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Shake your Booty 

Neighborhood Profile: Myers Park

Beneath an awning of oaks, maples and poplars, through a curving crash course in bungalow, colonial and Tudor revival-style homes, from sunrise to sundown, they ride.

Planned as a streetcar suburb in the early 20th century, Myers Park is home not only to some of the city's more elegant environs, but to one of its most fawned-over biking routes, known as the Booty Loop. It may be synonymous with Queens University, but the 2.8-mile sphere encompassing Selwyn Avenue, Queens and Providence Road is an institution unto itself: its famed 24 Hours of Booty cycling event, sponsored by the Levine Cancer Institute, celebrates 12 years July 26-27. In a city not exactly known for being friendly to riders, Myers Park is a welcome haven for Charlotte's growing community of cyclists.

And the Booty Loop's reputation precedes itself: Riders from all over town regularly trek to Myers Park to satisfy their need for speed. Stacy Grosch, 26, lives in Plaza Midwood but has been riding the loop since he first started using a road bike a few years ago. "I didn't have a car and started commuting by bike, and even though I was doing it out of necessity, I realized that I like it a lot," says Grosch. Although he favors longer rides now, he still hits the Booty Loop once or twice a week, as "an easy way to get a couple miles in, and a great warm-up."

Fellow loyal patron Juan Manuel Ospina, 32, has been riding the loop for six years, since he moved to the south side from the University area. "I started cycling and looking for friendly places to ride," says Manuel. "At the time, there were just a few places in Charlotte where you would see people riding road bicycles." He rides the loop two to three times a week.

Should you be of the opinion that riding around in circles makes one a dull boy, it's good to note that even seasoned cyclists find something special when they discover the Booty Loop. South Charlotte resident Claudio Ortiz, 26, has been cycling since 2005, but it wasn't until about two months ago that he started frequenting the loop. "I didn't start riding it religiously until my friend Andres [Lizarazo, of the Bike Gallery] decided he wanted to be held accountable for riding in the morning," he says. "It's between our houses, so we do a couple laps every Tuesday and Thursday, starting around 6 or 6:30 and stopping around 7:45, when traffic starts to get crazy."

A ride on the loop is a ride with a sublimely suburban view, although Ortiz believes the Booty Loop's appeal lies beyond its idyllic setting. "What's cool about it is that you'll find all kinds of people on the Booty Loop. People in the neighborhood that use those streets know that it's the Booty Loop, so they expect bikes, runners and joggers to be there."

City riders have claimed the Booty Loop as a focal gathering place for the like-minded. "It's easier to get into biking on a closed-in course," says Grosch. "The Booty Loop has helped a lot as far as Charlotte being more bike-friendly."

"You see lots of regulars," says Manuel. "It's awesome, because Charlotte just now is becoming a bike-friendly place. There are many bike lanes but they don't connect, and the loop in Myers Park has that sense of connection."

By Kendrea Mekkah

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