Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Community Input, Impact

Community input is essential in developing just about anything. Creating a place that's unique comes from feedback from the public:  what works, what doesn't, what's needed, what's important, etc. When it comes to bike planning and developing a bike system of trails, paths and programming, it's no different.

Community input is important in developing a bikeway that's suited to fit the needs of a community. Cities across the country (and world) can provide great examples of model programs and infrastructure, but what works in one place won't necessarily have the same success or impact in another. What works in Portland doesn't necessarily work in New York City. What works in Atlanta won't necessarily work in Charlotte. Likewise for Greenville or Columbia or Spartanburg.

In the Upstate, the City of Clemson is moving forward with a bike plan. They have two Community Input meetings. One was Tuesday, September 27th (maybe you went). The other is Tuesday, October 11th in the City of Clemson Council Chambers from 6:30 - 8:00. They need your input to create a bikeway that's unique to Clemson. It's always great to share your experience and ideas at these kinds of meetings. Articulating what's important will help planners, engineers and project managers create a bikeway (and, ultimately a community) that's suited to fit the needs of the city. (Other communities in the Upstate have engaged in similar public meetings.)

In a related note, if you're interested in learning how to advocate for cycling in your own community - kind of beyond community input - check out this post on the Palmetto Cycling Coalition blog.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Bike Funding. On the Cutting Block. Again (x2).

Last night, I sat down and wrote a letter. I actually ended up writing two letters. Saying the same thing. To two SC VIPs:  US Senator Lindsey Graham and US Senator Jim DeMint. I explained to them why having dedicated funding for bicycling infrastructure and programs was important, why they should vote in favor of these things and to pass a clean extension to the transportation bill.

This photo was not contrived. I wear glasses. I drank a beer while writing it. I signed it with that pen. And it felt great.

Bike funding is on the cutting block. Again. It happened last year. It happened this summer. And it's happening again. The bicycle community - anyone from identified advocates to families who enjoy recreational rides on the weekend - is being urged to contact their US Senators. (The opposition is coming from US Senator Coburn, R-OK.) He's saying that he won't support the transportation bill if there are any bike-related funding programs. Tell your Senators that you love your bike lanes, trails, your education and awareness (SRTS) programs, and that cutting funding is not a good idea.

I spent some time in Wisconsin before moving to South Carolina. During my time in Wisconsin, I learned a bit about the democratic process, how to engage in it, why it matters and that thousands of individuals can make a difference. My time their inspired me, pushed me to actually write this letter.

Will this letter get read by either Senator? At best, it will get read by an intern or staffer, and just be placed in the "support" pile. But I see this as a win! Because all of those letters, phone calls and emails could stack up and make a difference.

I encourage you to consider contacting your US Senator. If you're in SC, then you can contact the same guys I did. If you're not in SC, then do a quick search, find out who they are (if you don't know) and contact them via email, phone or by the good ole USPS. Tell them....I bike and I vote!

Update on the Federal Funding Bill:  the bill passed last week.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Dream or Reality?

A regional bikeway? One that folks could hope on at any point, ride for 40, 50 or even 100 miles. For recreation. To aid them in a leisurely Upstate, Local Community Tour. Or how about just an alternative way to get around the Upstate - one that weaves in and out of small towns, neighborhoods, parks and natural areas. A bikeway system that would link to larger parks or central, communal locations. Wouldn't it be cool if bikeways from Spartanburg through Anderson - connecting Greenville, Easley, Pickens, Central, Clemson - with legs jogging off to Seneca and Walhalla, or reaching down to Greenwood or Columbia - were connected?

 Cool idea? Not really too far off - to some stretch of the imagination. With communities across the region involved with bike planning, talking to each other might help connect the dots (communities), linking them together. I think it'd be cool to have a bikeway stretching across the region. We wouldn't need the system to be fancy or too specific. Some parts might do well to have shared lane markings, while others would be better off having a bike lane. And maybe in a few downtown bikeways would turn into cycle tracks.

Acting locally, but thinking regionally.  It may also do wonders to establish a real sense of community and at the same time providing South Carolinians (and any visiting tourist) another way to get outside and play, reduce stress and the waistline, and spend time with others. With a national bike expert's visit to South Carolina occuring earlier this month, folks around the state have had the opportunity to come together, chit chat, learn and talk about the realities of bikes as a real mean of transportation and recreation.

If you know of any groups involved in developing a regional bike plan, organization or network, please leave a comment below!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Biking In The Upstate Regional Update

This was a big news week for bicycling in the Upstate of South Carolina. Several communities were highlighted in the local media for moving forward in bicycle planning and programming. Fall is great time for building momentum. Folks are back refreshed from vacations, ready and anxious to put plans into action.

Anderson County was in the news this week for their support of a visionary idea to develop a version of Swamp Rabbit Trail in the County. County Council voted to work with The Rocky River Conservancy, Anderson University and a private land owner to develop a greenway that will include bicycle paths, walking trails and a water route for those on kayaks and canoes. Their hope is to make a great park that locals can enjoy and a destination for others. I wonder if it might also connect up with the plans in the City of Anderson and even potentially the trails in the Clemson University Experimental Forest.

The City of Greenville played host to one of Mia Birk's stops in South Carolina. Mia Birk, bicycle advocate and president of Alta Planning + Design, spent three days in South Carolina. She visited Charleston and Columbia on Wednesday and Thursday. On Friday, she is (was) in Greenville talking with local officials, bicycle advocate, politicians and citizens sharing her experience, expertise and love of biking. Her visit it perfect timing, as Greenville's Bike Master Plan goes in front of Greenville City Council for approval on Monday, September 26. (She's a self-proclaimed "not bicycle absolutist," and sees the need for all types of transportation in every community - bike, bus and car.)

Spartanburg's role of the B-Cycle Bike Share program happened earlier this summer, but it's never too late to give innovator's some props. There are two stations ready for folks to use in the downtown. Bike sharing is all about reducing car trips for short errands, joyrides, touring around an unfamiliar city or any other reason one might need to ride a bike. To learn more about the program, how to sign up, use it and any other questions you might have, check out their website.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Mountain Biking in the CEF

Ever since Atlanta hosted the first Olympic Mountain Biking events during the 1996 Summer Games, the sport has taken a foothold in the Southeast. The Upstate is a great spot for mountain biking with its rugged terrain, sweet weather and cool trails. Some folks even imagine a day when folks in Atlanta could hop on a train to the Upstate, use mass transit or rent a car to get to their destination, and make it a weekend get-a-way.

Clemson's Experimental Forest is open to mountain biking. Certain trails are well suited to the needs, demands and desire of mountain bike enthusiasts. (Others are not as well suited.) Of course, when in a national, state or local forest, one should always tread lightly and care for the Forest - the "take only photos, leave only footprints" mentality. Enjoy the ride, but make sure to take any trash or belongings with you.

Mountain bikers aren't the only ones using the Forest. Hikers, hunters, fisher(wo)men, horseback riders, Boy Scouts and other community groups use the forest. (Keep a look out for these guys on the trail!) Some community spaces and multi-day events require a reservation to help track usage and maintenance. But many of the trails are open to during most of the year, closing or restricting access only during various hunting seasons. Trails should be marked or a sign should be posted when restricted access is requested.

Enjoy the Forest - and other natural places in the Upstate - on your mountain bike. Ride hard, but take care of the trails.