Mind the blog lull

Our apologies for the lack of blogging. As you likely know, we spent last week Palmetto Joyriding with Mia Birk from Charleston to Columbia to Greenville, and we’ve spent much of this week recovering and debriefing.

It’s amazing to think that we put on over a dozen events in three cities in three days. The only way that an effort like this would even be possible is through strong leadership, willing sponsors, and dedicated partners. The leadership came from Palmetto Conservation Foundation‘s Executive Director Natalie Britt, who is also the PCC’s first and former Executive Director. Natalie’s dedication, clear vision, attention to detail, and compassion to the cause truly led the way in making Palmetto Joyride a success.

Me (Rachael) along with the Joyride leaders, Natalie Britt (center) and Mia Birk (right).

Our sponsors in the Joyride events truly represent the diverse public/private support that exists for bicycling in South Carolina. The program was funded in large part by the FHWA and South Carolina Parks, Recreation and Tourism. In Charleston, our gracious sponsors include Doctor’s Care and Charleston Moves. In Columbia, we were fortunate to have the support of both the City of Columbia and Richland County; Hawley LLC; Outspokin Bicycles; and Edens & Avant. The Greenville events were made possible thru the support of Synterra, Duke Energy, Piedmont Healthcare Foundation, Livewell Greenville/YMCA Greenville, and Tandem, Touring & Recumbent Bicycles. It’s a long list, but it shows the overwhelming support and dedication involved!

A recurring theme of the workshops was the power of partnerships, and there is no doubt that strong partnerships fueled this effort. Our many partners in Charleston include the City of Charleston, the Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments, the College of Charleston, and the Real Estate Studio. In Columbia, we could have not made the events possible without the help of Sustainable Midlands, the Publick House, USC, Nexsen Pruet, Earthfare, Fuss & O’Neill, Summit Cycles, and Cycle Center. Greenville was made possible because of the City of Greenville, Upstate Forever, Fluor, and Alta Planning.

If you were unable to join us at any of the events, I’ll gladly share a quick recap. On Wednesday, September 7 we began the morning with a van tour of the region around the peninsula along with several key players of the Greater Charleston Planning & Engineering community. Many of these individuals, and several others, joined us for a luncheon after the tour, in which the Mayor spoke and Mia shared her insight and inspiration to the group. Following lunch, Mia was swept off on a bike ride of the peninsula, she then had a brief moment to relax, before we took her via pedicab to the College for her keynote lecture. In his welcoming remarks at the lecture, the Mayor assured the audience that he would succeed in dedicating a lane of the Ashley River Bridge to bike/ped use. To cap off a successful day, many joined us for a reception on King Street.

Mayor Riley at the Charleston evening lecture

Thursday began with a working session at USC to discuss how to make the campus more bicycle friendly. After this productive meeting, Mia wowed a room of business and policy leaders at Nexsen Pruet’s beautiful downtown office for a luncheon presentation. We then traveled across town to historic 701 Whaley for a fabulous welcoming by several important local/statewide stakeholders, which was followed by a lecture by Mia. In Mayor Benjamin’s welcoming of Mia to Columbia, he gave her a key to the City and reiterated his support of bicycling for the betterment of the community. Welcoming remarks were also shared by Brian Curran (owner of Outspokin), Representative James Smith, Otis Rawl (President of the SC Chamber of Commerce), Paul Livingston (Chair of Richland County Council), Peter Rowe (Director of HUD for SC), Ryan Nevius (Sustainable Midlands) and Michelle Lewis (Blue Cross Blue Shield of SC). After a brief book-signing, dozens (including Mia, of course!) hopped on their bikes and rode to a fabulous reception at the Publick House.

We concluded our whirlwind week in Greenville, which is often thought as SC’s shining star of bicycle friendliness. The day began with a luncheon meeting at Synterra’s downtown offices, just a stone’s throw from the Swamp Rabbit Trail. Welcoming remarks were shared by Representative Garry Smith, Mark Taylor (CEO of Synterra), as well as a representative from Piedmont Healthcare. We then transitioned to a ‘rolling up of the sleeves’ session in which vital stakeholders met to discuss common challenges and opportunities in the development of a more bicycle friendly upstate. Mia had a brief moment to ride on the Swamp Rabbit before her keynote lecture and the reception at the Greenville Little Theatre.

Thanks again to everyone for your support in making last week a fabulous moment in SC’s bicycling history. Finally, there’s no one better to have the final words of this very lengthy blog post than Mia herself:

In my experience, there are three critical human elements needed in order for a community to be able to become truly bicycle/pedestrian friendly. They need political leaders, training/motivated/supported staff within the bureaucracy, and reasonably organized community advocates. With these three, great progress can be made. Without any one, good things can still happen (especially if one is particularly strong), but it’s less likely.
What I saw in North and South Carolina this past week filled me with joy and hope. All of communities I visited have these elements in place, largely thanks to the advocates and staff. I have great hope for all. Tons of momentum, enthusiasm, positive media, and energetic leaders and residents.
Enormous thanks to our entire NC/SC team – y’all are terrific! It was great to see you. Big thanks to the Palmetto Conservation Foundation, whose energetic director Natalie Britt organized the SC Palmetto Joyride.

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4 responses to “Mind the blog lull”

  1. You did a great job organizing such a packed event! Kudos to you, Natalie and Mia! I wish I could have attended everything else, but really enjoyed the reception/ride at Publick House. Hopefully yours and Mia’s efforts will yield some real-world results.