Friday, December 28, 2012

Year End Blog Wrap Up

Time to take a look back over the last year. Hittin' some of the highlights is a good way to refresh and prep for the coming year. Let's recap the posts of 2012:

In the winter, there was a post about being visible on a bike. An important safety tip, especially during these darker months of the year. There was also a post highlighting the group Upstate Sorba, a regional mountain biking organization that takes to the trails in this part of the southeast. I also wrote about the bike box idea, creating a safer space at intersections for those on bikes. A favorite winter post was the push for being an agent of change:  it only takes a few small steps to get started and to make an impact in your hometown. (Perhaps a goal for a few of you to consider for the 2013 year.)

In the spring, I took a trip to Savannah, Georgia. Though it was a vacation, the adventures resulted in a post about Tybee Island and the cool, fun bike-related things to do, a shout out to creative uses of bollards, a pizza company who delivers pizzas by bicycles and meeting Peter from the Netherlands. With national bike month in May, there was a great article highlighted from the Greenville News about the role of bikes in neighborhoods past and present, reminding us that biking isn't a short-lived fad - it's been around for decades. I also wrote about the group of kids who ride bicycles around my neighborhood.

The summer brought a few more posts about Savannah, and a thought about the Swamp Rabbit Trail. Clemson University also adopted their Master Bikeways Plan, and soon thereafter installed the first bike lane since the mid-1990's. There was a post with photos of different styles of bike racks - mostly collected by my husband on a trip out to California. In another post, I also explored a few reasons why there are less women who ride than men, a rising topic in the bike advocacy world during 2012.

The Georgia-lina Bike Summit was highlighted in fall. As well as a favorite post (with lots of photos!) about the steps necessary to create a bike lane. Who knew that it all boils down to space, pavement and paint? In October this blog recorded the highest number of hits ever. Almost 1,300 people in October alone viewed Biking in the Upstate! Thanks, y'all!

Wrapping up 2012, there was a post about the change in national transportation trends, especially by those in Generation Y. The SC DOT Multimodal Plan was highlighted as well as exploring how to be a better bicycle commuter. This blog also turned two years old, which is kind of a momentous event. I had no idea where this blog would be when I started writing in December 2010, and it's fun to celebrate the anniversary of bringing biking news, exploring bike topics and being a place to explore and exchange ideas.

To spice things up a bit, a hit counter has recently been added to the bottom of the blog. If you've got any suggestions for stories to share or ideas to explore in the coming months, let me know. I'd also welcome any guest bloggers. And, as always, I appreciate your comments.

Here's to a great 2012! Thanks! Keeping reading, and keep bike riding!

Friday, December 14, 2012

What I Want for Christmas

All dressed up for Christmas
My husband asked me what I wanted for Christmas, and, without thinking, I said “a safe route to ride my bike to work.”

I live 5 miles from where I work at Clemson University. The route is direct, a little hilly and is at that right distance where I get a nice, little workout in during my commute. I love it.

But, I also loathe it. The road is full of fast-moving traffic, debris, aging pavement and is not for the light-hearted. I would be lying if I said that I don’t get scared sometimes or haven’t shaken my fist and said a few profanities when cars drive too close. For over half of my commute, there’s no bike lane so I get to share the road with traffic that sometimes passes me at 50 mph. 

About 80% of the passing traffic gives me wide berth, most sliding over to the far left lane. But when the traffic is moving or there’s a lot of it, I feel my heart rate increase and my breathing gets heavy – my body is reacting to stress and there’s a slight shift into fight or flight mode. 

When asked what I want for Christmas, there’s no thought about the latest gadget or the newest fashion trend. I’ve got what I need when it comes to personal items. What I want for Christmas is simple, yet so far from reality it sounds like the old cliché of “world peace.” But I’m not asking for the world. I’m only asking for one, simple thing:  a safe route to bike to work.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Upstate News Update, December 2012

My, how time flies! The last Upstate News Update was in August, and since it's now December, let's get updated with some of the great bike-related things that have happened.

City of Rock Hill. This fall, the City of Rock Hill was designated as a "bicycle-friendly" community, and won an award at the bronze level. Rock Hill joins other communities like Greenville and Hilton Head as being part of South Carolina's few officially recognized bicycle-friendly communities.

Doodle Line Update. Interest in developing a bike path on an old railroad line in between Pickens and Easley is moving forward. The 8.5 mile path would be similar to the Swamp Rabbit Trail that's enjoyed by many, providing a safe, fun place for people to walk and ride their bikes. A feasibility study is being completed to get a better understanding of the issues, cost and economic development boost it would bring to the two cities. A facebook page in support of the effort  has also been developed.

PELCOR Initiative. The Pickens, Easley and Liberty Corridor (PELCOR) has recently been awarded a substantial sum to implement the Town Creek Park plan. The plan aims to transform the 100-acre parcel of land into a great off-road bicycle facility. The park is one of three facilities that will be built in the PELCOR area for mountain bike riders of all abilities and skill levels.

City of Greenville. Bike share is coming to the City of Greenville. B-Cycle will launch this Spring 2013 with support from Upstate Forever and Greenville Hospital System. The same company operates the bike share program in Spartanburg. (Time to build a path between the two, right?)

City of Clemson. The City of Clemson continues to move forward with their bike plan. Some of the plan sections have been presented to the Planning Commission. Earlier in 2012, the community was invited to participate in an online bike survey. Stay tuned to the City of Clemson website for more information about the plan.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

BITU Two-Year Anniversary

This month is Biking in the Upstate's (BITU) two-year anniversary. Two years ago I began charting the course for this blog, reporting on some of the biking-related news in the South Carolina Upstate and asked you to join me in exploring all things "bike." And thank YOU for your support, comments and help in making the area a better place to ride a bike.

It's been pretty darn cool to see development and implementation of local bike plans, the increased number of people take to two wheels and the rise in general support for biking. The advocates of and public officials in the cities of Anderson, Easley, Pickens, Liberty, Clemson, Spartanburg, Greenville and Rock Hill are working on bringing the benefits of bike lanes, shared roads and paths to their communities. There have been important meetings to attend, improved bikeways and more, improved places to ride a bike. There's also been a ground-swell of support over the last few years.

You've been an important part of this journey - participating in meetings, contacting friends, commenting on various blog posts and, maybe most importantly, riding your bike. Maybe you have recently gotten back on bike for the first time in years, maybe you've been riding for a while. All riders - recreational, family, long-haul, racers, spandex, weekend-warriors, tweed-riders, whoever - are critical in making biking in the upstate better.Where one rides, two are better. There is safety (and fun!) in numbers.

I hope this blog has also inspired you in some way to do something a little bit more:  maybe a post provided an alternative perspective to ponder, maybe you actually made time to attend a meeting, maybe you invited a friend to go for a bike ride. For me, I've enjoyed having a place to talk about important issues, highlight interesting stories and develop a storyline about biking in this part of the state. I think it's an important piece of building a stronger bike community locally, regionally and nationally.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thankful for the SCDOT Mulitmodal Plan

Community spirit, spending time with friends and family and taking stock of life's blessings and fortunes. That's what Thanksgiving and the holidays are about for me. And this year South Carolina's cycling current and potential future community have something to be thankful for - the first South Carolina Department of Transportation Mulitmodal plan.

The SCDOT's transportation plan is a long-range, long-looking project that will produce ideas, goals and networks for all kinds of transportation across the state through 2040, including bicycles. A lot can happen in the next 30 years, but the idea of this kind of plan is to help drive and plan for big picture types of projects, ideas and budgets. The DOT is in charge of a huge network of transportation connections, and long range plans influence the development over time.

This is the first multimodal plan. That means it's no longer just about cars, trucks and SUVs. There is an extensive effort to inventory the existing bikeways in the state as a part of the project. (Knowing what's out there is a critical step in understanding what the state's biggest bicycle-related needs are.)  The Transit Planning Resource Committee is specifically assigned to address the state needs related to public transit, pedestrian and bicycle programming and networks. The overall plan will include five other plans that specifically address interstate highways, strategic corridors, rail, freight and public transit. Three stakeholder committees are engaging in the plan's development, including the previously mentioned planning and resource committee.

Stay tuned. Stay connected. Stay involved. Contact some of the stakeholders. Attend public meetings. Seek out opportunities to talk to representatives involved with this plan to let them know why planning for a nationally-known bicycle network is important. South Carolina is currently at the top of the list for being one of the most dangerous places for cyclists. I'd say it's about time we drop off of that list and top another. I'm thankful that we are taking a huge step in that direction.

To learn more about the plan, including plan news, faq's and project documentations and timelines, visit the SCDOT website. Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Two Wheels in Advertisement

Ever thought about the rise in bicycles in the media over just the last fews years? I've seen bicycles in ads for everything, ranging from beer (Fat Tire by New Belgium Brewing anyone) to windows in fashion/retail stores. Watching the acceptance of the bicycle rise as a visual part of our culture has been cool. In ads on tv or in magazines, I see bicycles associated with products to promote a sense of fun, cool, hip, environmentally-friendly, active, social. The more people that see bicycles in the media they see everyday, the more comfortable they become with the idea, the machine and the behaviors associated with bicycling. A win for everyone. 

A commercial for the soft drink Sprite taps into one niche of the bicycle market.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Bicycle Safety 101: How to be a (Better) Bicycle Commuter

Riding a bicycle is really simple. With practice and time, anyone can feel comfortable about getting on two wheels. Using a bicycle instead of a car is a great way to stay in shape, do a little bit for the environment and to escape from the headaches of parking. And, it's faster than the bus. There are a few things to make going by bike, or bicycle commuting, easier for you and for those around you.

1.  Ge a bike tune-up. Nothing is worse than riding with tires low in air pressure, brakes that don't work well or a chain that's rusty. Bringing the ole bicycle in for a tune up to the local bike shop is a solid investment. Depending on the type of tune up needed, tune ups can run anywhere from $50 to $250. Think of it like paying to fill up your car - once.

2.  Know the rules of the road. If you are going to be riding around, brush up on the rules. If the last time you thought about riding a bicycle was during your school's bike rodeo, consider becoming familiar with local and state laws. The local bicycle club or state cycling advocacy group are good places to start. Folks driving cars will also take you - and the cycling community - more seriously if you obey the traffic laws. You'll earn more respect and be safer.

3.  Think about safety. Invest in a helmet and brightly colored, reflective clothing. Helmets are cheap - cheaper than hospital stays, doctor visits and medical bills that can pile up. Helmets may not be necessary for a recreational ride on a path at low speeds, but they are important for commuting cyclists who typically interact with traffic. Also consider wearing brightly colored clothing like a jacket. Throwing something brightly colored over your bike outfit increases your visibility and helps you stand out in the landscape. If some of your commuting will be at night or during dawn and dusk, think about being visible.

4.  Plan ahead. What would you do if you got a flat tire? How would you get home in the event of a storm? What would you do if you were involved with or witnessed a crash? These are all important questions to consider before you ride. In driver's ed, they teach you to think about handling emergency scenarios when driving a car, and riding a bike is no different. An ounce of prevention is a worth a pound of cure. Think about carrying a spare tube or a tube repairing kit on your bicycle. Figure out an alternative way of getting home by bus, having a phone number of a reliable friend or family member or seeing if the place you work for supports emergency ride-home programs. Consider carrying ID with you in case of an accident.

5.  Learn to let go and have fun! One of the best things about riding a bike is the freedom it provides. Want to stop at that park? Pause to take a picture of the beautiful wildflowers on the side of the road? Run into an old friend? Riding your bicycle allows you to literally stop on a dime and seize the moment! All the comments about planning and safety aside, having fun is biggest reason people get back on their bikes.

Taking these 5 tips into consideration will help make your commute more enjoyable.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Transportation Trends + Bikes

On my way home the other night, I was thinking about the transportation mode shift that's been happening across the country for several years and how that's affecting young people:  people are driving few miles every year.  There was a study done by the US Pirg's and others that shows some pretty interesting trends. Translate that study into policy and infrastructure needs, and the take away result is we don't need more miles of new roadway. Let's take a closer look.

1. Decrease in vehicle miles traveled by the average US citizen.  Why is this important?  From World War II up until just after 2000, the rate of vehicle miles traveled was on a pretty steady upward trend. In 2004, that rate dropped - and that was before the economy tanked in 2008. In 2011, the average US citizen drove 6% fewer miles than in 2004. That's an increasingly downward trend.

2.  Decrease in vehicle miles traveled by young adults.  What does this mean? Young adults are the age group of 16 - 34 year olds. This means the youngest generation that can drive is driving less - and the study shows that they are riding public transportation, bicycles and walking more.

3.  Fewer young adults are getting their license.  Why does this matter? Those who are 14 - 34 years old are choosing to forfeit the right to drive. From 2000 - 2010, the rate of those who did not have their license went up from 21% to 26%. The study cites all kind of reasons for this change - technology making alternative transportation choices and modes more convenient, increase in fuel prices and changes in driver licensing laws. Graduated licenses, more restrictions behind the wheel and the cost of private classes and tests are all barriers that have contributed to this trend.

These, along with other factors cited in the report paint an interesting picture of our national transportation trends. Especially for young adults - teens, college students and young professionals are all more likely to chose an alternative way to move around than their parents. Cars are less appealing to younger people. I'm sure that getting carted around at a young age in an SUV from school to soccer practice to play dates to piano lessons for many in this generation influenced this trend. Not to mention the increasing cost of living - and the rise in higher education cost and debt. It seems like people today are looking at unconventional ways to stretch a dollar or save a penny. Not buying a car (or having to pay for gas or car insurance) is a huge investment towards the "dollar saved is a dollar earned" mentality.

Using a bicycle to get around is fast, inexpensive and healthy - and addresses some of the concerns listed above. With increased public awareness and concern about the obesity epidemic, climate change and college debt, young adults today are responding to the outcry by changing their behavior in a pretty radical way. They are taking to their bikes in a way that future generations have not. It's a pretty cool and noteworthy trend.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Bicycle Friendly Across Borders

That was the theme of the two state Bike Summit in Augusta, GA this past weekend. And reach across borders it did. Folks from Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and other places gathered to discuss, listen and share in the excitement of the rise of biking in the Southeast.

Georgia-lina Bike Summit
The idea for Georgia Bikes! third summit naturally took form when the conference landed in a border city. And it really makes sense - when riding, rarely are border or boundaries recognized. Sometimes there's a change in the pavement, but otherwise most people on bikes don't know when they are entering or leaving one city to the next.

Topics covered included how the advocacy community can respond to tragedy when it strikes, mountain biking club meetings, learning more about bike share for the southeast, effective advocacy ideas, bike data collections, learning how to put on a bicycle ride or tour, how to be a Bicycle Friendly Community, a women's cycling forum, bikeway planning at universities and the Safe Routes to School program. Guest speakers from the East Coast Greenway and the Alliance for Biking and Walking also gave inspiring speeches.

There was a nice demographic representation, too. It was nice to hear stories from the young and the young at heart, city folks, country folks, mountain bikers, cyclists, guys, girls, planners, advocates, students, professionals - anyone and everyone that loves bikes!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

(A sample of) Bikeways in Greenville

A while back, I had the opportunity to visit some of the bikeways in Greenville. Greenville has bike lanes, shared roadways and paths that are built for cyclists to use.

Heritage Historic District. Greenville, SC.
The narrowed road and "sharrow" treatment provide an entry point feeling into this residential area just a few minutes from downtown. The streets speed limit is slow and there's light residential traffic, so having a shared roadway makes sense here. What a great addition to the Heritage Historic District neighborhood.

Bike lane to shared roadway. Greenville, SC
Near Main Street off of downtown, on North Spring Street there's a creative example of retrofitting the existing road to accommodate bikes. The road was wide enough to accommodate a bike lane - until near the intersection. Watch this short video to see how traffic reacts.

The idea is that neither a biker nor a car has the right of way. As the sign state, "Share the Road." This kind of development is intended to build awareness, slow down traffic and let folks know that bikes are allowed to be here. I like the take on the share the road sign that's found near the intersection. It would be interesting to watch how a car and bike interact when approaching this intersection.

What a view! Greenville, SC
Looking north on North Main Street, bike lanes have transformed the street! Bike lanes can be seen on either side of the road. Street parking was retained, a middle turn lanes allows for traffic flow and folks who want to get around by bike have a way to do so. This road is particularly compelling because it comes into view over the crest of a hill.

Greenville's has done a good job of implementing the network of bikeways proposed in their master plan for cyclists of all types to use. Keep up the good work leading the Upstate.

Monday, October 8, 2012

It's what Women Want

This is a (video) story. About a woman. And her life. How she went from having a suburban to pedaling her (six) kids. It's simple. It's funny. It's interesting. And it's inspiring. Here's Emily Finich:  In her own words.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

10 Steps to Creating a Bike Lane

Ever wonder what goes into transforming a roadway into a bikeway? What a road looks like before and after a bike lane is installed? There are many steps that go into that process. Here's an overview.

Step 1
Step 1:  Start with a road. This one has a lane in each direction and parallel parking.

Step 2:  Measure, plan and discuss what can be done within the existing budget, right of way and curbs to accommodate bikes. Consider the role and place for pedestrians, bikes, cars, buses and emergency vehicles along the corridor. (It's about choices, people!)

Step 3:  Make a decision to install a bike lane.
(Step 3A:  Celebrate the decision to install a bike lane with maybe a press release, by telling local advocates)

Step 4
Step 4:  Get some experienced professionals to remove existing striping OR resurface the road. Chose paint or thermoplastic to mark the bike lane. In this instance, paint was chosen. So, on we go!

Step 5:   After the bike lane is marked, determine the locations of the bike lane pavement markings (aka guy on a bike) within the bike lane using recommendations from design guidelines, DOT recommendations, AASHTO and NACTO references. Mark these locations out in the field.  

Step 6
Step 6:  After predetermining the locations, lay down the stencils.

Step 7
Step 7:  Get your paint and reflective beads ready.

Step 8a
Step 8b
Step 8:  Paint the bike guy and then the arrow.

Step 9
Step 9 continued

Step 9:  Remove stencils carefully. (The paint will still be wet and there's no giant eraser that works on asphalt!)

Step 10:  Mark with cone. Let dry.

And....Voila! A completed bike lane. 

Okay, so obviously there's a lot more to it then that. The planning and approval process can take months. (If you noticed, there were quite a few parking spaces that were sacrificed in the name of this bike lane. However, that isn't always the case.)  It takes time, patience, collaboration and compromise. But it's not rocket science. And the affects are transformational.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

GA/SC Bike Summit

Every so often, it's a good idea to get together to discuss what's going on in the world as it relates to biking. Advocates, engineers, public health officials, planners, media, professional riders, community members, politicians - everyone. It's important to talk about, listen to and share experiences to build a better place to bike.

Last week, the national  Pro Walk/Pro Bike Conference was held in Long Beach, CA. There are a ton of interesting topics, programs and ideas that are coming out of the conference. A few of them include: 
All of these are interesting ideas to consider and have a place within the biking world of the Upstate. It will be interesting to see how these things are implemented here.

In the Upstate, we have an opportunity to have our own discussion. The Georgia-lina Bike Summit will be taking place in Augusta, Georgia from October 19-21. Sponsored by the Georgia Bikes! and Palmetto Cycling Coalition state advocacy groups, the two-state summit aims to draw folks together from the southeast to talk about the biking issues here. Recognizing the unique state of our states' biking culture and infrastructure will allow us to address our needs. Consider attending the Georgia-lina Bike Summit to participate in the discussion on recreation, transportation, opportunities, challenges, issues, progress related to biking in the Upstate.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Bicycle Safety 101: Using Turn Signals on a Bike

Did your bike come with turning signals? No? They rarely do. However, there are a few simple things to help others figure out where you might be headed when riding your bike.

Some may remember being taught different ways to bend your arm to indicate a change in direction or stopping to traffic. I think that was envogue in the late 1980's and early 1990's. That's changed for today's cyclists. Just remember these 3 simple tips:

1Point to turn. To make a left turn, point to the left with a finger or hand. To make a right turn, point to the right with a finger or hand.

2.  Count to 5. Stick your hand or finger out in the intended direction of travel, and count out 5 seconds. This gives others around you time to see that you're going to do something.

3. Turn left or right. Preferably not into on-coming traffic or into pedestrians.

It's that simple!  Balancing on your bike with one hand while signalling may take a little bit of practice. These small steps will go a long way in communicating to others that a change is about to happen. It's like using a turn signal in a car.

There arm signal for stopping isn't used anymore (like it was a few decades ago). To help others around you react to the change in speed, consider slowly coming to gradual stop. It's better for them and for your bike's brakes.

When you're on your next ride, whether it's on the road or on a path, remember these three simple tips:  point, count and turn.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

When the Streets were for People

"Prior to the advent of the car, streets were primarily pedestrian areas...Once upon a time there were no crosswalks and no jaywalkers because the streets were considered to be for pedestrians with cars being the intruders."

A nod to the Fearful Symmetries blog. A talk from the Congress for the New Urbanism conference in May 2012. Thanks for this!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Women on Bikes

Women on bikes.
I've been thinking about women and bicycling lately. Studies and statistics show that there are far fewer women who bike than men. Safety is seen as the culprit, robbing women of an otherwise healthy, fun activity. There are some studies that point out that when women feel safe enough to ride, that usually means that kids, the elderly and less-skilled bicyclists also find it safer to ride. So why aren't we building the bikeways that appeal to female riders?

I think it boils down to a lack of space and money. If there was more money (or if existing amounts were allocated differently), then we could design and build better bikeways and purchase the amount of land necessary to construct these facilities. If there was more space, then cramming bikes onto roadways wouldn't be part of the conversation.

Separated bikeways seem to appeal to women - and to children and the elderly. In the US, these are starting to be called separated bike lanes or cycle tracks. These are separated from car traffic using physical barriers instead of painted stripe on an existing roadway. They are different from paths because of the way they are interwoven into the urban landscape - typically alongside a road and/or sidewalk. 

Placing bikes and cars in close proximity to each other isn't all bad. When cars travel at low speeds, accidents are less likely to occur and to be severe or fatal. Neighborhood streets can be good areas for bikes and cars to interact and co-exist. Tipping points tend to be when traffic speeds are above 35 mph, there's a medium- to high-volume traffic and the types of automobiles are larger than your average mid-range SUV or truck. How many women as compared to men have you seen ride in bike lanes on roads such as this across the Upstate of South Carolina?

In the Upstate, many communities lack the money and space to install these kinds of facilities. Cycle tracks cost more to install. It's relatively inexpensive to redistribute space on a roadway if the painted lines just need to be adjusted to accommodate bikes. It's a whole other budget ball-game when extra asphalt and cement are needed to make way for a bikeway.

The idea of space for bikeways is complicated. Roads are owned and maintained by governments - local, county and state. The space a road can be on typically extends beyond the area that's paved to an area called a "right of way" or ROW. A government has the right to build or extend a road on the ROW. However, ROW are up against private property like homes and businesses. In many urban and suburban areas, the ROW is narrow and may have insufficient space for building a separated bike lane. The government would need to engage the private property owner to buy and build on their land, but that typically doesn't happen. And if it does, it's a long, involved process.

There are some pretty big odds to overcome in building bikeways that appeal to a wider audience. For now, I think building support for bikeways is an important step. Rome wasn't built in a day. And our national transportation system wasn't either. Road design is changing over time to accommodate different demands. I think it's healthy to recognize that building a bikeway network takes time and is part of an iterative process.

It's important to recognize where we are now and where we want to go. If building a bikeway network to support more cyclist is important, consider this:  Would you feel comfortable if your mom said she frequently rides on particular stretch of road? Maybe that's a good question to keep in mind as we work to build better bikeways in the Upstate.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Bike Rack Characteristics & Photos

Bike parking, one of the most basic, most important parts of biking. Need to catch your breath, get a drink, run a quick errand, check a text or use the loo? Having bike parking nearby will make the task that much easier.

There are so many different kinds of bike racks! I feel like there's almost one out there for every kind of personality. However, there are 3 characteristics that go into having a good bike rack. 
Inverted "U" rack in a group.

1.  Racks should support a bike in two areas. Remember those old school comb racks in the elementary school yard? Maybe you can still see them at your children's school. Bikes parked in these kind of racks are commonly seen twisted or fallen over. Racks should support a bike at one point on the frame and at another point like on the wheel. Two points of rack contact equals ideal bike parking.

2.  Racks should be bolted into the ground. Bike thieves are much less likely to take off with your bike if the rack is bolted into the ground. If the rack can be lifted, then there's a chance that someone with some not-so-hard-to-find tools might make off with your ride.

3.  Racks should be in well-lit, visible areas.Visibility is good for promoting a feeling of safety and it helps to deter theft. Folks prefer moving around in well-lit areas, and putting a bike rack near lighting is like parking your car in a lighted parking lot. It just feels safer.

I've gathered a sampling of bike rack photos. It's interesting to consider these different designs. Most of the racks in the photographs have the 3 listed features of good bike parking. See the photos below for racks that range from run of the mill to to the outrageous. 

Bike Racks. Palo Alta, CA
Covered bike parking. These lift up to fit bikes underneath.
Great for sheltering from the weather.

Covered bike rack. Palo Alta, CA.

Bike racks at Google, CA. (Note the colors.)

Bike Rack. Los Angles, CA. The hitching post
rack can be retrofitted to parking meters.

Bike Racks. Palo Alta, CA.
Note the lights and public location.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Upstate News Update

This summer, Clemson University was busy! They completed their master bike plan, a process that had started last summer. In June it was adopted and became an official guiding document of the University. About a month later, the first bike lane since the mid 1990's was installed. Signs and pavement markings will be placed by the end of the summer.

There's new bike shop in Clemson that also opened this summer:  Run Bicycle Swim. Near the Hwy 93 on ramp to Hwy 123, this retail shop is a (partial) answer to the area's bike shop shortage since Clemson Cyclery closed in March. Though this is a great place to get your gear and a bike, you'll still have to travel to Anderson or Greenville to get professional help on bike maintenance.

The State's advocacy organization got a new executive director. Amy Johnson hails from Georgia, and is excited to bring her previous experience from BikeAthens to lead the peach state. Starting in August, stay tuned to the PCC blog to she what she, Cait and other members of the PCC will do to close out the second half of 2012.

The City of Easley has continued to implement various components, as headed by the Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee. One of those things has been working with the City of Pickens to get a portion of the old "Doodle Line" converted to a rail trail. The development of this partnership and path has been reported in the news over the summer. Many think that it could be like another Swamp Rabbit Trail, bringing economic investment into a few other small upstate communities. However, not everyone in the area supports the project.

If there have been other bike-related events that happened recently, please post them below.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Bicycle Safety 101: The Bike Tune Up

When was the last time you had your bike in for a tune up? When I was younger, my dad would spiffy up our bikes at the start of every summer, but that's about all the love a bike would get. Not until I started really riding a few years ago did I learn the importance of a bi-annual bike tune up.

If you ride your bike hard, whether it's due to commuting or recreation, a lot of miles get put on a bike. Miles on a bike equals wear and tear. The chain gets worn and dirty. Brakes wear down over time. The grease on the components wears off. Rust will also appear. 

You may have noticed that your bike doesn't ride as fast or as clean as it did when you first got it. A bike is a machine. Cars are another machine. And machines need to stay lubricated to work correctly. It's recommended that cars get an oil-change every 3,000 - 5,000 miles to keep the components running smoothly. Periodic bike maintenance is also important to keep a bike functioning well and to prolong it's life. A well-working bike is a safe bike. And a safe bike is the best kind to ride.

There are a few things that can be done between tune-ups to keep bikes in better working order - keep the chain lubed and clean, dry immediately after any rain, maintain tire pressure. Learning some DYI maintenance and repair techniques will be handy. Your local bike shop may even offer you a few tips and techniques if you ask. But there's nothing that beats a professional cleaning. Consider scheduling a bike tune up at your local repair shop soon!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Clemson University Bike Plan

About a year in the making, Clemson University has completed their bike plan. After public meetings, student, staff and faculty input and an examination of peer universities, CU has a plan of action. You can check out the plan here.*

The plan will help guide bikeway (bike lanes, shared roadways, bike paths and trails) development at Clemson - on campus and in the forest. There are provisions for bike racks, signage, intersection improvements and other related things. About 41 miles of bikeways are proposed.

The one thing this plan has is infrastructure. Infrastructure is the stuff you ride on and lock your bike to. The one thing the plan does not have is programming. Programming is the group bike rides, psa's and riding incentives. The infrastructure piece is critical to having a place to ride. The programming piece is key to learning the best places and ways to ride (that includes you, too, drivers!). My guess is that the programming piece will come in time - whether it be in an additional programming bike plan or as different departments (CORE, CEF, Parking and Transportation Services, etc.) feel that they have the resources and the right timing to take things on.  

The plan also has this cool "ideas in need of champion" section that addresses possible future things Clemson could do to promote other bike-related events or things:  developing new policies, improving connections between the campus and forest, enforcement ideas, teaching ideas, etc. This shows that the University is aware of the issues that the plan does not address, yet still alludes to some issues that should be addressed.

CU did their homework. There's a section that talks about the history of bike planning in the area and there's another section where other university and outdoor rec/mountain biking areas where reviewed. There's a look at bfu's and some nationally-known, regionally-located rec programs. 

I could go into greater depth about the plan, but I encourage you to check it out for yourself. I think this is a great step for Clemson, the Upstate and this region of the country. Universities can be great leaders, and with USC improving their biking status, South Carolina has its two major universities committing to some progressive policies and philosophies. Which, of course, can only lead to great things for the people of this state. And maybe, in this category, there can be some friendly in-state rivalries where we push each other to better things.

Check out the plan. Tell someone about it. Support biking in your local community.

*Full Disclosure:  I've been a part of the bike plan project at Clemson over the last year so, I may be a bit biased. I'm interested in your feedback, though. Please feel free to post your appropriate comments. Happy Trails!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Peter and the Bicycle Superhighway

There's a article in the New York Times about the bicycle superhighway in Denmark. It's this stretch of bikeway that runs between Copenhagen and Albertslund, a nearby suburb. 11 miles of pavement just for bikes. But this isn't the first I've heard about it. In March, during our visit to Savannah, I heard about this bikeway when we met Peter from the Netherlands.

Peter was a friendly guy who had recently taken a job in the States. Over breakfast, before his scheduled bike tour around historic Savannah, we were able to talk a bit about biking in the Netherlands. The Dutch are internationally known for their “super-star” biking status. Their innovations in bicycling infrastructure and policies would make any entrepreneur or transportation engineer jealous. I soaked in all the international wisdom I could.

He talked about this superhighway and how it was the first of its kind. Innovations like this really helped all kind of bicyclists get from point A to point B on a daily basis. He talked about how biking is integrated into the culture, the lifestyle. Each member of his family had a bike, and they had an extra "junker" in the garage for house guests, totaling 6 bikes in the family. His three kids, including the one attending university, all rode their bikes to school. The kids have bicycling safety and education classes integrated into elementary curriculum. He talked about the fact that his eldest would like to own a car, but the cost of gas is prohibitively expensive for most Dutch. (Think like $15 or so a gallon.) The cost of owning a car was also more expensive than it is in the US.But since the country has invested in bikes since the 1960's, not owning a car isn't a big deal. 

I've also heard that the Dutch have done simple things like teach students in driver's ed to open the driver's side door with the right hand. This naturally causes a person to look over their left shoulder before the open a car door, and does a great deal to prevent incidents of "dooring."

Talking to someone who lived the life that I'd only heard about from others was such an exciting opportunity! It validated everything I'd heard, and he got a kick out of talking to a bicycle planner in the US. He was flattered to boast about the success of his country! We bonded over an international conversation, comparing notes about two different countries, two wheel transportation and a bowl of oatmeal.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Q: What is that white stripe on McMillan Road at Clemson University?

A:  A bike lane.

Bike lane on McMillan Road
The first bike lane since the mid-1990's has made it's debut on Clemson's campus, in time for the new school year. I'll follow up with how I know what this is in a later post, but after I spotted it on the evening of Friday, July 13th, I was elated.

The bike lane on McMillan Road is not (yet) completed. The bike lane pavement markings and signs have yet to be installed, it's only along portion of the road and to most people it'll appear to be a bike lane to no where - but it'll come together soon.

Clemson University adopted it's first Bikeways Master Plan in June 2012. The plan is scheduled to be available on-line later this summer. The plan outlines the University's bikeways network that will be developed over time.

It takes time for a bikeway network to come together. At first, bike lanes, shared roadway and paths can appear disconnected and disjointed. But pieces of the system are typically installed over years, taking advantage of scheduled resurfacing (repaving), grants and other roadway or transportation enhancement projects. This is a good way for communities to keep the cost of developing bikeways down - everyone likes their tax dollars used in an efficient manner. If you're every curious about the progress or plans of bikeways in your community, surf the web or contact your local planning department for the bike or transportation master plan. This will understand where you community is with bike planning - and may give you an opportunity to become a local champion for bikeways.

If you're coming to Clemson in the fall or live in the community, check it out and spread the word:  biking is alive and well at CU.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

AASHTO Bike Development Guide

Bike lanes, paths, parking and general infrastructure are designed and installed by following local, state and national standards. Just like roads, bike facilities are legitimized and best understood when they look similar. Guidelines, laws, and policies are used to shape what our national bike network looks like on the open road.

The South Carolina Department of Transportation (SC DOT) has guidelines and recommendations that planners, engineers, construct workers and other use when they plan, design and construct bicycle facilities. Some cities might also have ordinances that provide guidance on bike parking or bike lane installation for a local area. The most influential guidelines come from experts at the national level. 

2012 AASHTO Bike Guide
The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, commonly called AASHTO, literally writes the book on bikeways. It’s called the Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities, and the updated version came out in June. It’s been highly anticipated and long-awaited in the biking world. The previous guiding document was published in 1999. Bike lanes, parking and paths have come a long way since that time!

This is the bike planning and designing bible. The information found in this books helps professionals design bicycle facilities, gives guidance to help solve unusual design problems and aims to accommodate bicyclists on all types of roads. Since it’s developed by AASHTO, “the voice of transportation,” this book is taken seriously by professionals in the field. Admittedly, this stuff is a bit dry, but it’s the nuts and bolts of how our bikeways are being developed. It’s a design manual, and definitely not a page-turner – unless you’re trying to solve some transportation design riddle.

It’s not available online to read for free (yet), but previous versions are. If you’re interested in knowing a bit more about bike planning, engineering and development, I suggest checking it out. I’d also suggest checking out the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide and the Manual on UniformTraffic Control Devices, commonly referred to as the MUTCD.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Bicycle Rights Mini Rant

Earlier today (late this afternoon), I was passed within kicking-door-distance by a police car! This has ruffled my feathers a bit because there was no one next to him in the other lane. If we are going to get anywhere with "bicycle rights," we gotta get the enforcement patrol and peace keepers to be better informed (and then act on it!).

Too cool off from this rant, I wanted to share this spoof on "bicycle rights."

It's funny and humbling. It reminded me that even though cyclists do have a right to the road, we need to be cautious in our approach to advocating. Yea, there's a time to rant and rave, (and laugh at ourselves!) but the message may be better received if its kind and constant.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Bike Shops are like Car Dealerships?

Well...not really. Well...but kinda. Let me explain.

Bike shops tend to carry one brand of bike stuff (bicycles, parts, accessories, helmets, clothing). Kind of like car dealerships sell one manufacturer's line of products. A Chevy dealer won't carry Toyotas. A BMW dealer won't carry Fords.Why am I blogging about this? I had to cross 3 counties in one day twice in the last month to get the bike stuff I needed, and I learned two lessons from this experience. (And if I can save other folks from these kinds of headaches, I figure, why not?) 

1)  Make sure you realize that the bike and bike accessories you buy may dictate what shops you'll need to shop at in the future. This may not be a problem if you live in an urban area with several bike shops, but if you order a special kind of bike, just consider the resources that will be available to you to service your bike. If you order a bike for Christmas online from Trek for Susie, but the nearest Trek dealer is an hour away, you may want to think about it. This won't be a problem for general maintenance, but if replacement parts are needed, it may be an inconvenience. 

2)  Specialized and Trek stood behind their products. I needed a tire upgrade a few months back, so I bought a tire from the closest bike shop - the now-defunct Clemson Cyclery. The tire wore out faster than expected, so I wanted to see if I could get a replacement. I had to drive up to Carolina Triathlon because they were the closest Specialized dealer. But, they replaced the tire without a problem (or charge for a new one!), so I was pretty happy. I also had a bike tire pump that stopped working, but it was from Bontrager. The closet dealer was The Great Escape in Anderson (maybe I could have gone to the one in Greenville?...hindsight is 20-20!), so I "trek"ked over there. But, they also replaced the bike tire pump no questions and free of charge.

I was really impressed by each of the bike shops and the willingness of Specialized and Trek to stand behind their product. It's great to know that as a bike consumer, both companies and bike shops were willing to help out which got me back on my bike quickly. The staff at both of these places were great, too.

That's a big thumb's up for these national bike manufacturing companies and the local places that serve the bikers of the Upstate. It's a good thing when the machines we use to ride around on are supported by companies that stand behind their product. It's a rare thing these days, but I guess that just another reason to ride your bike.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Bikes + Beach

Tybee Island Pavilion
 When we ventured south to Savannah a few months ago, we made our way to the coast. It was beautiful – sunny skies, rolling waves and pedestrian friendly. Every time we were out there – day or evening – there were a good number of bicyclists and bike-related amenities that I saw. 

Way to go Tybee Island!
The City was awarded a Bicycle Friendly Community award in 2011. The designation recognizes a city's (business or university) demonstrated commitment and investment in bicycle facilities, policies and programs. I saw many different people on bikes, and many of them were calmly riding on beach cruiser-style bicycles. There was a bike rental company on the main drag that offered a variety of bicycles. Some restaurants offered specials to those who came to by bike. (Parking was a big issue while we were there. I imagine this kind of special entices some folks to leave their car where it’s park at the hotel or condo, and use a bike instead.) There is even an Old Rail Trail nearby that folks can ride.

Ambiguous bike/parking lane
The beach-bum bicyclists I saw were riding in what was very ambiguously marked parking lane or bike lane. I never could tell. There weren’t any bike lane signs or pavement markings along or within the white strips. I also wasn’t sure if parking was allowed along these stretches because I didn’t see any signs. Either way, everyone seemed to get along in the road or on the sidewalk. (I think the more laid-back lifestyle had something to do with it.) Bike racks were also highly visible and ample. No one was shy about the beach bike culture on Tybee Island.

Beach bum bicyclists
My guess is this is an emerging lifestyle in beach communities. Hilton Head, SC is known as being a bicycle-friendly community. Young and old bike around the island. There’s growing interest in Charleston, and I bet other southern coastal communities are seeing a growing interest in biking. It helps with tourism and it’s great for locals. There’s also less car parking to worry about, and the speed of traffic slows down, as compared to cars. If you make it down to Savannah, head out to Tybee, and if you’re there long enough, consider renting a bike and head out to the beach!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Swamp Rabbit Trail

Any family, racer, hipster, urban planner, landscape architect, business or parks and recreation major should take a spin on the Swamp Rabbit Trail. After living in the Upstate for a few years, I finally had my turn on the regionally-famous trail, and it was everything everyone said it is.

Hitting the trail at noon on a 78 degree Saturday, the trail was full, but not crowded. There were rides of every type - serious, first-timers, family-riders, fat-tire cruisers. The trail starts in Traveler's Rest, but there are many different locations to park a car or hop on the path. (Bathrooms are also plentiful.) Riding from TR to Greenville, the path goes for long stretches without crossing any roads - a racer's dream! Closer to and within the Greenville, there are more places where auto and bike traffic have to look out for one another. Yet having the SRT in the City allows people to visit parks, shops, cafes and other businesses by bike. A boon to the local economy! Who doesn't like to get rewarded with an ice cream or cold beer after a long bike ride?

Students from area university and colleges - Furman, Clemson, Bob Jones and any of the community or technical colleges - should visit the trail at least once while they are in school. The trail is a living classroom to learn about urban design, the entrepreneurial spirit, recreational infrastructure, history, ecology, civil engineering and real estate. The trail connects people and places, creates new opportunities, allows us to view pieces of the past and contributes to the identity of the Upstate. Oh, and then there's the whole having fun riding a bike thing, too. If you don't have a bike to ride the trail, there are even places that rent bikes.

The SRT is one of the many trails across the country. There's even a plan (a dream) that a network of trails will connect places across the country. One day, you may be able to ride from LA to NYC or Portland to the Florida Keys all by way of a bike trail.

Bringing it back locally to the Upstate, get out on a not-too-hot day in the coming months, and go for a spin on the over 17+ mile trail.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Biking as a Way of Life :: Then and Now

I love listening to the stories about Greenville coming into its own with bikes. Gettin' around. Racing with the pros. Promoting family bike rides. Pedal chic or Carolina Triathlon. The City has come a long ways in a short time - and its pulling the rest of the Upstate with it.

This past weekend, there was a great article in the Greenville News about bike culture - and we're not talking about the spandex, hipster or commuting crowd. No, this was a reflection on a neighborhood and a way of life that shaped boyhood memories and local teenage sport stars. Apparently areas near Greenville had a bike culture - courteous motorist, law-abiding riders and friends who bonded by way of the bike - before it became the hip, green lifestyle it is today.

People used a bike to get around because that's what was the most available to them. There was also some mention about that bit of southern charm that's shown by way of respect and a slower pace of life fit nicely as people took to two wheels. It appeared to be a natural extension of life - and getting around - for many in a bygone era. You didn't respect the bike because it was a law. You respected it because that was your neighbor. Seems we could also take a lesson from this.

And really, with some of those seemingly top-down bigger policies and programs, that's what we're trying to get back to:  not a nostalgic way of living, but making room, slowing down life and enjoying what's around us.

Here's a tip of the hat to Greenville News, reminding us that getting around on a bike isn't anything new, and people have been doing it for generations.