Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Bike News

A quick update on some biking stories in the news lately.

In Easley, pieces of the Bike Master Plan continues to be implemented. A section of SC 135 just north of downtown will be reduced from 4 lanes to 3 lanes. Bike lanes will be placed on either side and the sidewalk along the stretch will also get an update. Feel free to follow the plan's implementation by checking into this website periodically. (Do a Google search for “SC 135 Easley Bike Lanes Greenville Online” to see the full article if you are not a Greenville News subscriber.)

In Greenville, Salters Road, between Verdae and ICAR, will be resurfaced and widened soon by the SCDOT. The project is expected to take at least a year, but when it's completed, it will enhance bike connectivity to Clemson University's ICAR (CU-ICAR). That's especially cool because the focus of the area is automobile research. Props to the University and Greenville for supporting access to the site beyond just the car.

In Clemson, the idea about updating the City's Bike Plan was brought forward to the Planning Commission. Updating the Bike Plan falls in line with recommendations from the City Comprehensive Plan. The City and Clemson University are working together to improve bikeways in the area. They are separate projects, but the two entities are working together, building on existing partnerships. A biking survey should be available in March for city residents and those that commute to and through Clemson on the City website.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

(I've seen) Safer Cycling Scenarios

This past weekend I was out in my car running some errands in Anderson. I was on busy Hwy 76 running some errands in the midst of Saturday-afternoon-mall/suburban traffic, and I noticed a lone bicyclists making his way.

I'm not a fan of driving in stop and go traffic when I'm driving, especially when it's the kind where drivers are peeling in and out of large-lot, big-box stores. I like the sales that some of these business provide just as much as anyone else, but driving along billboard-distracting, driveway-every-20-feet roadways can feel like wading into unsafe waters.

While riding along in the 45+ mph traffic, at one point, I noticed that bicyclist riding in the far right lane (not on the sidewalk), attempting to "share the road" with vehicular traffic. Bicyclists have the right to the road just as much as any car, truck or SUV, however, in conditions such as these, riding a bike is not advisable. (Even though I have been known to ride in some conditions that only craz- *er* skilled riders would venture, this scenario seemed to be crossing that line.)

So, I started thinking about the decision of the bicycle rider to ride here. And then I became frustrated by the design of the suburban landscape that really limits transportation choices and mobility. And then I thought about the recent ranking of South Carolina being 49th in the nation in bicycle safety. And then I thought about this blog, and how it aims to be a voice to advocate for making better choices to improve bicycle facilities. And how this situation is exactly what this blog tries to reach out to address and prevent. With the high number of recent crashes (in this very community), I can holy hope that this bicyclist made to his destination and home in one piece.

Just consider a few of these things:
1.  Be careful where you ride. Even though you may be lawfully in the right, think twice about your decisions.
2.  Advocate for better bicycle facilities - like bike lanes, shared roadways and good urban design - that allows for mobility choices and safer options.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Bike Box. Get Behind It.

The bike box. Cool to say. Even cooler to come upon. I've only ridden into a bike box a few times, and that was during my days in Madison, Wisconsin. I found them kinda cool and I felt safer in them then just in a bike lane or being a part of the vehicular traffic line at an intersection.

Bike boxes are the area between the vehicular stop line, crosswalk and curb edge. The area is made accessible by a preceding bike lane (typically found on the right side of the road). The area is there to provide a safer space for queuing bicycles at an intersection. It helps bicyclists clear the intersection faster by putting them out in front. By waiting in a bike box, cyclists don't have to sit behind idling cars breathing in noxious fumes.

Photo of a bike box.
Some bike boxes are painted, while others are denoted by a bicycle symbol between the forward stop line and crosswalk. They are anywhere from 10 - 16 feet deep, and the deeper they are the less likely cars are to encroach on them. Cyclists in a bike box still need to recognize and respect pedestrian's rights - no creeping up on the crosswalk! Here's a good video of how you use one.

Bike boxes might be making an appearance in a city or town near you in the coming years. They're becoming pretty standard in some of the progressive bike places like Seattle, Portland and Minneapolis. They are appearing in local bicycle master plan. They're also found in cities across Europe. They can look a little different, but they have the same purpose - to make it safer for bikes to ride through an intersection.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Be a Change Agent

How do you make change? It's a fair question.

Where do you start? It's different for everyone. Some will look to create change from within - working within their office or institution. Some will take the time outside of the work day, and volunteer time on committees or within community groups. Some will doing it by participating in recreational activities with others (like group rides). Others may have influence over a smaller circle of people, like their family or close friends. Taking the time to create and nurture relationships will enable any change to happen.

Change takes time to happen. Don't expect things to happen overnight. Sometimes things will happen fast, and then sometimes things will happen. really. slowly. Just be patient, and enjoy the ride. Patience and being a good listener are good characteristics to have or practice when you're working with a group of people. If you are working on creating change in and for a bike community, get to know the people you're working with, make some friends and have some laughs along the way!  Fun and work is a balance in these situations. (Don't take it too seriously.)

Celebrate the wins - however small. This is a key thing I learned when I attended a Winning Campaigns Training this past fall in Columbia. Not only did I meet some great people from around the state and region, but I also learned a lot of great things. (I recommend attending if you get the chance!) One of these things was you should celebrate all wins. Get the city council to consider your request for adding a greenway to get to the park? Celebrate! Have the local paper do a positive story on the struggle to put in a bike lane? Celebrate! Celebrate the small wins on the way to the overall goal, and it will help sustain a group's energy and interest.

Change takes time, but with a lot of effort and some luck, good things will happen.

Be the change you want to see in the world. -Ghandi

Friday, February 3, 2012


There are some great places to bike in the Upstate of South Carolina. There are places for mountain bike riders, like the Clemson Experimental Forest. There are places for recreational riders, like the Swamp Rabbit trail or, depending on your level of experience and comfort, on scenic Hwy 11. There are places for commuter or utilitarian riders, as there are bikeways in communities throughout the region. Wouldn't it be great, though, if they were all connected?

Map of area near Furman University
Providing connections between places is an important part of making biking a more feasible option for getting around and just having fun. If you are a student at a university (like Furman or Clemson) and you live off campus, biking makes a lot of sense - until you actually try. Try getting around Hwy 276 near Furman or Hwy 93 near Clemson on bike! (Or not. It can be really dangerous.) Living within just a couple of miles makes it easy to bike, based on distance, but based on safety, it may be out of the question. If you live near the Clemson Experimental Forest, you may want to bike up to the trails, but roadways like Hwy 133 are designed for fast speeds and traffic may prohibit you from safely doing so. Neighborhoods and businesses are at least seeing the benefits of being located on or near the Swamp Rabbit trail, and are working to increase accessibility to it, making it easier to ride from door to "door." (That being the door of a home or business to the "door" of the trail.)

Wayfinding : sign and
pavement marking
Connections can also be strengthened by the prevalence of signs, especially wayfinding signs. These signs can tell a rider where the bike route is, the location of some key destinations, distance and legitimize the right to the road. As long as they are done well, they can help reinforce bikeway connections.

Having bikeways is awesome. Having bikeways that connect places together are even better. Having many bikeways that connect many places is....well...a network. And a network will create great accessibility for all users - recreational and utilitarian.