The Palmetto Cycling Coalition is dedicated to making South Carolina more bicycle friendly through improving safety and access and providing education. Our past successes include lobbying for SC bike law reform, resulting in the 2008 bicycle safety bill signed into law. Currently, our statewide Safe Streets Save Lives education campaign aims to reach both motorists and bicyclists through media outlets and a local ambassadors program. Since 2013, we’ve worked steadily with SC Department of Transportation (SCDOT) on a draft Complete Streets policy, one which will obligate at the state level that SCDOT incorporate locally adopted Bike/Ped Master Plans and and safety mitigation into their state street designs. The Coalition and its affiliated local organizations have great interest in growing a state bike caucus – one legislator at a time.
Recently when SC Bill H.4923 was introduced, the Coalition immediately began consulting with our partners and a lobbyist to find motivations behind the bill, and we formulated a strategy to reach out to Rep. Nanney. We could not reach her immediately, but decided with our lobbyist that the best strategy in these early days was to achieve this one on one conversation with Nanney first, before activating our membership to respond.
When we spoke to Nanney, she stated bikes and cars in the same publicly owned road space made for potential accidents, and she felt bicyclists should take more responsibility. We responded that:
- The conversation she said she was starting – was in fact already occurring statewide and in many local municipalities.
- We need her support for our existing efforts.
- Public road space should remain open to all users.
- Bicycle use on public roadways should be promoted in an effective and safe manner – not restricted as her bill attempted.
Nanney also stated she believed the bill would likely die in committee, especially since she introduced it so late in the session.
As the Coalition crafted language for our constituents to send to legislators, news of the bill reached the public inspiring an overwhelming response from bicyclists. Many individuals shared concerns with Rep. Nanney about the potential negative consequences of H.4923. We appreciate Rep. Nanney’s decision to proactively remove H.4923 from committee. We recognize that there is public concern about the behaviors of all road users including motorists and cyclists. That concern was a motivating factor in the the Coalition’s initiation of the Safe Streets Save Lives (SSSL) project in 2011. Similarly, research shows better street design also leads to better behavior in all road users, which directly influenced the Coalition’s efforts at lobbying the SCDOT to achieve a solid Complete Streets policy. We welcome Rep. Nanney and all legislators to join the Coalition and its partners in raising awareness of the SSSL project and our efforts with SCDOT, to support a legislative agenda that promotes both safety and choice in our transportation system.
Evidence shows the number of people who bike in South Carolina has risen two decades in a row, and the trend continues. We are communicating with bike friendly state legislators about this, and we will be growing this list of friends until we achieve a sizeable bike caucus. The growing bike movement in the U.S. is not a special interest but a public interest. If our street infrastructure was safer and more inviting for riders, think of how many more people would choose to bike for the sake of their own pocketbooks and healthier families. We can make our great state a safer place to bike. We are here, growing in numbers, not going anywhere, and we have a lot to do – we’ll get there together.
We are excited about the momentum that resulted from the public outcry and see an opportunity to create better channels of communication to respond more quickly and effectively to future opportunities for bike advocacy. We created an Action Center on our website featuring our action alerts, resources, and how to join our statewide bike advocacy listserv to facilitate better communication with local partners and bike advocates. Please subscribe to these new resources to help us build a stronger statewide network. And finally, use the resources on our website to write a Letter to the Editor in your local paper.