share

latest news

Bicycle and Pedestrian Planning in Rural South Carolina

Date:
April 25, 2013
Topics:
2013, Bicycle& Pedestrian, Case Studies, Excellence Awards, Resources

On April 25, 2013, the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) Research Foundation held the Rural Planning Organizations (RPO) America Peer Symposium in Greenville, SC.  This event was sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and was held in conjunction with the National Rural Transportation Peer Learning Conference, an annual event organized by the NADO Research Foundation and Development District Association of Appalachia.  The Symposium brought together transportation professionals from across the nation and addressed how rural and small metro regions and their partners have improved the planning and implementation process of vital transportation projects by strengthening communications and collaboration across state, regional, and local agencies.

During the Symposium, Jack Cebe and Jean Crowther, designers at Alta Planning + Design, shared details of their firm’s partnership with the Lower Savannah Council of Governments Bicycle and Pedestrian Regional Plan, which was awarded a NADO 2013 Excellence in Regional Transportation Award.  The plan aims to improve the transportation network in the six-county region to help create safe communities that support and encourage bicycling and walking and bring about a shift towards multi-modal transport.

Box 1. Lower Savannah Council of Governments

Location:  Southwest South Carolina

Area:  3,981 square miles

Population:  316,802 residents (2010 Census)

Consists of 6 counties:  Aiken, Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Calhoun, and Orangeburg

LSCOG-MapThe Bicycle and Pedestrian Regional Plan is considered an extraordinary model due to a holistic approach that addresses infrastructure, policies, and programs that affect bicycling and walking activity, rather than conventional methods that consider infrastructure alone. The program’s strategic plan includes a review of existing bicycle and pedestrian facilities and recommendations for infrastructural and non-infrastructural improvements. Bicycle and Walk Friendly Action Plans, tailored to a community (for example, in the cities of Barnwell and Orangeburg), are prepared in related planning efforts, as needed.

Need / Motivation

The initiative began in February 2011 in order to address numerous issues, such as the improvement of public health, mobility, the local economy, and the environment, with the most important being safety.  The impetus was 2010 U.S. Census statistics that identified South Carolina as 45th in the nation for bicycling and walking as a form of transportation.  However, the state ranked second in bicycling and walking fatalities.  Several recent accidents-including some that resulted in fatalities-had occurred in the Lower Savannah region, pointing a spotlight on the area by the media.  This dichotomy is explained by the prevalence of rural two-lane routes without paved shoulders or sidewalks that, at best, discourage cyclists and pedestrians, and at worst, are hazardous when used.

In addition to the much needed improvement in transportation safety, geographic opportunities were realized whereby rural communities can cultivate bicycle and pedestrian use.  Cebe stated that rural cities and towns are ideally sized to accommodate bicycling and walking as a chief means of transportation, and he provided evidence that the average walking trip in the United States is 1.2 miles and about half of all walks are less than 0.5 mile.  He further reported the average bicycling trip is 4 miles, with 60 percent less than 2 miles, primarily spanning the relatively short distance from town center to outskirts.  He observed that LSCOG’s rural region contains many small towns in close proximity, a characteristic that would allow bicyclists and pedestrians to travel conveniently from town to town.

Planning Authority

Several South Carolina state organizations are involved in the multimodal transportation planning process:

  • LSCOG led the organization of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Regional Plan.  It is the primary authority for rural transportation planning for the region and establishes regional goals and objectives, monitors the current condition of the transportation system, provides research and data analysis, and identifies and prioritizes transportation needs for input into state programs.  The Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) and its Bicycle and Pedestrian Subcommittee are rural technical groups maintained by LSCOG that play an important role in the planning and decision making process.  Each COG has a TAC, made up of county administrators and engineers, transportation providers, public works managers, South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) staff, special interest groups, and planners, that analyze and prioritize transportation needs and goals for the region and in some cases for the state.
  • SCDOT, which coordinates transportation projects with the state’s Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs), Councils of Governments (COGs), and other transit providers.  SCDOT also allocates state and federal funds to these organizations and approves projects-prioritized by MPOs and COGS-to be included in state programs such as the Statewide Multimodal Transportation Plan, the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP), and the Lower Savannah Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP).
  • Alta Planning + Design is the consultant team that partnered with LSCOG to formulate the plan and specialize in sustainable community transportation and recreation projects.

Planning Process

LSCOG and Alta began the planning process by establishing a vision for the plan, along with goals, objectives, and desired outcomes.  To formulate these fundamentals, they required involvement and contributions from the public, local leaders, and stakeholders.  LSCOG has a Public Participation Plan (PPP) which allows direct public input to help guide transportation plans and programs (Q&A, 2010).  Stakeholders were able to participate at planning workshops or steering committee meetings held by the TAC, as well as through an online survey designed to determine the community’s general needs and concerns surrounding bicycling and walking in the region.  Interviews were also held with residents and numerous stakeholders to identify their needs, goals, and desires for the bicycle and pedestrian network.  On completion of this process, the TAC used the input it collected from participants to form a vision statement that represents the plan’s intent for the next 5, 10, and 20 years.

Box 2. Vision Statement

“The LSCOG Regional Bicycle and Pedestrian Facilities Plan envisions a six-county network of safe communities, facilities, and programs for bicycling and walking that equitably support multi-modal travel, healthy lifestyles, and improved quality of life for all citizens, businesses, and visitors of the region.”

Courtesy of Bicycle and Pedestrian Regional Plan, page 4

The TAC then developed bicycle and pedestrian transit goals based on national best practices with contribution of existing goals from local and regional plans such as their Long-Range Transportation Plan (LTRP) and Freight Mobility Study to ensure that they complemented each other. Objective statements were then established for each goal to identify successful implementation.

To develop infrastructural and non-infrastructural recommendations to meet the vision, goals, and objectives of the plan, LSCOG and Alta devised a comprehensive framework originally based on the League of American Bicyclists’ Bicycle Friendly Communities (BFC) and the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Centers’ Walkable Friendly Communities (WFC) programs. The BFC and WFC follow a “5 E” approach, representing Engineering, Education, Encouragement, Enforcement, and Evaluation. LSCOG and Alta made one modification to the approach with the addition “Equity,” coining the “6Es” approach, outlined below:

  1. Engineering.  Designated infrastructure for bicycle and pedestrian traffic is undoubtedly the most important aspect for successful bicycle and pedestrian friendly communities to foster.  This includes the implementation of new infrastructure for “complete streets” and improvements to existing street crossings, traffic calming, trail design, traffic management, school zones, and other related strategies.
  2. Education.  To address the crucial element of safety, LSCOG will provide educational opportunities to inform the public of the rights and responsibilities of road users and safe behavior.  It will also address the benefits that come with bicycle and pedestrian friendly communities and complete streets policies to increase awareness.
  3. Encouragement.  Programs, such as work-place commuter incentives, “walking school buses” at elementary schools, bicycle and walk friendly route maps, bicycle co-ops, as well as positive media campaigns, were incorporated into the plan which addresses all age groups and encourages activity, mobility, and tourism.
  4. Enforcement.  To ensure a courteous and law-abiding environment amongst motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians, enforcement policies and programs, such as bicycle patrol training, were incorporated into the plan.
  5. Evaluation.  Monitoring measures were included to continuously evaluate progress of plan implementation and identify whether modifications are needed, ensuring long-term investment in the bikeway and walkway network.  Methods include quarterly meetings, policy reviews, the development of an annual performance report, collision analysis, update of bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure databases, pedestrian and bicycle counts, assessment of new facilities, and plan updates.
  6. Equity.  Outreach is conducted through programs and events to ensure community needs and values are met and equal geographical distribution of equity, in terms of benefit and cost, is maintained.

(Bicycle and Pedestrian Regional Plan, page 9-10)

TAC, along with its bicycle and pedestrian subcommittee, incorporated the “6Es” into the project recommendations they sent for approval to the LSCOG’s Board of Directors, the region’s transportation policy making panel.  Geographic Information System (GIS) applications were used to assess current conditions and identify existing levels of service to major thoroughfares in the region, which were also considered when forming goals and objectives.

For the development of the individual Bicycle and Walk Friendly Action Plans for Barnwell and Orangeburg, LSCOG and Alta organized workshops to gather input from both cities’ key stakeholders.  According to Cebe, “These workshops educated stakeholders on the importance of walking and bicycling in their community and solicited input for where improvements should be considered.  Afterwards, a bicycling/walking audit of problem locations identified through the workshop was conducted.”  This process assisted in the development of draft recommendations for model action plans in each community from which other LSCOG communities can use as basis for developing their own city-and county-specific plans and policies to support bicycling and walking as a significant form of transportation and recreation.

The draft plan was reviewed by stakeholders and modifications were incorporated into the final plan, completed in October 2012.  In Chapter 1 of the finalized plan, local and regional goals for improving the overall conditions for bicycling and walking are set out.  Chapter 2 presents and in-depth analysis of existing conditions.  Chapter 3 addresses the issue of safety and the potential demand for bicycle and pedestrian use.  Chapter 4 identifies programs, policies, and partner organizations to help encourage and grow a bicycle and pedestrian friendly community.  The final chapter recommends corridors and routes for pedestrian and bicycle use and identifies potential funding sources for implementation.  Also included in the plan are appendices that are designed to be used as implementation resources and to support the recommendations.  They include development regulations that demonstrate how they can be incorporated into the existing network and transportation system, as well as a summary of the input and feedback received from stakeholders in the region throughout the planning process.  An important implementation tool was the LSCOG Regional Bicycle and Pedestrian Study Guidelines, which were created with the intent to apply the guidelines to future programmed projects.

LSCOG-ImprovementsBox 3. Recommended Bikeway and Trail Improvements Miles

2’ Shoulders
4’ Shoulders
6’ Shoulders
Bike Friendly Roadways
Greenways
Rail with Trail
50
158
998
1,400
77
50

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Courtesy of Cebe & Crowther Symposium Presentation

 

Funding

The main source of funding for the Bicycle and Pedestrian Regional Plan comes from SCDOT’s Surface Transportation Program (STP) known as the Guideshare program, of which 80 percent is provided by the U.S. Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and 20 percent from the state.  The federally-funded Guideshare money is funneled through the SCDOT to the COGs and MPOs in the state.  LSCOG programmed $350,000 for the entire project.

Implementation Effectiveness

Since the program’s inception, many improvements have been achieved.  The recommended Design Guidelines were adopted by the TAC and the Policy Committee, ensuring the consideration of bicycle and pedestrian facilities in all future projects programmed through the Lower Savannah rural transportation program.  Two recommended shoulder paving projects including more than 10 miles of roadway have been programmed into the Lower Savannah Transportation Improvement Program (TIP).  Additionally, the city of Barnwell, through the formation of a new Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee, is forming new partnerships throughout Barnwell County.  In Aiken County, LSCOG staff served on the Aiken County Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) and continues to be involved in the Greater Aiken Integrative Trails (GAIT) Committee.  LSCOG also partnered with SCDOT’s Safety Program (Q&A, 2010) to help implement some quick and simple projects such as adding extra shoulder width to the roadways.

Barnwell has achieved considerable success in embracing downtown and recreational opportunities as the town has been diligently working on connecting the two and making the downtown area pedestrian friendly.  In contrast, the City of Orangeburg still faces development challenges because of multiple rail crossings in the downtown area and several college campuses located within the downtown.  Barnwell is partnering its efforts with the Eat Smart, Move More Program, while the Orangeburg group works closely with the Safe Routes to School Program.

Relevancy

Cebe and Crowther pointed out some opportunities identified during the public involvement process such as improved connections to schools, parks, recreation, and public transit.  That there is an overall demand for bicycling and walking opportunities and increased activity will address childhood obesity and other health related issues.  Many existing road facilities are in need of sidewalks and intersection improvements, and many existing roads are wide enough to easily accommodate bicycle lanes.

The plan not only meets the needs of the local community, but also those at the federal and state level.  With current unstable gas prices, environmental concerns, and a growing interest in health and wellness, along with South Carolina’s need for improved road safety, there is certainly a need for action.  The Bicycle and Pedestrian Regional Plan demonstrates a direct effort to solve these issues by creating a community that encourages bicycle and pedestrian transit.  This type of community is expected to bring economic benefits to its residents and businesses in the form of a cheaper means of transportation and the encouragement of tourism, health and livability benefits by increasing individuals’ daily physical activity and mobility for underserved citizens who are unable or cannot afford to drive, and environmental benefits by providing a reduction in air pollution and where greenways will protect plant and animal species.

Sources

This case study was written by NADO Transportation and Communications Fellow Agnieta Sharpe, under the supervision and direction of Associate Director Carrie Kissel.  This work is supported by the Federal Highway Administration under contract number DTFH61-10-C-00050 through the NADO Research Foundation’s Center for Transportation Advancement and Regional Development (www.RuralTransportation.org).  Any opinions, findings and conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of FHWA or the NADO Research Foundation