Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Witnessing an "Almost" Crash...that could have been avoided

Earlier today I was driving back from Clemson to Central along State Road S-39-102, which is also commonly known as the "back road" between the two cities. I was headed to Central, on Madden Bridge Road, when I almost witnessed a bicycle crash on a rural route that is marked with "Share the Road" traffic signs.

Here's what happened:

I was driving behind another car. We were both going about 40 mph. As we were coming up to a bend in the road, there was a cyclist crossing from the on-coming traffic lane into our lane. There were two cars behind him. In mere seconds, the cyclist continued his diagonal path and made it onto the grass shoulder on the on-coming traffic side of the road. But not before he nearly got hit.

This made me mad and scared. And here's why:

1. Folks are either speeding in or out of town. On the road right outside of Central, just outside of a higher residential area, automobiles tend to be traveling faster than the posted limit.  This does not create safe traffic conditions for autos, pedestrians or cyclists.

2. There are few (if any) shoulders on the roads in this part of the community. Roads without shoulders are not the safest routes for cyclists to use. In rural areas, shoulders provide more space for taking care of auto problems, cyclists and the occasional resident on foot. Even though there are a few "Share the Road" traffic signs, and therefore automobile drivers should be aware that cyclists made be using the roads, the posted speed limits of rural routes and the twists and turns of the foothills creates unsafe travel conditions.

3. The lack of knowledge of bicycle rules and safety precautions. I'm not sure why the cyclist decided to cross into on-coming traffic onto the grass on the opposite side of the road at a bend in the road, but it was not a safe or smart decision. The safer option would have been to move to the grassy area on his side of the road. Because of the actions of the cyclist, he and any of the four automobiles could have gotten into an accident.

The rider also happened to be a Special Needs individual. As I passed him slowly riding his bike on the grass after the incident, I noticed that he showed some physical signs of autism and he was riding large tricycle with a basket. (I grew up with a neighbor that had autism and rode a tricycle.) This also got me thinking about the idea that there is a lack of safe transportation options for getting around many parts of the community. And that many don't know the rules of the road for bicycles.

There is a free bus that runs along a limited route between Central and Clemson along SC 93, but it doesn't reach many of the residents, especially in the rural areas. There have been several studies conducted by bicycle advocacy organizations like APBP (Association Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals) and universities (Deakin University in Melbourne and Rutgers University) that show that woman are an indicator species of how safe or user-friendly bicycle amenities are in a community. These studies are exploring why woman are riding their bikes less than men. Some of the studies have found that if woman are more likely to ride, then the conditions are generally safer for families, children and individuals with special needs. I have seen a few cyclists on the road, but a majority of them have been men. Perhaps if the bicycling conditions in the area were better, today's near-accident could have been completely avoided. Or if there was a better knowledge of how to bike safely and smartly, things would have been different. This is not the first time I have witnessed a horrendous mistake by a cyclist!

As communities of the Upstate begin to build their bicycle facilities, I hope that there is a campaign for bicycle safety. Many communities have started bicycle-friendly initiatives to update bicycle routes, paths and parking amenities. I hope that an education campaign or social marketing piece will be included to teach all riders and drivers rules and courtesies of the road.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Bike Planning: What's going on

There are several bike planning initiatives that are going on in the Upstate. The cities of Greenville, Spartanburg, and Easley are currently working on expanding their bicycle facilities. The City of Clemson is redeveloping their streetscape, and has also determined that future bike planning efforts will take place.

The City of Spartanburg, which located about half an hour from the North Carolina border, is working on improving the area's bicycle facilities through the Bike Town initiative and website. Bike Town is a collaborative, grassroots effort to improve Spartanburg's designation as a Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists. The program started in 2005, and has been continuously supported by the community.

The City of Greenville, which is located about 2.5 hours from Atlanta and Charlotte and southwest of Spartanburg, has a initiative to increase ridership, expand biking infrastructure and provide educational resources that will enable cyclists and motorist to share the road. Bikeville is a program and website to build the bicycle master plan for the area.

The City of Easley, which is 10 miles west of Greenville, has started a plan to provide more bicycle facilities to provide safe, energy-efficient, healthy transportation and recreation infrastructure and activities. In 2008 the Mayor established a committee to work towards making Easley a Bicycle Friendly community, and community members are working with consultants to provide direction for future plans.

The City of Clemson, which is about 15 miles south of Easley, has been working on redeveloping their downtown. As a part of this planning process, the city has recognized the need for improved bicycle and pedestrian facilities. In the future, the City will be building upon their existing lanes, paths and trails.

Are there other communities that are improving their bicycle infrastructure or providing educational resources to their riders? I would love to know! Please feel free to leave a post below.

As communities in the area continue to recognize the value of bicycling, paths, trails and other facilities in the area will continue to grow!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

*Please pardon my dust...*

Hello and welcome to Biking in the Upstate! I'm excited to have a place to explore and discuss bicycling (in all its forms) in the Upstate! I'm just beginning this blog, so it may take me a while to find my voice and get everything set. I appreciate your patience.

In the mean time, here's a little bit about me:  While getting my Masters degree in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I fell in love with the idea of bicycle commuting. While going to school and working in the city for four years, I road my bike on the city's roads, trails and paths year-round. Whether riding around Lake Monona during the early winter, running errands Willy Street Neighborhood in the fall or going church in the Schenk Atwood Neighborhood in the spring, I loved it!

When my husband and I moved to the Upstate of South Carolina in late summer of 2010, my love of biking followed. Even though there is a lack of infrastructure in many communities (as there can be in rural areas), there are still many cyclists out and enjoying the freedoms, speed and joys of riding. I hope that the communities in the area come to appreciate the health, environmental and economic development benefits that come from biking.

Happy Trails!