A bike-friendly city

Rock Hill's quest to become a bike-friendly city appears not to be an end in itself but rather one step in a longer journey.

Members of the Rock Hill Bicycle Club hope to earn the bike-friendly designation for the city. To date, Spartanburg is the only South Carolina city to earn the distinction, and Charlotte earned it this year.

The designation comes from the League of American Bicyclists, which reviews everything from trails and bike paths to availability of ways to learn about the benefits of cycling. While Rock Hill has a lot of work to do to meet the requirements, it has a good foundation to build on.

For example, the city boasts 21 miles of bike trails, including 43 on sidewalks. That includes a link to the Carolina Threat Trail, a regional network that eventually will connect key points across the Carolinas.

Voters also approved 34 miles of new bike lanes in the 2003 Pennies for Progress road-improvement program. Lanes will be installed on Mount Gallant Road, Ebinport Road and Eden Terrace between the Winthrop Coliseum and Anderson Road in Rock Hill. A series of rural two-lane roads in western York County known as he Nemitz Loop also will get bike lanes.

Plans for a new U.S. 21 bridge over the Catawba River call for 5-foot bike lanes and 5-foot sidewalks on both sides. And a network of trails will connect Rock Hill's downtown area to Manchester Village and other landmarks near the Catawba River.

To increases its chances with the League of American Bicyclists, the city has applied to take part in the "Complete Streets" program, which trains law enforcement, planners, engineers and others to consider bicycling when planning new projects. One of the top goals simply is to make roads safer for cyclists.

With the economic problems facing the nation, many Americans have turned to cycling as a cheap form of transportation. Riding a bike also offers other benefits, including physical exercise and peace of mind -- all derived without polluting the environment.

But cities have to find ways to make cycling safe and to prevent interference between bikes and cars wherever possible. It seems unlikely that Rock Hill will invest significantly in creating bike lanes for existing roads. But planners should consider bike lanes or roads wide enough to accommodate cars and bikes whenever new roads are being built, especially those near residential areas.

Local enthusiasts concede that they have a long way to go before Rock Hill actually is the truly bike-friendly community they envision. But progress is being made; people are looking ahead, and cyclists eventually should have the resources they need to ride safely in the city.

We appreciate this effort and hope members of the Bicycle Club are successful in pursuing this designation.