Monday, February 21, 2011

Table Rock State Park + Bike Lanes

This weekend I took a drive up to Table Rock State Park in northern Picken's County. Never having been, as I moved to the South in August of 2010, I enjoyed the park and the drive to visit a great natural resource. I'm a fan of the State Park system, and my husband and I look forward to many more trips to South Carolina State Parks.

During our visit, I noticed bike lanes and a group of cyclists out enjoying the usually good Februray weather on Highway 11 near the park. I was pleasantly surprised to see the designated bike lanes on the roadway. The State Park is largely an area dedicated to hiking the in the foothills, and does not have a lot of bicycle trails. I took the bicycle lanes located near the park as a welcoming gesture to the cyclists of the Upstate.

However, the transportation infrastructure - the major and minor roads - leading up to the State Park does not support cyclists. There are no bike lanes, the shoulders on the roadway are either too small or nonexistant and there aren't any "share the road" or other signs to alert drivers to the presences of cyclists. Furthemore, Highway 11 is a heavily trafficked road, and I would not consider it a safe rural route for any cyclist. The lack of bicycle infracture isn't surprising, as Table Rock State Park is in a rural area. Many rural areas lack facilities for cyclists and pedestrians. But, I can't help but wonder... How safe cyclists feel using the bike lanes? Where do the bike lanes/route near Table Rock lead? What are the future plans for this area, and do they include provisions for improving the facilities for cyclists?

For future planning, I would be excited to see an extended route from the City of Pickens or the Swamp Rabbit Trail to Table Rock State Park.

If you know future plans for any improvements to the bicycle infrastructure or new trails, I invite you to post below! Thanks.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sustainable, Bicycle Tailgating

Tailgating, though fun, is an awful mess to clean up. Collegiate, Pro and even all-day amature events can produce a lot of garbage...and traffic. If you have ever been in the Upstate on Gameday (Saturday afternoon for you non-Clemson University fans), you have been a part of the crowds and have seen all of the activity big sporting events like college football games can produce. They are fun - but, oh, the chaos!

Recently, there has been an interest in developing "sustainable tailgating," also known as "leave no trace" or "pack in and pack out" tailgating facilities at Clemson University. The idea comes from trying to green the campus and make the facilities more environmentally-friendly.

Though just in the brainstorming stages, there is interest and buy in from students at Clemson as well as administrators. Some of the ideas include:

  • Providing premium parking or tailgating facilities for cyclists. If you chose to ride to Death Valley, or use some sort of bike/bus combination (tip of the hat to the CAT Transit System), you would be able to tailgate at a reserved location.
  • Minimal electricity. There is some talk about having this be a "Plasma TV Free" zone. If you wanted to set up camp at the sustainable tailgating location, there wouldn't be electricity hookups. This is a nod to reducing energy usage on campus.
  • Tailgating in a park-like setting. There's something fun - almost novel - in setting up your tailgating party in the parking lot. Mom's sandwiches just taste better when you're sitting outside the stadium! But what if there was tailgating in a park like setting? If you're a cyclist, and you have your tailgating stuff with you, it's not like you have a trunk to sit in. Providing benches or other semi-permanent community-friendly structures would provide places for cyclists to enjoy their tailgating experience along with others.

I think it sounds like a great idea, and I'm interested to see if and how this develops! If you know someone at Clemson University, specifically those involved with the sustainable development or healthy campus iniatives, mention that you think this would be a great, unique and good idea to support.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Safe Routes to School (SRTS)

Some may be familiar with the Safe Routes to School program. Safe Routes to School, or SRTS, is a national bike and pedestrian program for public schools where federal dollars are allocated to the state to develop and implement programs at the local level. It's a win-win for everyone. The program started in 1997, but it has been federally funded since 2005. Urban, rural and suburban schools across the country, including in South Carolina, have received funding for and implemented successful SRTS programs.

Here's how it works:
1.  Funding. As previously stated, funding comes from the Feds. The money is allocated to the State - usually at the Department of Transportation. So, that means that parents don't have to participate in any fundraisers. Nor are additional taxes levied. The funds already exist, and they are available for your community! Here's the website for the DOT site for SRTS in South Carolina. Here's another website about what YOU can do to get the SRTS ball rolling in your community.

2. Support.  There is an existing network of resources available to so no school has to embark on this process alone. Most states will have a Safe Routes to School Coordinator (or similarly named position) who is in charge of the State Program. In some states there is also a SRTS Support Center, in addition to the DOT, like Georgia. These contain ideas, materials and people who are experienced in promoting, planning and implementing SRTS programs. Take advantage of these resources! And, don't forget the simplest resource search begins with your favorite internet search engine.

3.  Program Components. The 5's E's, as they are called, are the five components that make up the majority of the program. Here they are, in no particular order:
  • Engineering -  This is the term that describes the broad design, implementation, operation concepts as well as the maintenance of traffic control devices. Typical "engineering" products are new or improved sidewalks, trails, safety processes for before and after school times and activities. These improvements are easiest to see and use.
  • Education - This term describes the subject matter and approach to teaching students, teachers, administers and parents about bicycle, pedestrian and automobile safety. Education can take place in the classroom or during specific events and activities outside the school.
  • Encouragement - This term is the most fun! Adults in the community can encourage their students to participate in special biking and walking to school days or events. Students will be more likely to be involved if they are encouraged!
  • Evaluation - This part of the SRTS program is determines if the goals of the individual community strategies are being met and to assure that resources are directed toward efforts that show the greatest likelihood of success. Also, evaluation can identify needed adjustments to the program while it is underway.
  • Enforcement - This term addresses the need for student's continuous safety. Enforcement can be achieved through a network of community members - teachers, students, adult crossing guards, parents, watchful neighbors, etc. - working together to promote safe walking, bicycling and driving. This can be accomplished through safety awareness, education and, where necessary, the use of ticketing for dangerous behaviors.

4.  Commitment. The level of commitment is a choice made by the teachers, administration and parents.  This is not a federally or state mandated program. You can choose to participate - or not. Schools can commit to one year or more, depending on the level of interest, support, energy and success. Every school and program is based on the unique characteristics of your community.

If you're interested in learning more about SRTS or taking action, start today! Contact the state DOT SRTS coordinator or visit the National SRTS website.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Bike Lanes in Clemson?

Last week Thursday, I attended the second evening of the Clemson Area Congregations in Touch (CACIT) Lay Academy series. This year, the three night series is titled “The Challenge of Caring for Our Environment," based on the idea of environmental stewardship, from a faith-based perspective. CACIT is an organization that has been around since the 1970’s, and is an organization where members of different faith communities come together to discuss issues, provide services and take action in the Upstate. I was asked to join the organization this past fall.

The evening’s discussions was about the “Community” and environmental stewardship. The Mayor of Clemson, Mayor Larry Abernathy, spoke about his efforts in greening the City of Clemson, as well as the development of the “Green Ribbon Committee.” I enjoyed his talk, especially since I was not familiar with many of the environmental efforts of the City. 

Ever since I heard about the PELCOR initiative, I have been thinking about the lack of bicycle infrastructure in Clemson and Central. I have also been wondering about the potential for a trail that connects Greenville to Clemson, and to points beyond. So, I seized the moment! I asked the Mayor:

  1.  Is there an bicycle and/or pedestrian initiative in the City, including those that would incorporate the efforts of Greenville, Pickens, Easley and Liberty?
  2.  Are there any plans to improve the infrastructure between Clemson and Central?
He gave me an interesting answer: he said that the DOT told him that this was the only city in South Carolina that NEEDS bike lanes. Apparently in the recent past, a member of the South Carolina Department of Transportation contacted the Mayor to take a tour of the City. They toured the City, but there wasn’t a set agenda, and there wasn’t a lot of discussion during the visit. The Mayor said that this seemed to be a pretty low-key day.

After they were finished, the DOT employee told the Mayor that there were many cities across the state that wanted bike lanes. (This was encouraging to me!) But this was the only city that needed bike lanes.
Okay, so maybe this makes a great story. And maybe this wasn’t the exact conversation, but I found this answer insightful because:
  1. The Mayor recognizes the need for better bicycle infrastructure.
  2. Other communities in the state are demanding better biking amenities. 
  3. The Mayor has the ear of the DOT, which is critical to implementing any improvements along highways 123 and 93.
So, it seems that there is hope for improving the bike amenities in the City of Clemson (though no mention of anything with Clemson University). 

And, if you’re interested in attended the third session of the CACIT Lay Academy Series, you’re invited! It’s on Thursday, February 10 at the Methodist Church in Clemson (300 Frontage Road). Light refreshments are served, and the series is free. Hope to see you there!