Columbia Looking to Improve Bicycle, Pedestrian Traffic

Columbia, SC (WLTX) -- The City of Columbia has begun looking at ways to improve transportation for the city's bicycle and pedestrian traffic.

It's part of what will be dubbed the City's "Bike and Pedestrian Master Plan."

"I have a concern for my safety if there are a lot of cars on the street," said Ed Jones, who said he has been biking Columbia's streets to-and-from work since 2011.

About four weeks ago, Columbia City planners commissioned Alta Planning, a Greenville firm, to begin looking at ways to help the capital city put together a plan to improve bike and pedestrian pathways.

Planners said the end result will be a cohesive network, and the year long study is needed, they say, because Columbia has fallen behind other cities in bicycle friendliness.

Cars, bicyclists and pedestrians in Columbia have long complained about being forced to share the city's roadways.

"I try not to ride my bike in the street unless the streets are completely dead or if i know there are very few car," Jones said.

Now, that may be about to change.

"We do have a higher incident of fatalities in the state, and we're the state capitol," said John Fellows, Planning Administrator at the city's planning department. "The plan will give us direction and guidance and it will tell us where we need to put resources and where we need to find funding, whether it be federal or state, when we do road projects, what should be included or shouldn't be included."

The news comes after a report published by the Alliance for Biking and Walking put the state among the highest bicycle and pedestrian deaths in the nation.

The same report puts the state at 48th in per capita spending to fix the issues.

City planners are hoping the plan will tell them where to put bike lanes, which roads to need improvement and enable them to rank each according to priority.

The report also includes a look at adding a bike sharing program in the city similar to one run in Charlotte.

"It's going to tell us how we can run such a system, if we can actually support such a system," Fellows said.

"Right now we just have a bunch of separate entities that are doing their own thing and hoping for the best," said Crystal McManus, General Manager at Brian's Outspokin Bike Shop on Devine Street in Columbia.

The study is commissioned at a cost of $250,0000, much of it federal money.

City planners say they won't know the full cost of all the changes until the study is finished.

Columbia is looking to create an interactive website in which they will be seeking comments and things you want to see added to the plan. They will publish details once the city becomes active.

They have tentatively set the first meeting for public input in July,


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