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Cornelius News

Is a cycling-friendly Cornelius within biking distance?

By Dave Yochum. Cornelius is getting serious about making the town bicycle friendly. More than two dozen bike signs are expected to go up this month. The signs will help cyclists—and motorists—get to know five key routes around town.

The goal is to make cycling a meaningful way to get from Point A to Point B—and perhaps eliminate some automobile trips.

“We look at bikes as part of our transportation system,” says Mayor Woody Washam. Bike paths are also part of a pedestrian-friendly community as well as statewide and regional transportation planning. Washam said bicycle and pedestrian travel is part of the planning for future road improvements, tens of millions of dollars of which are coming in the years. ahead.

Four routes will sport special bicycle signage this month:
Eastside Spine: It starts at the YMCA and ends in the Oakhurst neighborhood near 131 Main.
Four Peninsulas: Starts at Torrence Chapel, west on Knox to Charlestown to Jetton and Nantz, and ultimately Ramsey Creek.
Hickory/Antiquity Route: Starts on Hickory and connects to South Street and over to the South Print Rocky River Greenway at Davidson public works
Magnolia Connector: From Liverpool to Magnolia Plaza.

There will be about 100 signs—they can be picked up and moved—that will be installed as part of a $300,000 project that includes signs and five-foot by five-foot pavement markings called sharrows.

In the world of economic development and desirable communities that attract employers and employees, biking is hot. Bike lanes, trails and greenways are among the most revered amenities for millennials and Gen Xers choosing neighborhoods and homes.

The Town of Cornelius hired Alta Planning + Design to hold a series of meetings with Cornelius residents to learn what we wanted in terms of cycling, and come up with a master plan that includes bike paths, enhanced safety and even education around cycling. The Alta contract cost $45,000, with 70 percent of the tab being paid for by the state.

“It’s a quality of life issue,” Washam said. “It’s something that economic development consultants look for when they consider a relocation or a location…and it is something our citizens what.”

There’s a shrewd, practical side: Taxes on residential property is moderated when there are new commercial ratables like office buildings and light manufacturers. Then, too, if some of us can walk or bike to good jobs, there’s less demand on the highway infrastructure.

“We hear it all the time, it came out of feedback we were all getting pretty directly from our citizens,” Washam said. After the bike plan was passed, the feedback was “more than positive.”

The community almost can’t get enough, he said.

The implementation phase is under way in earnest and the town is applying to be recognized as a Bicycle Friendly Community. BFC awards—which rank cities based on engaging the public, police support and education programs—will be given in May, just in time for National Bike Month.

Troy Fitzsimmons, director of the Cornelius PARC Department, sees people coming up from Charlotte to ride bikes and visit microbreweries.

The Antiquity Greenway is next in the pipeline and should be under construction this summer once Charlotte Water finishes work on a water main. “If all that goes according to plan, the greenway should be complete by the end of calendar year 2018. What a wonderful Christmas gift it will be for the Town as it will tie in downtown Cornelius with several miles of trails in Davidson,” Fitzsimmons says.

Another project that will get under way this year is the McDowell Creek Greenway extension from Westmoreland to Magnolia Estates. It would be completed more toward the latter half of 2019, Fitzsimmons says.

One of the highest priority infrastructure projects is a multi-use path connection across the Westmoreland Road bridge. The town applied for and received federal dollars to apply toward this project, but this is still in the planning stages.

There’s no news around a bike path for Jetton Road, which has gotten safer with lower speed limits. Jetton Road Extension is “on our radar close to the top,” according to Washam, “and when we get into our discussions on new bond packages, I’m fairly confident it will be on our list of things to consider.”
The road is a reasonable alternative for cyclists—some of whom are pedaling to work—reluctant to ride on West Catawba which was widened between I-77 and Jetton without bike lanes.

“We can patch it and fix it or get it right one time which we would have to get in a bond package,” Washam said.

Look for more bike-related events in time for National Bike Month in May. Cornelius will partner with the town of Davidson Parks and Recreation to host the Lake Norman Bike Expo and Community Ride May 12.