A group of local elected officials and community leaders gathered May 18 for the Mayor’s Leadership Ride, an annual bicycle tour of the city designed to highlight recent infrastructure improvements and upcoming projects.
Sitting in for Mayor Terry Bellamy, who like last year was unable to attend, was Vice Mayor Brownie Newman. Those taking part in the Strive Not to Drive event also included City Council members Cecil Bothwell and Gordon Smith, as well as Buncombe County Board of Commissioners Chair David Gantt.
Mike Sule, founder of cycling-advocacy group Asheville on Bikes, led participants on a tour that included a stop at the Asheville Transit Center, where officials from the transit department discussed upcoming changes to the bus system, including the purchase of new hybrid buses. From there, the group coasted down Haywood Road on a new bike lane, stopping in the River Arts District to hear an update on greenway development by Marc Hunt, chair of the city’s Greenway Commission and candidate for City Council. He described the district as an upcoming transit and greenway hub, envisioning expanded bicycle and pedestrian areas that will help connect downtown to West Asheville and Montford.
The owners of the Wedge Brewery Co. and Clingman Cafe also addressed the group and said that the district’s improved bicycle lanes were helping their businesses. They said that improved bus service to the area would also help.
Participants then pedaled over to the end of Roberts Street just past the intersection of Trade Street. There, they heard from Bothwell about recent improvements to an adjacent stretch of sidewalk that winds up stairs towards the intersection of Interstate 240 and Patton Avenue. The nearby pedestrian bridge that crosses I-240 into Hillcrest Apartments was recently re-opened after being closed for years due to crime. Now, the surrounding land is being considered for a mountain bike park, bike lanes and a greenway that would stretch along the end of I-240 in to downtown.
“It’s really exciting to see all the things that are happening. … We’re a more bike friendly community then we were a year ago,” declared Newman at the end of tour. “But going on rides like this also help remind us what we still need to do. … We need to go faster on making these projects happen.”
Here’s a slide show of photos from the ride:
Photos by Jake Frankel