CORNELIUS – Brett Larter describes himself as not only an avid cyclist but an advocate for making biking easier, safer and more popular.
Most days, Larter commutes on his bike, pedaling an east-west route between his home in the Heritage Green neighborhood off N.C. 115 and his job at River Rock Capital Partners in Kenton Place. He moved a little more than a year ago and invested some time in finding the best path – “You really don’t want to be on N.C. 73 if you can avoid it,” he said. And he began wondering how many others might consider biking to work or other places if they were comfortable with the route.
The idea simmered until a few months ago when Larter was talking with a friend. Their conversation turned to topics including urban planning, design and transit, and Larter said his friend mentioned a valuable tool would be some kind of bike map laid out like a subway system.
Creating the lines
The idea of illustrating specific destinations and the various routes to get there stuck with Larter.
“I started looking around and found some subway-like biking maps for other places and decided to create one for Cornelius,” he said. “The biggest challenge was deciding which destinations to include. I was already pretty familiar with the roads and traffic, so I just tried to combine what I knew into something informative and easy to comprehend.”
The first version highlighted schools, restaurants, neighborhoods, gyms, grocery stores, parks and more and featured a color-coded guide depicting route type and traffic expectations. It took about eight hours.
Since then, Larter has made multiple additions and enhancements to the map, adding new points of interest and clarifying potential connections, but the goal has remained the same.
“I just want to get this out there and get the discussion started,” he said. “It’s all in the early stages, but I think this is something that could be very useful around here. This area is really pretty flat for the most part, so there aren’t that many challenges to cyclists if they know where they’re going and the best route to take.
“I’m experienced, and I would be comfortable biking on just about any type of road,” he added, “but I know that’s not the case for everybody. I wanted to show the type of traffic and provide a comparison to give as much information as possible to all types of cyclists. And I think something like this could encourage more people to ride their bikes.”
Cornelius actively supports cycling, and there is an existing Bike! Cornelius program that includes a bicycle master plan and a map showing existing and proposed greenways, bike lanes and connectors. Scott Higgins, a cycling enthusiast and member of the town’s Parks, Arts, Recreation and Culture Commission, reviewed Larter’s map proposal and expressed support for the concept with a few suggestions.
“At first blush, the map is a good start,” Higgins said, “but planned greenways and multi-paths need to be added.”
In Davidson, members of the town’s parks and recreation department also looked at Larter’s map and identified positive factors and a few uncertainties. A summary of comments from the town’s department highlighted the color-coded routes and simplicity of the map as positives but questioned the depictions of some locations.
“I appreciate all the response,” Larter said. “That’s the reason for putting this out there. I know it’s not exactly to scale – again, it’s like a subway map showing the general location of destinations – but the goal remains to keep the conversation going.
“I want the feedback,” he added. “I want to hear what planners in all the towns think and what other people suggest because I think we can create something people can really use.”