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“Change is never what we want, until it’s the only hope we have.” – Bruce McIntyre

Move over Portland. The race for the most bicycle friendly place to live has now gotten tighter with the “bikes of color” in Charlotte. These bikes are everywhere and their bright colors look good in a town known more for pinstripes than pastels.

It’s not only the colors that look good on us; it’s also good to see the smiles on the faces of my friends and out-of-town guests as they rent bikes for short trips or just a breath of fresh air.

Yet these colorful and plentiful bikes seem to puzzle as many as they please. Perhaps it’s too much change and disorganization for this buttoned-down town.

For example, there are a lot of players in this race to follow. Our established blue and white B-Cycles are now joined by LimeBike, along with the orange Spin models. Then we’ve got MoBike in silver with orange and OFO wearing bright yellow.

That’s a lot of color introduced over a short period of time, so it’s easy to get confused.

What I’m not confused about is how well these colorfully diverse bikes fit the City of Charlotte. After all, they reflect the diversity that is Charlotte today; especially true for the 25-34 year olds moving to town.

I’m excited to see how quickly these new arrivals are fitting in. Recently I visited with two men enjoying a picnic. It was a beautiful winter day so they had gotten a to-go lunch and hopped on two “dock-less” Spins. They peddled along Little Sugar Creek, then ate by the lake. Next, they planned to ride south, on the Carolina Thread Trail, to enjoy fresh oysters and drink some craft beer. Then they’d take the bus home.

“A bike only cost a buck for a 30 minute ride so why drive a car?” one said. Besides, on a beautiful day, they both wanted some exercise. I asked where they would leave the bikes when finished and they told me they would only park in an appropriate place, like near a curb, but not on the side-walk. They didn’t want these new bikes or fellow cyclists to get a bad name.

They told me how some renters just toss them aside, but those folks would end up paying a much higher rate if they didn’t play by the rules and treat the bikes right.

Renters giving bikeshare a bad name. Yes, I picked all three up and put them back on their feet, just as I hope others would do for me.

I’m hoping we’ll figure all this out soon, because until we do, many of my banking town friends aren’t smiling about these rides. They think the dock-less bikes look sloppy and they don’t appreciate the different colors. Others only like the conservatively painted bikes neatly lined up in their cubby-corrals and backed by their large sponsors.

I think Charlotte just needs to relax, take a deep breath, and enjoy the day. We need to move away from our screens, get up from our desk, and go outside – for a ride.

The fastest growing city in the country (yes, that’s us) can’t just keep building wider roads for ever more and more cars, not when there are so many healthier ways to move about on our only planet.

Bicycles bring us together, they unite. I know who’s beside me when I’m on a bike. There aren’t tinted windows or expensive marques for bikes. Maybe our city leaders could use the “bicycle of inclusion” instead of the “crown of separation” as the logo for this international capital of the new south?

That’s why I’m saying, “Change is never what we want, until it’s the only hope we have.”

What’s your take? How do you feel about these new bikes around town? What concerns do you have? How do you think they make our city look to outsiders? Are other cities around the country seeing this same invasion of brightly colored bikes?

Epilogue

Jeff Viscount of Weekly Rides tells me how, in only their first two months in Charlotte, LimeBike has provided 14,000 rides for 10,500 miles and provided enough cumulative peddling effort to burn 314,400 calories (you can have another craft beer after that massive burn).

Extend those numbers out a full year, add in the other values plus the other bikes and you have our only hope.

Now if you’ve stayed with me this far, consider what Tiffany Capers, contributing editor to the Charlotte Observer Editorial Board, said about our recent loss in the Amazon race. She suggested we, “…work on having a better story rather than just writing one.”

Perfect advice, Tiffany.