Bicycle routes connect York County

When the construction signs on the Fort Mill Southern Bypass come down later this month, bike route signs should go up.

The Fort Mill Route is a 30-mile, double loop bicycle route connecting the town to Tega Cay and Rock Hill. It is one of five routes on a 170-mile countywide system at varying stages of completion. Routes have numbered signs. About 98 percent of the bike route is state roads.

All five routes are the work of the Rock Hill Bicycle and Pedestrian Task Force. Public and private partners met in 2011 to identify the best bike routes countywide. A 49-mile York to Rock Hill loop opened in November. A 35-mile double loop between Rock Hill and the Catawba Indian Reservation opened in June.

Also planned are a 36-mile loop connecting York, Clover, Kings Mountain State Park and Gaston County coming in late August or early September, and a 19-mile out-and-back route connecting York, Sharon, Hickory Grove and Smyrna. Signs should go up in September.

The Fort Mill Route bisects U.S. 21. On the east side it runs along Fort Mill Parkway, Banks Road, Fairway Drive, Doby’s Bridge and Kimbrell roads, Tom Hall Street, Springfield Parkway and Regent Parkway. The west side includes Springfield Parkway, Pleasant Road, S.C. 160, Gray Rock Road and Sutton Road.

Many of the roads in the new routes are already used by cyclists, but placing numbered signs can show cyclists the friendliest routes in terms of traffic and road conditions.

“The routes in York County provide mostly a rural riding experience, where traffic levels are minimal and roadways are narrower,” said Steve Allen, planner with York County. “There are occasions where the routes travel through more urban or suburban environments. In those environments we have tried, where feasible, to plan the routes on lower volume traffic streets.”

Planners say cycling for recreation and transportation is increasing. They also tout increased tourism revenue, economic growth potential and a variety of public health benefits.

Not all bike riders are the same, Allen said. Those who prefer trails at the Anne Springs Close Greenway may not want to bike roadways. Others may stick to the Giordana Velodrome in Rock Hill. The new county routes are another option.

“There are different types of riders with differing riding skill levels and preferences throughout the county and region,” Allen said. “Some enjoy the wide-open rural roadways, some urban street environments with clearly defined bike lanes and lower speeds.”