you're reading...

Cornelius News

Plans for bike safety and options continue

Dec. 16. Officials keep working on implementing plans to improve conditions and options for cyclists in Cornelius. The results, however, may seem to be coming slowly for the growing number of enthusiasts.

There will be miles of new multi-use paths over the next several years, according to Troy Fitzsimmons, PARC director.

Shorter term, Scott Higgins, chairman of the PARC Commission, has noted the need for signage to keep cyclists safe on Jetton, Bethel Church and Knox roads, as well as other routes.


“We are supposed to be erecting signs and marking streets as part of my plan presented last March,” Higgins said. 

Just as the pandemic was taking hold, Higgins recommended new and improved signage on and near town streets frequented by cyclists every day; social media-focused education about cycling laws and the safe practices for motorists and cyclists; new and improved cycling routes; and continued communication between north county police departments and cyclists about potential safety issues.

Currently the Transportation Advisory Board is prioritizing bike projects from the 2017 Bike! Cornelius master plan and the PARC Commission is prioritizing greenway projects from the 2015 Town of Cornelius Parks and Greenways Master Plan, Fitzsimmons said.

“Both are looking at bringing focus to strategic connections to expand our network of bike friendly roads, multi-use paths and greenways,” he said.

There are 2.5 miles of existing bike lanes in Cornelius, out of 165 miles of state and town-owned roads, Fitzsimmons said.

Cyclists note the need to be aware of the often patchwork availability of bike lanes on public roads. One example is on Bethel Church Road, where the bike lane resembles Morse code for the intermittent stretches on both sides.

And cyclists will need to be patient when looking for more miles to ride than the current  3.5 miles of multi-use paths in Cornelius.

“At this point it is uncertain if there will be additional multi-use paths that are constructed and open to the public over the next two years, but there should be over the next several years,” Fitzsimmons said. He said there will be upward of 7 miles of additional multi-use paths  over the next several years.

Those seven miles, he said, include both sides of West Catawba Avenue from Jetton Road to NC 73, at the intersection of US 21 and Catawba from the diverging diamond intersection to Smithville Park, Liverpool Parkway from the diverging diamond to Chartwell Center Drive, Potts Road/NC 115 roundabout, and NC 115 at the North Regional Recreation Center.

Riding on greenways

Cornelius offers 4.7 miles of greenways—Antiquity, Caldwell Station Creek and McDowell Creek—as an alternative to riding on roads, Fitzsimmons said. 

Antiquity Greenway  connects into  an existing greenway trail in Davidson for even more mileage. It can safely take you to River Run or Hough High.


Fitzsimmons said there is an additional 0.5 miles opening at the Plum Creek Greenway in December; 1.5 miles for McDowell Creek Phase II from Westmoreland Road to Magnolia Estates/West Catawba Avenue that will be completed in 2021; and another 1.2 miles that will connect the Mecklenburg County North Regional Recreation Center to the existing Caldwell Creek Greenway near Poole Place. 

Additionally, there is more than 4 miles of paved trails in Bailey Road, Torrence Chapel and Robbins Parks available to bicyclists.

‘Bright future’

The town is working on an extensive network of greenway, multi-use paths and bike lanes, Fitzsimmons said. “Several of these projects have come to fruition just over the past decade,” he said.

Others are in the pipeline, Fitzsimmons said, to be completed over the next five years: Smithville to JV Washam Elementary School Greenway and Westmoreland Road multi-use paths.

“Cornelius has been actively seeking out assistance with the financial costs and has had an exemplary track record securing NCDOT grants, Carolina Thread Trail Grants and partnering with Mecklenburg County on projects,”  Fitzsimmons said.

“While much has been accomplished, there is much more to work on over the coming years, but Cornelius is poised to nearly double its greenway, multi-use path and bike lane capacity in the next five years,” Fitzsimmons said.

“The future is certainly bright.”

Sharing the road

A cyclist has the right to use a travel lane, but NC state law requires that a cyclist ride as far right as possible, unless there is a need to take the lane to make a left turn or proceed through an intersection, Police Chief Kevin Black said.

Cyclists are also required to abide by the same motor vehicle laws as if they were driving a motor vehicle, Black said. Examples include stop signs, traffic lights, passing laws, yielding to pedestrians in a crosswalk, traveling on the right side of the roadway.

Cyclists using the sidewalk should dismount and walk the cycle across a crosswalk or intersection, Black said.  The laws giving pedestrians the right of away do not apply to cyclists who ride through a crosswalk.

What drivers need to know

A cyclist by law has the right to use a lane of travel and the full lane if needed.

When passing a cyclist traveling in the same direction, there must be at least 4 feet between the passing vehicle and the cyclist, Black said.

Only pass a cyclist when it can be done safely for all parties involved.



The NC helmet law requires that all bicyclists younger than the age of 16 must wear a helmet. If a child is observed riding without a helmet, his parent or caregiver could be cited, Black said.

While the law only requires children younger than the age of 16 wear a helmet, it is recommended that all cyclists wear a helmet, Black said.

In most of all serious cyclist injury accidents in Cornelius, the injury sustained is a severe head injury and the rider was not wearing a helmet, the chief noted.

Other equipment

When riding a bicycle at night, the bike must be equipped with a front head lamp that is visible from at least 300 feet. The bike must also be equipped with a rear taillight, or the rider be wearing a reflective vest, that can be seen from at least 300 feet.

Bicycle vs. car crashes

Black said there have been six reported traffic crashes involving bicycles in 2020, as of late November. There were no reported injuries in three of the crashes, he said. Two crashes involved minor injury, but the cyclists did not request or require medical treatment.

There was a single crash in a park (not on a local street or state road) where the cyclist was injured and transported by MEDIC, Black said.

In all but one of the six crashes the cyclist was responsible for contributing to the cause of the crash, Black said; there were no citations issued.

Safety advice

When riding your bicycle on the sidewalk, make sure that you slow or stop at every driveway or cross street to ensure there is not a vehicle traveling through, Black said.

“Remember, a bicyclist is not considered a pedestrian and is not covered under the ‘Yield to a Pedestrian’ general statute,” Black said.

“It is our recommendation that if you are a cyclist and are crossing in a pedestrian crosswalk, dismount your bicycle and push it across so that you are afforded the same rights as a pedestrian,” the chief said.

Cyclists riding in the roadway are required to use hand signals to indicate turns and if they are stopping.

Riding on road vs. sidewalk

It is up to the individual rider who should take into consideration their cycling experience. Experienced cyclists are comfortable riding in the streets along with motor vehicles.

Recreational cyclists may not feel as comfortable so the sidewalk may be a better option, Black said.


-Bike! Cornelius master plan Click here

-2015 Town of Cornelius Parks and Greenways Master Plan Click here