Friday, March 7, 2014

SC in Biking National Limelight

...for the wrong reasons. It seems South Carolina is one of the most dangerous places to bike in the country according to a 2012 report by the Alliance for Biking and Walking.

An article in The Atlantic goes into detail about biking in the South, and highlights the state as one of the worst places to bike. Starting out with the story of a prominent community member who was hit on his bicycle (and dragged) in Charleston, the article highlights the challenges associated with the lack of dedicated bicycle infrastructure, funding and support at the state level for several states in the southeast. The article circles back around to mention that another person was hit in Charleston on the same day just a few hours after the first person. Not the way we like to make national news.

Even though there has been significant improvements to bicycle infrastructure and programs in communities across the state - Greenville, Easley, Spartanburg, Rock Hill and Charleston - we are years (if not decades) behind other places in the country. Spartanburg's bike share program and the bike lane on the Ravennel Bridge in Charleston are two bright spots in the article. However, if you frequent this blog, you know that progress continues. Biking in the Upstate - and across South Carolina - is getting better.

The Alliance for Biking and Walking is a national advocacy group that focuses its efforts on research, reporting and training advocates. Their benchmarking reports has been one of the de facto sources of information, especially when it comes to comparing one state to another. The reports are pretty powerful and attention grabbing. Some of the sobering facts related to the need for improving bicycle and pedestrian safety were highlighted by Jeff Miller, the Alliance's President/CEO, at the regional Georgia South Carolina Bike Summit I spoke at in 2012. I also attended one of their trainings in November 2011. So, the news about South Carolina came as no surprise...but that doesn't make it any less embarrassing. Especially when it's broadcasted at the national level.

However, there can be a silver lining to this piece. As South Carolina continues to grow and attract businesses, communities want to be known as fun, vibrant, accessible - not dangerous. This kind of attention can be catalyst, continuing to fuel the efforts at creating bicycle and pedestrian friendly places in South Carolina. Perhaps this kind of national media may spur local and state-level leaders and decision makers into action.

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