Greenville, SC, has earned a national reputation as a bicycling destination, hosting a series of professional bike races, including the USA Cycling Criterium Championships and the Team Time Trial National Championships in March 2015. Greenville also happens to be the home of former professional cyclist George Hincapie.
While rightfully proud of those racing credentials, the city of Greenville’s day-to-day focus is on cycling opportunities for its 62,000 residents.
Just a decade ago Greenville put down its first bike lane. By 2011, when the city drew up a Bicycle Master Plan, it had 22 miles of bikeways. Progress has been swift since then; in November 2015, that number was 60 miles of bike lanes, sharrows, greenways and trails.
The city has made a concerted push to become bike friendly, says Edward A. Kinney, a Greenville Parks and Recreation official who heads the city’s biking programs. Those efforts include increasing ridership, expanding bicycling facilities, and educating cyclists and motorists on sharing the road.
Greenville was designated as a bronze-level Bicycle Friendly Community in October 2009 and again in 2013, Kinney says. The city would like to move up a step on the podium: “We are looking to get silver in a 2017 BFC application,” he says.
2011 Greenville Bicycle Master Plan
Among the recommendations in the 2011 Master Plan is the development of nearly 140 miles of new on-street bikeways, including bike lanes, bike routes, and shared lane markings, with wayfinding for cyclists.
The 60 miles that have been completed so far include the Swamp Rabbit Trail (SRT), a 17-mile trail that goes north to Travelers Rest and south through the city.
“The vast majority of the trail is a designated greenway, with a few miles that are separated but adjacent to sidewalks,” Kinney says. “These are great for the kids with several miles that don’t cross a single road.”
As part of its master plan for the downtown area, the city identified five key areas -- Gateway District, Heritage Green, Broad & River, County Square and West End/Warehouse. Those districts have figured prominently in the city’s growing list of bicycle facilities, and the Swamp Rabbit Trail runs through those areas.
The Master Plan identified Augusta Street and Laurens Road as having the most bike crashes. Along with Pleasantburg Drive, those corridors were also named as priorities for improved bicycling conditions. Bike routes near those corridors have been completed, Kinney says.
“We don’t have the room to add bike lanes to those arterial streets,” Kinney says. “In South Carolina, we have a system where some roads are owned by the state, and others are owned by the city. If the state owns the road, they maintain it and they don’t let the city do much to it. Many of the roads where we’d like to put bike lanes are state-owned. Also, those arterial roads have higher speed limits with lots of curb cuts, turning lanes, store fronts and so on.”
The city’s workaround for those arteries? “We build bike bypasses around them,” Kinney says. “That usually means we find the most parallel route through the neighboring community. Then we sign it so people can get from one end of the arterial road to the other on these side roads.”
Other Biking Initiatives in Greenville
Other projects that are on the ground or in the works include:
- Bike parking. Greenville’s bicycle parking policy sets a minimum number of bike parking spaces, with at least two spaces at all sites. Bike racks have been installed throughout downtown.
- Bicycle detection at signalized intersections. The 2011 plan noted bicycle signal detection had been installed at these intersections: Cleveland Street & Southland Avenue; Buncombe Street & Atwood Street; and Ridgeland Drive & McDaniel Avenue.
- The use of a complete streets engineering. In 2008, the city passed a resolution in support of alternative transportation such as bikes. The city also amended its Engineering Design & Specifications Manual to include bicycle lanes of a minimum five-foot width on all collector and arterial streets, according to the Master Plan. However, a Complete Streets Resolution failed at the county level in 2010.
- Bike share program. Greenville’s launched a modest B-Cycle program in 2013 and currently has eight stations and 35 bikes as of 2015. The newest stations are at Greenville Zoo in Cleveland Park, Hughes Main Library at Heritage Green and the Fluor Field. “Over the next two years, the program will expand to at least 10 bike stations and 50 bikes,” according to the B-Cycle site.
- Bikes on buses. All GreenLink busescan carry two bicycles at no extra charge for cyclists.
- The city has secured funding to run the Swamp Rabbit Trail along the Reedy River under River Street, where SCDOT will not allow a traffic signal due to the proximity to another cross street.
Meetings With Greenville Bike Advocacy Groups
Many cities have formal names for their biking initiatives, usually along the lines of a Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee. Greenville took the opposite approach. The official web page for bicycling in Greenville is called Bikeville. That page serves as a community resource for new and existing bicyclists.
The city holds regular meetings with local stakeholders. “We have several advocacy groups here in town,” Kinney says. “Some groups focus on the legal aspects of cycling, some focus on mountain biking, some are interested in urban transportation, and some are into racing. These advocates are great at promoting cycling in all its forms, and generating ideas for events and new infrastructure. Then once a month or so we gather them around the table with City staff, our engineers, our traffic planners, our urban planners, our events staff -- anyone they need to talk to, to help them turn their ideas into real construction projects or events.”
On the advocacy front, Bike Walk Greenville has been particularly active. Formed in 2013 as a nonprofit, the group has a growing list of accomplishments, including:
- Development of on‐line tool for sidewalk and bike lane suggestions, with nearly 800 suggestions submitted as of October 2015;
- Advocacy work that was instrumental in placing 101 bike walk projects in the November 2014 Roads Referendum, that was unfortunately defeated at the polls by the well funded anti-tax lobby;
- Production of an award winning video advocating for active transportation to school.
Other area advocacy groups, according to a Bike Walk Greenville blog post, include:
- The Greenville Spinners Bicycle Club actively promotes group rides;
- The Greenville Spinners Safety Foundation actively promotes safe cycling education in schools;
- LiveWell Greenville is promoting walk and bike to school initiatives.
Things to See and Do by Bike in Greenville
We asked Frank Mansbach of Bike Walk Greenville about the best things to see or do by bike in Greenville. His top three picks:
- Swamp Rabbit Trail. This 17-mile cycling corridor attracts about 500,000 riders each year. It’s also an economic engine, generating $6.7 million in tourism revenue. Ride to the northern end in Travelers Rest and have lunch at the Café at Williams Hardware, Mansbach recommends. If you’re ready to test your legs, try the climb up nearby Paris Mountain, Mansbach says.
- Downtown Greenville. In the 1970s, Greenville’s downtown was in decline as retailers and other business fled the urban core. Those days are long gone, thanks to visionary leadership that revitalized the downtown. Main Street was converted into a two-lane road lined with trees and sidewalks that garnered a New York Times mention as “a national model for a pedestrian-friendly city center.” A 10-block stretch of downtown has been hailed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which in 2003 named Greenville as a Great American Main Street Award® Winner. Features include the Greenville County Museum of Art, the Hughes Main Library, and numerous restaurants and coffee shops.
- Falls Park & Liberty Bridge. No cycling trip to Greenville is complete without a visit to Falls Park on the Reedy. The park features gardens and Reedy River Falls and the Swamp Rabbit Trail runs through the park. A central attraction is the Liberty Bridge and its unique twin inclined towers. The bridge spans the 28-foot Reedy River Falls, the site of an early trading post and grist mill. Completed in 2004, Liberty Bridge replaced a six-lane highway bridge that was demolished to give better visibility and access to this historic site.
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Legal Help for Greenville Bicycle Accidents
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 Greenville. 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. They have helped hundreds of clients injured in bike-car crashes, including clients in Greenville. He can help you talk to the police and auto insurance companies, and he handles cases in South Carolina courts. Please contact Peter 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.
Photo credits: Top photo of Liberty Bridge in Falls Park, Greenville, SC: Rosales + Partners www.rosalespartners.com. Photo of bike race and bike valet are by City of Greenville and used with permission. The remaining photos are by Frank Mansbach of Bike Walk Greenville and are also used with permission.
If you would like Bike Law to come speak to your club or at your shop, please contact us.