More bicycles could be hitting downtown Columbia streets this fall as the city plans to launch a bike share program.
Part of Columbia’s evolution toward becoming friendlier to alternative transportation modes, a bike share program has been several years in the making, with the city recently accepting official proposals to get it off the ground.
The first phase of the bike share likely would put 135 bikes at 15 stations around the downtown core at locations such as the State House, Finlay Park and along Main Street, according to a 2015 study outlining bike share recommendations. A second phase could add another 90 bikes and 10 stations.
The study estimated the two phases could cost between $3.4 million and $4 million to start.
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The exact cost and how the program will be financed will become clearer once a service provider is chosen, said Krista Hampton, city planning director. A combination of public resources and private sponsorships could be sought to support the program, the 2015 study recommended.
Greenville, Spartanburg and Charleston already have bike share programs, which let people rent bikes from self-serve stations for short- or longer-term use and return them when they’re done.
The bike share program is a product of the city’s 2015 Walk Bike Columbia master plan, and proposals are being considered just as the city prepares to host numerous S.C. mayors for a statewide conference on walking and biking this Thursday and Friday.
As Columbia continues to work toward becoming a more bike- and pedestrian-friendly community, local cyclists share their thoughts on the importance of cycling and walking, the city’s progress and opportunities for growth.
Brian Curran, co-owner of Outspokin Bicycles
“If you look around, you can see that we’re starting to develop some bicycle infrastructure – parking corrals in the Vista and Five Points, shared roads popping up downtown. ... Having those big pictures of bikes on the street legitimizes cyclists’ right to be there.”
An example for Columbia to follow? Greenville’s Swamp Rabbit Trail. “A whole economy has sprung up around that trail. Imagine if you could ride from downtown Columbia to Congaree National Park.”
Amy Johnson Ely, Palmetto Cycling Coalition executive director
“Rome wasn’t built in a day. It takes time. Columbia is on fire with interest and commitment to making things better. ... The biggest benefits of improved walkability aren’t just health and economics. It just creates more dignified public spaces in general and access for all types of people. It’s growth of your social capital.”
A big advantage for Columbia? The transportation penny sales tax. “That’s going to help make these things a reality. With the state in a constant budget crunch, there is more leverage to get what you want on state-owned streets.”
Brittney Fleenor, Outspokin Bicycles employee
“I’ve seen the cycling community grow in Columbia so much, and there’s more people on the road. But there could be more. ... One of the biggest improvements I’ve seen is the bike lanes have been cleaner in the past few years than they have been. There was always debris (in the lanes).”
Columbia bikers’ biggest disadvantage? “The drivers here are not very aware of cyclists on the roads, especially in the (University of South Carolina) campus area. It’s very often that someone will just continue backing up and not pay attention that there’s a biker coming down the road.”
Keith Gosselin, Bike Pedestrian Advisory Committee chairman
“We have a high percentage of people who ride and walk to work, and that’s their only means of getting there. ... We owe it to them to make our streets safer. They should be able to bike and walk safety to where they need to go. It’s not a luxury; it’s a necessity for them.”
An opportunity for Columbia? Rewriting city zoning codes, which is in progress. “The way we want to rewrite that is de-emphasizing surface parking ... (and emphasizing) bike parking at facilities.”
Mayor’s Bike & Walk Summit
What: A statewide conference for citizens and leaders talking about the planning needed for more accessible cities.
When: 8:30 a.m.-7 p.m. Thursday and 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday
Where: The iT-ology building, 1301 Gervais St. No. 200
Registration: $20 for one day or $35 for both days, including lunch
More info: www.scmayorsbikewalksummit.org