I got involved with the Bike/Ped Coalition of York County in 2017 when I saw what good work it was doing in our community. Wondering how it came about, I recently researched it. Mostly I found what I suspected – that it’s had a big impact on our region, with a few iterations in its 13 years. But there were some surprises.
Where It Comes From
The coalition began as Bike Rock Hill in 2010. It started with a $3,000 grant to Eat Smart Move More York County (now Wholespire York County) to test project management software. (Software!? That, I did not expect.)
But folks quickly realized that its work flowed beyond city boundaries. So it became the Bike/Ped Task Force with partners from the City of Rock Hill, Winthrop University, SC DHEC, York County government, SC DOT, and interested community members.
The task force surveyed residents about their interest in and access to bicycling. This informed its “next steps.” These included:
- educating motorists and cyclists on the “rules of the road” with distribution of rack cards and public service announcements on the Rock Hill City Channel; and
- working with law enforcement to better educate all users.
More funding let it continue testing the software, looking for how to improve the “built environment.” This included more “share the road” signs, “sharrows,” and marked bike routes.
The City of Rock Hill, Parks Recreation and Tourism was awarded the CDC $40,000 ACHIEVE grant (Action Communities for Health, Innovation, and EnVironmental changE) to continue with technical support from the National Recreation and Park Association. Thanks to this grant, the task force further engaged partners and strategically supported the built environment.
Collaboration and Awareness Were Key
The task force’s successes are due to the engagement of many partners, organizations, and agencies. This included city/county law enforcement, SC Department of Transportation (SC DOT), the Council of Governments, city and county planners, the Rock Hill/Fort Mill-Area Transportation Study (RFATS) municipal planning organization, and residents – to name just a few.
They focused on adding more bike/pedestrian amenities throughout our community and increasing safety for users. Besides the printed materials, rules of the road, and public service announcements, the task force facilitated conversation between law enforcement and cyclists about enforcement of the rules of the road for motorists and cyclists.
Safety and Access in York County and Rock Hill
The task force promoted National Bike Month which included the Mayor’s Ride, Bike to Work, bike commuter clinics, Ride of Silence, and bike rodeos to educate children and families on bicycling. In recognition of the the city’s and task force’s impactful work, the City of Rock Hill was awarded a Bronze-Level Bicycle Friendly Community designation in 2012!
The group also identified potential bike routes in York County and the City of Rock Hill. Consulting with SC DOT, they identified five county bike routes and two for Rock Hill. This required the collaboration of city, county and state government. These routes were marked and included directional and “Share the Road” signs. The York County Convention and Visitors Bureau (now Visit York County) developed printed maps for the routes which they promoted on their website.
The task force expanded beyond just cycling when it began working to increase awareness and safety for walkers. It conducted several walkability assessments that resulted in improvements for all users.
In 2019 we became the Bike/Ped Coalition of York County working to support York County and its communities becoming more pedestrian, cycling, and roller-friendly. Nowadays, bike/ped/rolling safety is largely considered in planning. But projects take years to complete and some communities grew faster than awareness and infrastructure.
At a state level, SC DOT defunded SC Safe Routes to School in 2019 – so we lost a critical partner in our efforts to advocate for kids to be able to walk and roll safely to schools. Though RFATS has a resolution supporting sidewalks and other pedestrian facilities at all new school locations within the RFATS study area, few schools in our region are safely walkable or bikeable.
On the bright side of Covid, when we were all stuck at home, people went back to basics. We saw the importance of being able to walk, bike, and roll in our neighborhoods. Rock Hill again was named a Bicycle-Friendly Community in 2021, and this coalition was again cited as a benefit.
“Being recognized by the League of American Bicyclists is not only a tremendous honor, it is a testament to Rock Hill’s commitment to providing the highest quality of life for all citizens. We are fortunate to have engaged citizen groups such as the Bicycle and Pedestrian Coalition of York County, Eat Smart Move More York County and the Rock Hill Bike Club working alongside staff to provide bike friendly routes, facilities and programs enabling citizens and visitors to use bicycles for transportation and recreation.”Rock Hill Mayor John Gettys
Our coalition still envisions an engaged York County where walking, cycling, and rolling are convenient, safe, and accessible to all. We continue to educate, advocate, and promote the health, economic, environmental and social benefits of walking, cycling and rolling. We seek to:
- Support local governments, government entities, and organizations in their efforts to increase bicycle, pedestrian, and rolling accessibility and safety.
- Support York County residents in efforts to advocate for safer, more accessible cycling, rolling, walking, and running.
- Engage and support decisionmakers and community members to promote the health, economic, environmental and social benefits of walking, cycling, and rolling.
We welcome anyone with interest to join our coalition as we have lots of important work left to do.
Big thanks to Susan Collier, SC DHEC, and Tom Bell, Rock Hill Parks Recreation and Tourism, for your insights – and great work with the coalition over the years!