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Where Did All Those Neon Bikes Come From? 

Transportation blues

Those damn bikes. They're everywhere. Outside Creative Loafing's offices at the Music Factory this very moment, there are probably three or four of them lying on the grass next to the street.

I don't even have to go look. They're there. Trust me.

And they're also scattered all over the place up the street, at Romare Bearden Park. And out at Mallard Creek Greenway and Freedom Park. I know there's a bunch of them at those spots, because in Ryan Pitkin's news feature this week, he writes about a photo that captured one of them submerged and frozen in a pond.

You know what bikes I'm talking about. Everybody's talking about them.

They're the bikes that dockless bike-share companies like LimeBike, Spin, Ofo and Mobike have unleashed on our streets. And some folks don't like them. At all.

Take Phillip Sanford, a local cyclist who tells Pitkin in his news report that the proliferation of scattered dockless bike-share bicycles all over Charlotte is giving serious cyclists a bad rep.

"We need [for] a public base that is very pro-car and anti-anything else to have a positive view of bike commuting and its possibilities," Sanford says. "Flooding the area with cheap bikes with little oversight and a lack of acknowledgement of legitimate concerns just perpetuates the idea that biking is just a fad very few people should be a part of."

Others tell Pitkin they love the idea of more bike-share companies bringing transportation alternatives to the city.

"I would say, for other bike advocates: If you see a bike that's down, pick it up, move it over," Kate Cavazza, bike program manager for the cycling advocacy organization Sustain Charlotte, tells Pitkin. "It doesn't take that much effort. If you have a problem with it, move it three feet to the left."

All agree that bike-share customers need to become more aware of etiquette when it comes time to deposit the bicycles. Because no one wants to slog through a pile of bicycles during their leisurely walk in the park.

"We do need to be very cognizant to making sure [the dockless bikes are] not impeding accessibility for disabled folks or for pedestrians using sidewalks, that we do have some policies in place in terms of where they can be left so they're not blocking other pathways," District 1 Charlotte City Council member Larken Egleston tells Pitkin.

Frankly, I have a super simple solution: Bike-share companies should include ironclad rules about how the bikes are to be deposited, and in the agreement for renting the bikes, they should explicitly state something like, "If you do not deposit this bicycle correctly, we will add a $20 fee to your $1/per half-hour bill."

When fees of $22 for an hour-long ride around the city begin to appear on bike-share customers' credit card statements, they'll get the message. And voila! Problem solved.

Speaking of transportation, several other stories in this week CL spotlight folks who have either relocated to Charlotte or moved away from Charlotte to recharge their careers.

In the case of the talented playwright Stacey Rose, the cover girl of this week's issue, she moved from the Queen City to New York City to attend NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. In the case of Astrea Corp, a husband-and-wife electronic-music duo — they moved to Charlotte from south Florida, where they were the darlings of the Broward/Palm Beach music scene. Americana singer-songwriter Douglass Thompson arrived here from Wisconsin, and promtly recorded a live album at the Evening Muse. And N.C. Senate candidate Mujtaba Mohammed, who Ryan also writes about in this week's news section, moved up from Greenville, South Carolina. (OK, he moved here during high school, but still..)

Stacey Rose, in particular, is a Charlotte treasure. (And for full disclosure, she's also a dear old friend of mine.) Not only was she way ahead of her time on the local theater scene several years ago — OnQ Productions founder Quentin Talley calls her a "visionary" in Kia Moore's arts feature — but Stacey hit the ground running when she arrived in New York in 2012. She's won multiple awards for her plays and other work, and landed a peach of a position working on Spike Lee's new Netflix TV series version of his 1986 debut film She's Gotta Have It.

What's more, Stacey has a hell of a redemption story. A single mom and recovering addict who struggled for years in Charlotte to make ends meet, she got clean nine years ago and, through brute determination, ungodly talent and a little help from her friends, has plowed her way to success. It's a powerful tale of a black female artist who just had to have it. And Stacey's success turns out to be ours, too.

So drive in, park your bikes (in an orderly manner), sit down for a cup of coffee, and enjoy this week's edition of Creative Loafing.

We'll see you next week.

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