Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Bike the Electric City

Last night, I attended a workshop to support bicycle and pedestrian plans, trails and pathways in the City of Anderson and nearby areas. Anderson's volunteer Complete Streets Committee and a few dedicated, volunteer professionals hosted the event. The purpose was to gather public support and ideas for ways to improve the bicycle facilities in the City. There was quite a bit of discussion, and the meeting lasted for over an hour. The committee came equipped with some of the known plans and routes, and they left with new ideas and routes cyclists currently used. They hope to come away with a primary, "home run" route followed by a prioritized list and plan for future improvements.

This was a really exciting meeting because attendees recognized the economic impact the Swamp Rabbit Trail in Greenville has had to the City, County and region. Anderson now wants to capture some of that energy, and synergistically move forward.

A lot of these hopes and plans hinges on funding - as almost everything does these days. With tight budgets and over-worked employees, public support is critical in this initiative moving forward and making plans a reality. The facility improvements in Anderson aren't just for the "spandex" crowd. Attendees and committee members voiced the importance of having "destination rides," especially for families.

So, if you would like to see this initiative move forward in Anderson, contact your City Council members and tell them that this is important to fund and support. I hope to be writing about the progress of biking in the Electric City.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

4 Greenville Bike Proposals - Last Chance to Help Out TODAY

I was reading some of my favorite news and bicycle sources this morning. I found out that TODAY, March 22 is the last day to help Greenville get funding for 4 different grant proposals. The grants are 80/20 match and the rewards are based strongly on public comment. If you have a bit of extra time - say 5 minutes - view these 4 different proposal presentations at this website here, and then email your "attendance" and/or comments at the email listed at the end of the presentations.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Bicycle diversity

I've been thinking about the different types of people that ride bikes. You've got your "spandex" crowd, families, kids, commuters, mountain bikers, social riders, serious riders, those that train for specific racing/triathlon events and there are so many more. For every rider, there are also the individual bike(s) that they use. Mountain, hybrid, road, racing, tandem, bmx, low-rider. The list goes on and on.

It might be argued that different riders or groups have different personalities. Someone who is a serious trainer probably wouldn't want to ride with families every day. Kids and teens might see the helmets worn by racer to be a little uncool. Commuter cyclists also come in all shapes and size: those from the geared up to others who is riding because they have little other option.

There are so many different riders out there. I think it's actually pretty cool. I grew up being forced to ride my bike (or walk) to school when the weather turned nice. At the time it was pretty uncool, especially since I ALAWAYS had to wear my helmet, but I also have fond memories of flying around the neighborhood on my bike. As I got older, I still loved to use it, but in the teen years I abandoned my Huffy 21 speed for a car. In college, I didn't bike much, but I still brought my bike to college to explore some nearby neighborhoods. As a young adult, I learned to love biking as a way of commuting in Madison, WI. There were so many (quicker) ways to get around on your bike than in a car. Plus, if you wanted to stop and relax, there was no need to search for parking. Last year, I purchased "my bike:"  A bianchi volpe. :)

I'm sure we all have our own stories. Remember your first bike? Learning how to ride without training wheels? Maybe you have recently purchased a new bike - what's that one like? Having a bicycle is a common experience most American's share. There seems to be a right of passage in getting your first speed/geared bike - whether it be brand new or a hand me down. By providing trails, paths and places to ride to, we can continue the story of the bicycle in our culture and in our individual lives.

Riders hop on for fun, for speed, for health, for the wind blowing in your face, for _______ (you fill in the blank). I love that on any nice weather weekend, you'll see all kinds of people hit the trails on their bike. A bike path is a good investment because it provides a healthy activity that folks can participate in together outside, and the cost is relatively small. It also could be said that public trails have become public spaces/places where people can gather and meet one another.

As the weather warms up, get on your bikes and ride!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Local Initiatives = Regional Momentum

It has been a great week for bicycle planning in the Upstate! There has been a lot of public forward movement in several communities. There is much to write about, so I'm going to keep this entry short in an effort to just give the facts. The Palmetto Spokesman blog has done a great job following these leads. Make sure to follow them, too!

Greenville. A public meeting occurred earlier this week where the City's Bicycle Master plan was unveiled. 200 people showed up! To learn more about many things biking, including the planning process, and staying connected, check out this website. I haven't been able to find the plan online (yet), but this page may contain it in the future. Use your favorite search engine to check out the coverage by The Greenville News.

Easley. The City released their Bicycle and Pedestrian master plan this week in a public meeting. It's extensive, but full of good stuff. *Spoiler Alert:  download it in sections, as it's over 200 pages.*

Pickens. A public meeting is scheduled for Monday, March 21 @ 5pm @ City Hall. They'll be working on the RTP grant application and master plan. This aligns with the ideas and goals of the PELCOR initiative.

Anderson. The City's Complete Street's Advisory Committee and Great Escape Bicycles is sponsoring a bicycle master plan workshop for the City of Anderson on March 22 @ 6pm at the Anderson Recreation Center.

Clemson/Central. There are a few different folks who are meeting with different city officials and committees to drum up support and get these two cities to take action. There are some bicycle amenities that currently exist (the "bike lane" along 93 is one example), but there are some major improvements that need to be made before bicycling becomes safer and more accessible to a majority of the local population.

Overall, city officials, citizen activists and other champions are working together to make this a cohesive, connected movement. Things like this take time, but with any size group of thoughtful, committed people, we can make a difference. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


Have you been watching the price of gas recently? About a month ago, gas was $2.89 a gallon where I live. Yesterday, I watched the price jump from $3.29 on my morning commute to $3.39 on my way home. Ouch. That is a 50 cent increase in about a month.

In February, I heard rumors of $4 gas by Memorial Day and $6 gas by 2012. (Do a search for "$4 gas by Memorial Day 2011," and you will get so many articles from media sources across the country, I couldn't pick one to link to.) I don't like rumors, but with the uptick in gas prices, these predictions may be closer than we realize. (Photo credit here.)

Remember in March 2008, when gas jumped to $4+ across the country? Transportation patterns shifted across the country! That's when SUV's became less fashionable, more people used public transportation and bicycle commuting started gaining some real traction. By early 2009, gas prices settled back down some, and people went back to their “normal” commuting lives.

It's been 2.5 years since that last jump. Will this recent increase (and the prediction of continued increases) affect you? How will you change your commuting patterns, if at all? I am fortunate to live close enough to my current employment that I can bike to work, but my husband and I still own two cars and fill up our gas tanks like everyone else. I wonder how this will affect disposable income of families across the country.

In Pickens county, the CAT Bus system runs FREE to EVERYONE. And, there are bike racks on the front of all the buses. (As a bike commuter, I feel a lot safer about my choice to commute knowing that if my bike breaks down, I am riding on or near a bus route.) There are several bus lines, and they connect the communities of Seneca (in Oconee County) Clemson, Central, Pendleton and Anderson (in Anderson County) together. It's the largest free bus system in the country, and folks are working hard to continually improve this great resource. Could you consider taking public transportation as an alternative to driving to work?

Check out the transportation options in your area. Is their a bus? Could you start a carpool or ride share at your work? Does your employment offer a Flex Spending Account that provides funds to reimburse an alternative transportation option like the bus? How about the Bike Commuter Tax Credit? If the price of gas continues to increase, having transportation alternatives to the auto and open road in place will be important to helping us all manage new transportation patterns in our own lives.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Bicycle Safety 101: Spring Tune Up

In hopes of providing a bit of bicycle safety and education, I'm going to start a new series on this blog: Bicycle Safety 101. This will be a series where posts will cover topics like riding with traffic, bicycle laws and other correct and good things that may help make your ride safer. Having great bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure is one thing, but educating users – pedestrian, cyclists and automobile drivers – enhances the experience for everyone.

The Spring Tune Up. Ready to ride? Well, maybe you are, but your bike may not be! Before you get out on that first 10+ mile ride, make sure to look over your machine. Test the brakes, air pressure in the tires, and oil your chain. Take a test ride around the block. Look at the condition of your tires for any cracks. Check your spokes – if they are coming lose, they'll need tightening (probably best by a mechanic). Check out your helmet (because you should always wear one!) for any dings, cracks and for overall condition. If it's looking a little's probably a safe bet that it's time to buy a new one soon. If you have kids, you may have to raise the seat if they have grown.

If the bike has been sitting idle for more than a couple of months, I highly suggest getting a thorough tune-up. If you're a handy-person, or determined to become a BIY (Bike-It Yourself) person, use a reference guide and give her a good once over! And don't forget to search You Tube for some great videos. If that's not your speed, there are many cycle shops that can provide a variety of tune-ups. Check out Clemson Cyclery, Sunshine Cycle Shop, The Great Escape or just Google "bicycle repair, sc" to find your shop of choice.  

It's always good to have chain lube, an air pump, an Alan wrench/hex key and a ratchet set handy at home for simple repairs, too. Investing in these tools will go a long way in your biking budget and simplifying your life. And if you're not sure how to use these, talk to your bike mechanic the next time you have a tune-up. S/he should be happy to give you a few “tools of the trade” that will make your biking experience better.