Friday, September 28, 2007

Becoming Bicycle Friendly

My adopted home city, Charleston, South Carolina is a wonderful place steeped in history, culture, and art.

I number amongst my friends and acquaintances many talented writers and songwriters.

The South Carolina state auto license plate has the slogan, “Smiling faces, beautiful places.” One of the things that struck me about Charleston in the almost six years that I have been here is the friendliness of the people.

Complete strangers will strike up a conversation with you. I have found in other parts of the world, and even in parts of the US, to speak to a stranger is viewed with suspicion. People who talk to strangers are looked on as some kind of loony person. Here I will rarely pass a stranger without at least a smile or simple greeting exchanged.

However, having made that statement, when Carolinians get in their cars it is a whole different story. Columbia, the state capital, had the dubious title earlier this year of having the worst drivers in the US. Friendly smiles and simple greetings are often replaced with a great deal of horn blowing.

So, it was with extreme pleasure I read this week that Spartanburg, SC had become the first city in this state to be awarded the prestigious League of American Bicyclists Bicycle Friendly status.

The League of American Bicyclists, founded in 1880 before the use of automobiles was widespread, was instrumental in getting paved roads established. The same paved road that most drivers enjoy and take for granted today. The same roads a few begrudgingly share with those of us who still like to ride a bicycle.

Spartanburg has become only one of twenty-four cities in the US to receive this honor; they have done so in a relatively short time. Their Bicycle Initiative Program was started in 2004 with a grant of $104,000.

Charleston take note. If ever a city could use a Bicycle Initiative this is one, with the downtown parking and congestion problems. What better way for a visitor to view our historic city than by a leisurely ride on a bicycle?

Two things go hand in hand; there is a need to get rid of the congestion to make it possible to ride a bicycle on the narrow downtown streets. More bicycles mean less cars, easing the congestion.


Anonymous said...

funny topic!!!!,,i'am completing today (friday) a full week of riding my bike to work.!!!!..i'am in texas,(FT.WORTH),,,it takes me 12-15 min.,i know lucky me :>)....but it was sooooo refreshing to get up early to beat "some" of the traffic,on the main Blvd.,lots of business parking lots help too..!!!..but today i got a real kick when i stopped by the store and a guy just finished putting $85.00 into his BIG,DUEL WHEEL,,DUEL TANK,,MAMMOTH OF A TRUCK,,,he took one look at my bike and saw my sticker,and shook his had and went Damn......

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

This story plus the last confirms that policies are making our neighborhoods and streets less friendly and more dangerous, especially for cyclists. The people-car combination creates an ugly product which will only get worse with higher fuel prices.

db said...

I visited Charleston a couple years ago, and found myself thinking along the same lines: "This is such a great town, but where are the bikes? I mean, you've got horse-drawn carriages in the historic downtown. There has to be room for bikes, too, no?"

Hope there are enough cyclists down there to make some changes. I would think Charleston would offer some great year-round riding!

Anonymous said...

Here in Myrtle Beach (South Carolina) we are NOT (sadly) bicycle friendly!
Despite hyping multiple annual bicycling related events, riding is NOT supported by city fathers and their coffers.
I do not consider 'Share the Road' signage replacement for a paved and marked bicycle path lane.
My local bicycle shop owner, an lifelong MB native, concurs!