Columbia, South Carolina bicyclists can thank the mosquitoes for all those wide streets in downtown Columbia. When the city was laid out on a 400-block grid, the perimeter streets were 150 feet wide and other thoroughfares were 100 feet wide.
“The width was determined by the belief that the dangerous and pesky mosquito could not fly more than 60 feet without dying of starvation along the way,” the city’s website states.
These days, most U.S. city planners fight tooth-and-nail to shoehorn bike lanes into cramped right-of-ways on older urban roads. Columbia, with a broad sea of pavement in the downtown area, has the opportunity to realize the complete streets concept with bike lanes and other transit lanes along tree-lined boulevards.
Positives for cycling in Columbia include a mild climate in the cooler months, a relatively flat terrain, the grid street pattern in downtown and a high concentration of young people around the University of South Carolina’s campus.
There’s other good news, too, for area bikers. In 2008, the city earned the Bicycle Friendly Community designation. The University of South Carolina, located in the heart of the city, became the first Bicycle Friendly University in the state in 2012.
Accomplishments & Biking Advocacy Efforts
However, in many ways Columbia is playing catch-up on bicycling efforts. The city did not finalize its bike master plan until 2015. A draft of the plan is available online: Walk Bike Columbia. The city’s Bike Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) is particularly active, and gains are being made, both in infrastructure and in strengthening of the local cycling community.
- Infrastructure improvements. The city and the state Department of Transportation have added on-street bicycling improvements to several corridors, such as Beltline Boulevard, Wheat Street and Hardin Street.
- Several key trails. The Three Rivers Greenway and the Vista Greenway, whichfeatures a 100-year-old railroad tunnel under Lincoln Street, are helping to address connectivity issues.
- Dedicated bike parking. The city’s Bike Pedestrian Advisory Committee, formed in 2011, helped pave the way for bike corrals: one on Saluda Street in Five Points, two on Lincoln Street in the Vista and one on Main Street.
- Events. The city has promoted May’s Bike Month and a Bike and Walk to School Day, among other events. Area cyclists host weekly urban and long distance rides, as well as “Handlebar Happy Hour” - a social gathering for advocates on the second Wednesday of each month.
- Advocacy groups. A local advocacy group does not exist. However, as Columbia is the capital, state advocacy organizations have their headquarters located there and do some work there; one is the Palmetto Cycling Coalition, the state nonprofit organization advocating for improved bike and pedestrian safety, access and education in South Carolina, and the Palmetto Conservation Foundation, which oversees the 500-mile, cross-state Palmetto Trail, including the Capital City Passage through Columbia.
Columbia's Master Bike Plan
Columbia’s bike plan has the support of the mayor and was approved by the city council. In the plan’s introduction, Mayor Stephen K. Benjamin states: “From creating our Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) and completing Phase I of the Vista Greenway to installing new bicycle corrals and the first HAWK pedestrian signal in South Carolina, we’ve made great strides towards making Columbia a truly bicycle and pedestrian friendly city because we recognize that bicycling is not only a safe, fun and convenient way to travel, but also holds a unique potential to connect our diverse communities and make our city more livable, economically vibrant and environmentally sustainable.”
The city currently has approximately 60 miles of bike facilities. The master plan proposes these expansions of those facilities:
- Buffered Bike Lanes--26 miles
- Bike Lanes--68 miles
- Paved Shoulders--11 miles
- Bike Boulevard--64 miles
- Shared Lane Markings--5 miles
- Signed Routes--2 miles
- Infill Street--3 miles
- Pedestrian/Bicycle Cut-through--6
- Intersection Improvements—12
Bike Law South Carolinas Reviews
Review By Frank Mansbach
An effective advocate, and provided great service when I got hit by a distracted driver.
Peter Wilborn at Bike Law is the best choice should you be the unfortunate victim of a bike crash. He is an effective advocate, and provided great service when I got hit by a distracted driver.
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Legal Help for Columbia Bicycle Crashes
We hope you never need a lawyer for a car-bike collision, but we are here for you if you do. Bike Law is a national network of independent lawyers and law firms with a shared, effective approach to the law and to helping cyclists in Columbia and throughout South Carolina. We are cyclists ourselves and we care deeply about the bicyclists in our communities. South Carolina Bike Law attorneys Peter Wilborn and Timmy Finch are lifelong bicyclists who have helped hundreds of clients injured in bike-car crashes, including clients in Columbia. Please contact Peter and Timmy by using this form to report your bicycle crash.
If you would like Bike Law to come speak to your club or at your shop, please contact us.