MOUNT HOLLY – Every day from his office in the city’s municipal complex, Brian DuPont can see streams of cyclists venture down N.C. 27.
The folks Mount Holly’s assistant planning director sees are often trying to reach the rural roadways of Gaston County to the west, but some are just going to and from their jobs. And in order to enhance the safety and accessibility of cycling in town, Mount Holly is looking to create a greater network of greenways and bike lanes.
“As more people move to this region, they’re coming from places that have these amenities, and they’re looking for these amenities,” DuPont said at an open house for the Bike Mount Holly project April 18.
The plan is being funded by a $49,000 grant from the N.C. Department of Transportation. And one of its highlights is the creation of a bike route that runs from the Stowe Family YMCA on the south side of town, all the way to Mountain Island Charter School near N.C. 16. Another is turning a tract of land along the Catawba River near the Mountain Island dam into mountain bike trials.
Many local cyclists take to the 40-plus miles of trials at the U.S. National Whitewater Center, just across the river. Bike Mount Holly wants to create a connecting bridge between the city and center’s trails.
“Families are looking for off-road recreation,” DuPont said. “That’s where you get your bang for your buck.”
At the open house, city officials presented the results of a survey of residents from Sept. 18 to Nov. 7. Getting the word out via local churches, schools and phone apps, 319 people weighed in on their vision for bike accessibility, a number that DuPont called “impressive.”
The results showed residents weren’t pleased with the current state of the biking options. Sixty-six percent called the overall quality of the existing bicycle network “poor” and 90 percent thought Mount Holly needed more bike infrastructure.
“We hope they see we listened, that we heard them,” DuPont said. “Some people filled out surveys and said we don’t want bikes, and that’s what this is about. We’re not trying to push an agenda, we’re just trying to make sure we capture everybody’s information.”
The Bike Mount Holly Steering Committee has representatives from the Tarheel Trailblazers mountain biking club as well as the Carolina Thread Trail. The city’s Mountain Island Park Trail, Catawba Riverfront Greenway and quarter-mile Linear Park trail are already part of the latter.
Of those who took the survey, 84 percent were from Mount Holly, but 56 percent said they worked or attended school elsewhere. Giving residents more opportunities to stay local is part of the goal for the bike system.
“It’s not just economic development, which is a big part of what a lot of people are doing, but it’s health in all policies,” DuPont said. “It’s making sure that when people come to an area, they can raise a family that has opportunities for recreation or transportations to jobs, because bicycling can be both.”
The next step is for the city to take its final plan to NCDOT for approval, before going to city council for formal adoption, something DuPont hopes to accomplish this summer.
Though it’s a separate NCDOT project from Bike Mount Holly, the widening of N.C. 273 south of downtown will include details for improved pedestrian and bicycle connectivity. The stretch has a projected completion date of Dec. 28, 2020.
“If you think of a trunk of a tree, everything south of that, those are the roots and we want to spread the bike lanes and the roots but we also want to spread it north on other routes – the branches,” DuPont said. “That’s really going to be the heart of it. Other opportunities that the plan identifies is where we’ll spread from there.”