transportation

I feel like our community shines in biking for the first two categories. But transportation–as in commuting to work and shopping–clearly lags.  Other than the constraints practically any place would have–weather and transporting items (groceries and other purchases)–Winston Salem has one issue that, while not unique, many urban areas are buddynot as plagued: hills.  Closer to the foothills than about three-quarters of the state, we have some very steep hills to traverse. Hills are great for exercise but a bit of a drawback in starting your work day perspiring and with achy muscles.

However that can be ameliorated in two ways:  New construction needed to upgrade Business I-40 has led to the Creative Corridors initiative. It has been very bike and pedestrian conscious in its designs and will lead to practical biking solutions for a number of urban routes in the next few years.  The other way is by having a community that advocates for bikes.  Individuals in Winston Salem have formed our own bicycle advocacy group Beers ‘n Gears.  Also the Winston Salem City Council authorized and filled a position for a pedestrian and cycling traffic planner in 2009.