For many years my neighborhood has worked to get sidewalks put in along the street that runs in front of my house. It is a “cut-through” between two main roads leading into downtown Greenville. I was shocked to learn that thousands of cars come down the road. Some of them well over the 30 mph posted speed limit. Well, we finally got our sidewalks… and a bonus to boot.
The plan was to put a curb and sidewalk on one side of the street. Our side of the street would not be altered in any way. However, shock of all shocks, the project came in significantly under budget. Since the money was earmarked for the project the project was expanded to include adding curbs on our side as well.
I was loving the changes. The only thing that would have topped it all off would have been to have the street repaved. The drainage work, curb work and moving of the stripes had made a mess of the asphalt. It was pretty obvious that we were going to have some erosion issues.
Lo and behold, the resurfacing request got approved and around Christmas time we got a newly paved road. Then to add to my contentment, the idea of bicycle lanes was broached with the community. At that point, there were some pretty vocal opponents to the idea. Even so, I had a good feeling that something would come through. I was well aware of the city’s Complete Streets Program that makes it a priority to consider all means of transportation — car, bicycle and pedestrian.
Our road was a perfect example of where this could be used. It was already a wide road so basically nothing had to be done to accommodate the space needed for the lanes. The road was already being used by cyclists and pedestrians. It would also help with traffic calming as it would visually narrow the road.
After one rather testy community meeting, I knew we would have the lanes. Then about two weeks ago the guys showed up to stripe the road. There was plenty of room for both the cars and bicycles — and a nice smooth sidewalk for the pedestrians.
Finally, last night as I was sitting eating dinner, I noticed some more street painters appear. I watched as they made it official. Right in front of my house in the far lane of the road, they painted the bicycle man and arrow.
Now, I can use bicycle lanes all the way from my house to the Swamp Rabbit Trail and — before you know it — be out in Travelers Rest. Not only that, but I am already seeing commuters using the lanes. I hope there will be more opportunities to see the Complete Streets initiative become a reality.
Granted, there are some downsides to having bicycle lanes in your neighborhood. You cannot place yard waste in a way that obstructs the lane. This can lead to your lawn being destroyed by the garbage man. You also cannot park on the street in any way that obstructs the lane. This will be a problem for my neighbors who enjoy throwing a party from time-to-time.
The city is working with those neighbors to offer them a permit that temporarily gives them the right to block the lane. It is like I mentioned to the neighbors in the meeting about the lanes. We are a community. Our road is something we share with each other, but it is also something we share with other Greenville residents. Their taxes helped us get our sidewalk, road and bicycle lanes. We have to work and sometimes compromise to make the best opportunities for the whole.
The Complete Streets initiative does this for our city. It is more than a logistical necessity. It creates many intangible benefits. For instance, bicycle lanes with their little cyclist signage gives the perception of intimacy. Much like sidewalks they are footprints of human movement. They are indicators that there is a soul in the city.
Thank you, Greenville, for bringing that footprint to my neighborhood.