With seven student housing projects filling up parking lots around campus and massive developments like Bull Street expected to draw thousands of more people downtown, other ways of getting around are needed to keep the Capital City from becoming Gridlock City, advocates say.
Central to the Walk Bike Columbia master plan is developing a cohesive network of revamped streets to help everyone share the road – motorists, bicyclists, pedestrians and transit passengers.
The latest, ambitious plan comes with a whopping $1.2 billion price tag – with some $72 million of the total already funded through Richland County’s penny sales tax revenue.
The plan, calling for a large and labyrinthine system of sidewalks, trails, bicycle lanes and bicycle sharing stations, would go a long way to help relieve the congestion, advocates said during a city planning commission review Monday.
“This was commissioned at a good time in Columbia’s life,” Jean Crowther, of Alta Planning and Design said Monday during a Planning Commission work session.
The plan calls for 337 miles of new sidewalks and 360 miles of various types of bike lanes and paths. Currently, the city has about 60 miles of bicycle paths and 391 miles of sidewalks.
A complete build-out of the plan would happen over 30 years in seven phases, a draft report shows. The highest priorities should be downtown and high traffic corridors like Garner’s Ferry Road and Broad River Road, it shows.
Also, other potential funding sources and grants are suggested in the plan, including examples of which specific projects could qualify for particular grants.
There have been many plans to increase cycling safety and access in Columbia. Local cyclists say there’s been progress in making the city more bike-friendly – but more is needed.
The Walk Bike Columbia plan comes after a year of study, data collection and consultations. It suggests practical steps for making the city safer and more accessible, and includes maps that show specifically where improvements are recommended.
• Bike sharing – a trend that is cropping up nationally but is new to Columbia’s cycling discussion – is among the components the plan advocates.
Bike sharing works by docking communal bikes at various stations throughout a city. A rider can hop on a bike at one station and ride to another station in another part of the city, where the bike is re-docked.
Many cities position bike stations near public transportation hubs, like bus or metro stops, so riders can plan their full commuting routes around public transportation.
• Cycle tracks and buffer lanes.
These tracks are bike lanes designed with some sort of physical barrier such as a curb or planters between traffic and parked cars.
• Buffer lanes.
Buffer lanes are flat, marked widths of pavement between traffic and bike lanes. The plan includes maps that show specifically where these and other facilities are recommended.
• Intersection improvements for pedestrians
The plan also calls for 170 improvements at intersections that have traffic signals, and 331 mid-block crossing improvements.
Cyclists who advised planners said the improvements would do more than make roads convenient for bikes.
“These design changes almost universally make the roads safer for car,” said Will Haltiwanger of the Columbia Bike Pedestrian Advisory Committee.