Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Daily Commute: Where the Sidewalk Ends

I commute to work. I enjoy my daily excuse to ride with the wind, get exercise and enjoy the great outdoors.

On my ride, there are several different things that are common biking and pedestrian concerns (obstacles, barriers, weaknesses) that appear in communities across the country. Using my daily commute, I'd like to address a few of issues as a forum to engage dialogue, explore ideas and learn. (If you're interested in following this series, the posts will begin with the titled "Daily Commute.")

Here is one of the first intersections that I come across: 

It's actually kind of peaceful. There are a lot of trees and rolling hills (as you can see). To the right, there's a small park where a stream trickles by and a baseball diamond where the local little league plays. To the left, the road dips under the railroad, and intersects with Highway 93. The intersection in the photo is rarely congested, and it is the only way to get across the railroad tracks without having to wait for the train for miles. It's a pleasant crossroads.

But. But there are a few major connectivity and safety issues.

  1. Where the sidewalk ends. The sidewalk ends, abruptly, on the near right side of the road, and picks up, across the street, on the far left side. There are no sidewalks on the near left or far right. For pedestrians (joggers, families, daily walkers, little leaguers, etc) this isn't safe. There is also a lack of a curb or clear boundary where the road starts and the sidewalk begins. This area could use a little spit and polish.   

  2. Head and Shoulders. The shoulder appears to be quite wide (and is) in the foreground. Traveling by a neighborhood to get to this point, the wide shoulder is ideal for cyclist (as long as it's kept clean of road debris.) But, after the intersection, the shoulder disappears, forcing the cyclist to into the flow of traffic, creating a dangerous opportunity for a auto/bike crash. This area needs to be examined, and some decisions need to be made about widening shoulders, putting up signage or other ways to get ride of the cycling barrier. I often find myself riding on the shoulder, and then jumping to the roadway. Please Note:  Cyclist generally have a choice when riding in an area that does not have disclosed or apparent bikeways (lanes, paths, etc). They can ride on the shoulder or on the road. In South Carolina (as in many states), cyclists have the same rights and responsibilities to be on the road as an automobile. They can take up the same space or spot as a car, but that also means all traffic laws and signals must be obeyed.

  3. Rights versus Invites. Does this area look bike-friendly to you? For being next to a neighborhood and just off of downtown ("downtown" Central, SC, that is), this area does not appear to be safe or inviting to many bike riders. Would you allow your children to bike here? Would you feel comfortable crossing this intersection? Even though cyclists have rights to the road, sometimes the area is not inviting. Communities can take steps to address the comfort level of cyclists, automobile drivers and pedestrians, making the location (intersection, park, neighborhood, path) a safer place for everyone.
I would say that this area has a lot of potential to create a great community space and crossroads. With the park, stream, little league field, neighborhood and downtown just on the other side of the tracks, there are lot of things to draw people to and through the area. What a great space!

Where are the places like this where you live or work? How might they be improved to address pedestrian, bicycle and automobile safety, health and wellness? Talk with friends and neighbors, local officials and planners to help plan for a better community.


  1. Hello! I stumbled upon your blog a few months back and have enjoyed the topics and perspectives you present. It's great to see a fellow commuter cyclist addressing these issues.

    I live in the Calhoun Corners area and commute to campus through downtown Clemson. The area along Calhoun Street, east of College Avenue certainly is not inviting to bicyclists or pedestrians, even though there are many with the CAT bus having stops along there. I'm hoping the construction projects going on right now will address this.

    Another step toward making the bicycle commute more inviting for individuals who go from that area to campus would be bike lanes along College Avenue, or at the least, some "sharrows." As a cyclist, I know the rights of a cyclist, but not every vehicle driver does. I think sharrows would highlight cyclists rights, even if it's not as inviting as a designated bike lane. Do you know if bike lanes are planned for that area?

    Safe cycling!

  2. Thanks for your comment! I know that the City of Clemson does not have a bike plan in place, but they do have a lot of "bicycle-friendly" language in their 2008 (most recent) comprehensive plan. (The comprehensive plan helps guide development in the community.) It's a safe bet that there won't be any major changes regarding bike lanes, paths, etc. in the city for a while. However, there is growing interest in making the area more bikeable. Keep your ears and eyes peeled for ways to voice your support. And I'll do my best to post any updates on this blog, too.

  3. I would like to make a correction to a previous statement. The City of Clemson does have a bikeway plan, but it's from 1997. Many of the bikeways are in place, but the plan has not been redone since then.

  4. Thanks for the updated information. Is there a way to view the 2008 comprehensive plan to what bikeway plans are currently there? I would like voice my support (especially for something as simple and needed as sharrows through downtown), either to other cyclists or to the City of Clemson directly. How much interest have you found among the community? Could we see a Clemson Cycling Coalition forming in the near future?

  5. Like most plans, the City plan is available online. Here's a link to the website for the comp plan: http://www.cityofclemson.org/planning-and-codes/long-range-planning (It's a public document, so it should always be available for review!) As for interest, I know that there is a growing interest, but no formal committee or coalition yet. You can always contact City Hall to find out more.