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South Carolina

Greenville Embraces Pedestrian-Friendly Streets Initiative

'Complete Streets' can reap economic benefits

"There are many simple things you can do to make roads safer for older adults," Love said. "Have longer waiting times at intersections, better signage."

For older pedestrians, having a safe refuge in a median is important.

Simple changes; big impact

Some of these changes can be expensive, and some critics cite the cost as a reason not to implement complete streets policies.

But supporters contend many projects can be completed with little cost and argue that making areas pedestrian-friendly can reap economic benefits.

"It's about changing investments," said Rachael Bronson, former executive director of the Palmetto Cycling Coalition. "It can be simple to improve roadways, to make it safer to travel on for pedestrians and cyclists … as simple as narrowing roads and putting in bike lanes."

About a dozen cities or towns and five counties in South Carolina have adopted complete streets, but many are slow to implement initiatives, Love said.

Camden has a project due for completion in 2016 that will make the city's downtown area more pedestrian-friendly by diverting tractor-trailers to an alternate road around the downtown area and reducing a three-block section of the main street from four lanes to two, said Shawn Putnam, city planner.

"We need to promote increased physical activity," Putnam said. "We need to provide an environment where more people can walk and ride bikes safely."

Lack of activity is an issue for South Carolinians, where half the adults do not get enough exercise, according to a DHEC report. Nationally South Carolina ranks:

  • 5th in stroke death rate.
  • 10th in diabetes.
  • 14th with overweight or obesity rate.

"People of all ages benefit from opportunities to engage in walking or biking," said Maureen Sevigny, of Sumter, a member of the board of directors of the Palmetto Cycling Coalition. Complete Streets "encourage people to leave their cars and engage in active transportation."

AARP South Carolina plans to continue urging local officials to adopt a complete streets program in their jurisdictions, said communications director Patrick Cobb.

Lezlie Patterson is a writer living in Chapin, S.C.

Also of interest: America needs complete streets.

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