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Rock Hill lends an ear to walkers, cyclists today

Local bicycling advocates say bike lanes and other road improvements could help promote biking and walking in the city of Rock Hill.

Andrew Morrison with Rock Hill Bike Shop on Ebenezer Road said if there's a paved road, he's riding on it.

However, for someone who isn't an avid cyclist, Morrison said, there needs to be a better system of bike travel in the city, such as sharrows. Sharrows are street markings in the center of a lane indicating cyclists can use the full lane.

"There's enough in the university and downtown and Cherry Road/Cherry Park area that a lot of people could probably do a lot of their transportation by bike if there were a really good system of bike lanes and a better system of trails, paths and sidewalks," Morrison said Monday.

He'll have the chance to share his ideas today at the College Town Area Bike and Pedestrian Plan open house. As the city and Winthrop University officials move forward with the joint College Town Action Plan, the 5:30 p.m. open house at the Glencairn Garden Learning Center will focus on a bicycle and pedestrian plan.

They hope such a plan will make it easier to bike and walk downtown and in areas near campus.

Bill Meyer, planning and development director for the city, said a city's biking and walking trails and paths are important definers for its quality of life.

"Every time our citizens are polled, walking and biking and trails are some of the most important things to our citizens," he said.

On a recent survey of nearly 300 Rock Hill residents through the National Research Center, residents indicated their growing satisfaction with these amenities. However, the survey also showed this satisfaction was not as high as other cities who also have amenities geared toward biking and walking.

The open house will be a "starting point" in addressing that concern.

"We're going to ask people in general about their experiences and their thoughts on bicycling and walking in the College Town area," he explained. "What we want to get out of this is a more detailed plan for improving streets in the College Town area for both walking and biking."

The College Town area encompasses, broadly, areas near the campus, downtown Rock Hill, Cherry Road and Dave Lyle Boulevard.

"The area around the campus in particular and downtown are the two most frequently biked areas as well as have the most pedestrians," Meyer said.

At the open house, an enlarged map of that area will be on display. People will be asked their opinions on those frequently traveled areas. For example, someone who regularly bikes on Eden Terrace can share with officials their opinions on a sidewalk, traffic or a drainage grate they feel is too uneven.

Aerial photos will show these areas. Information will be available on dimensions of roads and sidewalks and which accommodate more automobile traffic.

About $1 million in "Pennies for Progress" money was issued for pedestrian improvements on Cherry Road. The city also was given $32,000 in grant money with a city match of $8,000 to study the area and implement any specific recommendations, beginning with Oakland Avenue.

Robert Baker, owner of College Cycles on Oakland Avenue, plans to attend the open house. He said bike lanes have been necessary for decades.

From his business window, he said he can look out and see cars traveling at 50 or 60 miles per hour. That can intimidate cyclists, he said, especially on roads that don't have bike lanes.

"I've heard all the arguments against bike lanes - 'We don't see anyone riding them, we don't need them,'" he said. "If you put the bike lanes in, that'll put the drivers on notice that there are bikers in the area. People would feel more confident about riding; therefore, they would ride more."

The open house will be "great step forward for the city and for the community, the college and the downtown area," Baker said.

He pointed to the Plaza Midwood area in Charlotte and downtown Greenville and how they are considered bike-friendly.

"If we make an area that is that friendly and that conducive to cycling and walking, then we can have that, too," he said.

Want to go?

What: College Town Area Bike & Pedestrian Plan Open House

When: 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. today

Where: Glencairn Garden Learning Center, 825 Edgemont Ave.