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Cornelius News

Bicycling as economic developer gains speed

Bicycling as economic developer gains speed

By Dave Yochum. In the world of urban design, economic development and desirable communities, biking is one of the hottest things on two wheels.

Kathleen Rose, founder Rose & Associates Southeast, a thriving real estate and economic development advisory services company in Davidson, says bike lanes, trails and greenways are “among the most revered amenities in terms of choosing neighborhoods and homes.”

Indeed, the Town of Cornelius has hired Alta Planning + Design to hold a series of meetings with Cornelius residents to learn what we want in terms of cycling, and come up with a master plan that includes bike paths, enhanced safety and even education around cycling. A master plan is expected sometime this fall. The Alta contract is valued at $45,000, with 70 percent of the tab being paid for by the state.

“If you look at the more recent studies from Realtors and homebuilders, a lot of communities and neighborhoods are making choices of living around greenways and bike trails. They are among the most revered amenities in terms of choosing neighborhoods or homes,” says Rose.

In fact, the communities that have more choices around walking and cycling—not just automobiles—are “the ones that enjoy greater economic success for the community and greater values for the property owners.”

In Cornelius, the land of mansions and pricey lakefront condos, the median home value is $246,769, according to City-Data.

In Davidson, the upwardly mobile middle class spreads more evenly across the community. The median value of Davidson homes and condos is $395,772, according to City-Data.



Accommodations for cycling and walking, Rose states, “create a more successful community.”
Davidson Mayor John Woods says that it “distresses me to see a community go four lanes to accommodate traffic.”

That said, Davidson, which has recruited top-drawer employers like MSC Industrial and Valspar, makes certain that “drivers have alternatives; bikers and walkers have alternatives. A pedestrian isn’t trying to cross four lanes of traffic.”

“We would fight before we build four-lane roads,” he says.

Of course, cars are going faster, drivers are distracted and, per capita, there are fewer police officers in Cornelius now than there were 10 years ago.

National Bike to Work Week is May 11-15. That week members of the new Bike!Cornelius steering committee will survey the town on bike, according to Cornelius Senior Planner Jason Pauling. Members of the Town Commission will be invited.

Mayor Chuck Travis admits he was “terrified” riding his bike from his gym on Highway 21 in Cornelius back across Westmoreland to his home on Mollypop Lane.

The Charlotte region has received nationwide attention as one of the least cycling-friendly cities in the United States, according to BetterDoctor.com. Out of the 50 largest American cities, Charlotte ranked 47th.

Places like Portland, Ore., Washington, D.C., and Minneapolis were at the top of the heap. Some 6.14 percent of Portland’s commuters bike to work, which means fewer cars on the road. Washington, D.C., is investing heavily in improving infrastructure for bikers, at the cost of almost $14 per person. Minneapolis has 118 miles of on-street bike paths and 92 miles of off-street bike paths.

Cornelius Commissioner Dave Gilroy


Does cycling make a town more livable, or more attractive? “Fundamentally so,” says Town Commissioner Dave Gilroy. “Consider any elevation sketch you see for a new project or development. There is always a bike rider shown in the foreground.”

Biking, he says, gets people out and about on a human, individual scale, which builds a stronger sense of community and helps reduce crime.

“Everybody feels connected and in the same world,” says Davidson Mayor Woods.
Pointing to the fiasco that is Independence Boulevard, he says an emphasis on four-lane roads “has stifled community and business.”

“We’re doing the best we can to hold on to the quality of life that is important to us. We have worked hard for decades now to connect streets. We want people to live in Davidson,” Woods says. In a world where we’re isolated by technology, cycling “brings our population outdoors in a setting where citizens can get acquainted and develop relationships and conversation between each other,” says Cornelius Mayor Pro Tem Woody Washam.

Rob Rickard


For Rob Rickard, a neck injury meant he shouldn’t jog to stay fit. “So biking is how I get my exercise and get around. I want to do something that is outside and healthy,” the Stratford Forest resident says.

Then, too, for people of a certain age, biking is easy on the joints. Young and old can stay fit by cycling on a regular basis to the bank, post office or store.

Rickard, who is a member of the Bike!Cornelius steering committee, says: “I always see deer on the McDowell Creek Greenway, coyote, turkeys. I also meet nice people.”