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South Carolina

Greenville Embraces Pedestrian-Friendly Streets Initiative

'Complete Streets' can reap economic benefits

Greenville SC Complete Street - Safe for Cyclists

Greenville’s focus on "complete streets" makes it safer for cyclists like Carl Anderson, 61. Streets are designed for everyone, not just motorists. — Russell Kaye

Carl Anderson, M.D., rides his bike about four miles to work in downtown Greenville. Thanks to the city's focus on "complete streets," the 61-year-old semiretired physician can make most of that ride safely.

See also: The most dangerous cities for walking — and how to fix them

Complete streets is a nationwide initiative urging transportation planners at all levels of government to consider everyone, including pedestrians, cyclists and people with disabilities, when planning new roads or improving existing ones. AARP South Carolina is one of several groups in the state working to promote the policy.

As a cardiovascular surgeon, Anderson endorses exercise for people of all ages. Accessibility encourages exercise, something he notices as riders crowd Greenville's bike paths.

"Complete streets is an ideal way in which we support mobility for all users," said Erika Kirby, director of the state Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity in the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC). "We would like to see our communities designed to accommodate all modes of transportation."

Greenville blazes the path

Greenville has been a leader in adopting the concept — beginning with downtown renovations in the 1970s — even before there was a formal complete streets initiative.

"Streets are not only for cars, but for people as well," said Andrew Meeker, senior landscape architect for Greenville. The city's downtown draws people looking for a place to live that allows them to walk or cycle to work, shopping and entertainment.

Don Hudson, 56, and his wife, Elissa, moved to downtown Greenville four years ago and walk to most of the places they need to go.

"We can go two or three weeks without even getting in the car," he said.

Greenville doesn't limit its complete streets philosophy to downtown. It has worked with the state Department of Transportation to turn four-lane roads into two, with turn and bicycle lanes, during repaving projects.

"We have a strong emphasis on people and places, and finding a balance," Meeker said.

Finding that balance for older residents is important, said Jim Love, AARP South Carolina associate state director for advocacy.

Next: Simple changes; big impact. »

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