BIKE RIDES AROUND GREENSBORO
The weather’s fine. Young men shoot hoops, ladies sing on stoops and elderly couples are walking hand in hand. Few people seem to be aware that it’s election season, judging by the thin placement of campaign signs. And who can blame them? One of the best ways to encounter the city is from a bicycle. I recommend a degree of improvisation in routing, a leisurely pace and accumulating bits of knowledge about areas with low-volume auto traffic, connectivity and scenery through whatever guides you can find to consult.
GLENWOOD OBSERVATIONS MY GOAL OF RIDING FROM THE UNCG AREA to Hester Park in southwest Greensboro on a recent evening was thwarted by the fading light and the fact that my rear blinker has disappeared. Instead I made a wide southwesterly swing to Four Seasons Town Centre and back up through the serene neighborhoods of Lindley Park, Sunset Hills and Westerwood. My trek started out in College Hill and crossed Lee Street — something of a feat — into Glenwood. A couple impressions from Greensboro’s most underrated neighborhood: an unchained, muscular red dog in front of a house on Highland Avenue; a bustling yard sale on Florida Street; and a turquoise-colored cinderblock building with musical notes painted on its faded marquee occupied by a biker club, three sleek black choppers parked in the back.
My journey roughly followed a signed bike route marked by the city as No. 3, but not exactly. Instead I made an early left turn onto Van Wert Street, a somewhat weathered stretch of asphalt with little car traffic. The street deadends into Ontario Street, flanked on its southern side by a lush deciduous canopy. Some tender vignettes: a man walking with a small gray dog and a golf club (for protection?) and talking on a cell phone; and a yard sign in front of a house with prefab stained wood siding: “Guitar, bass and mandolin instruction.”
Greensboro is rightly proud of its collection of greenways, which are corridors of natural landscape that often follow streams. Ontario Street crosses the four-lane Coliseum Boulevard and becomes Old Chapman St., which runs into West Meadowview Road. Hillsdale Greenway hugs one of the branches of Buffalo Creek and buffers the neighborhood that is its namesake from Interstate 40. The greenway has its own multi-use trail available to cyclists, provided they’re willing to slow down and join the flow with baby strollers, runners and pedestrians.
Any Greensboro cyclist who ventures into the city’s southwest quadrant or, for that matter, rides Route 2 on the GTA, is bound to discover sooner or later the Vanstory Street bridge across Interstate 40. With a nod to Holden Road to the west, Vanstory Street is best way to avoid the madness that is the High Point Road interchange. After crossing the interstate, it swoops cleanly along the southern rim of Four Seasons Town Centre. Another little bit of poetry from an exploratory detour: Two young women singing on front stoop of a ranch house on Yow Street in the back yard of Four Seasons. The No. 3 signed bike route ends at Vanstory Street and Pincroft Road. Whether a function of urban design or a reflection of the declining fortunes of the great American indoor mall, it’s easy to cycle up to Four Seasons.
Heading back, the No. 3 signed bike route follows Vanstory Street, then Meadowview Street, and then heads north on Hardie Street, rising from the Buffalo Creek streambed up past Jackson Middle School. Just below the Greensboro Coliseum, Hardie Street intersects with Florida Street. I need to mention marked bike lanes. Most of Florida Street, from Barber Park in the east to Holden Road in the west, boasts designated lanes for cyclists in both directions. Similarly, Spring Garden Street from Greene Street to Holden Road holds this distinction. Not having to compete for space with cars provides a welcome respite.
Dusk was imminent, and Holden is a rather merciless stretch of road, so I stuck to the sidewalk. Between Patterson and Spring Garden streets, the Norfolk-Southern Railroad crosses overhead. Near the entrance of the railroad service road south of the track, an ominous sign warns away would-be trespassers: “The most important thing you can do today is make the return trip on this driveway! Have a safe day!”
Just north of the railway corridor, Oakland Avenue is one of the most scenic and accommodating backstreets. On the right lies Kickstands Private Club, where I picked up a snatch of indignant conversation. The main attraction is the majestic Pomona rail yard, splayed into eight separate tracks with a tower and large hangar, and in view of the coliseum. Grafitti-adorned boxcars idled in the yards. An elderly couple walked hand in hand past the Sherwin-Williams paint factory. Two young dudes pushed each other around a basketball court. A young couple cruised on a tandem bike.
WALKER AND ELAM
The intersection of Walker and Elam avenues buzzed with dinnertime conviviality three or four hours before the bars approached their fervent peak. Happy couples thronged the outdoor tables at three separate restaurants. The doorman in front of Walker’s bar closely scanned the street.
Greenaway Drive in both its east and west iterations straddle a tributary to Buffalo Creek between Market Street and Friendly Avenue in tree-lined district of well-kept manses. The tennis courts sat lonely and unloved as I passed through, and faint piano music sounded from a Tudor home. Crossing Friendly Avenue is rather treacherous, and the east section of Greenaway dies. West Greenaway Drive completes the journey to Mimosa Drive. Turn left and travel a couple blocks, and you come to a footbridge that leads to the Lake Daniel Greenway, which is part of a contiguous trail system between Moses Cone and Wesley Long hospitals.