Thursday, October 21, 2010

Becoming Bikeville: Greenville, SC

Bob and I paid a visit last week to the city where I spent most of my childhood, Greenville, South Carolina for my sister’s wedding. South Carolina has one of the highest unemployment rate the nation but Greenville has weathered the Great Recession better than most cities in the nation.

I suspect this is largely to aggressive and successful economic diversification over the last 30 or 40 years. On top of that, Greenville boasts an amazingly vibrant and bustling urban core, though when my family moved to the little city in the early 1970’s it was all but dead. Then Mayor Max Heller lead an uphill battle against many naysayers to turn around a dilapidated downtown that nobody wanted to frequent. Today, leaders in the public and private sector from all over the country travel to Greenville to find out how they’re making it happen.  Greenvillians can’t stop their justifiable bragging – some of them even crowing about walkability and newly installed bike lanes!

Yes, bike lanes!

Planner Guy Bob and I spend more than a bit of time downtown, lunching alfresco at North Main restaurants and running along the Reedy River on the Swamp Rabbit Trail and in Cleveland Park, Greenville’s historic urban park. Bob was in Planner Guy heaven, as he took in tidy streets, flanked sidewalks filled with dog-walking, stroller pushing and hand-holding pedestrians, decorative street lamps, well-tended planters, benches, and specialty litter receptacles. 

Sure the parking spaces are at a premium so drivers cannot expect to be able to park on the same block as the establishment they plan to patronize but the streetscape is so attractive and so many unique mom and pop shops and restaurants line North Main and the surrounding streets that the walk from car to storefront is hardly an effort. 

It was during one of our runs that we came across a city sign posted on what we took to be an newly opened section of Swamp Rabbit Trail for TTR Bikes – that is Tandem, Touring and Recumbent Bikes (101 S. Hudson St.). The sign advertised bathrooms, water and maps, so we had to stop by.

If you plan to visit Greenville, you might want to consider taking a tour by bike of the downtown , the surrounding historic neighborhoods, and the Cleveland Park area. TTR Bikes just happens to have an impressive fleet of Townies for rent, but those of your who already live in Greenville might want to consider investing in one of the Breezers, Electras, Surly or Fuji, to name a few. After several months of scoping bike shops for foldies, Bob directed my attention to a group of Dahons. No sooner was I oohing and ahhing the very high-end Speed TR (way outside my price range) than was proprietor Scott McCrary setting me up with for a test ride on the entry level Eco 3 (my exact price range).

Scott McCrary, TTR Bikes
Of the Greenvillians with bragging rights that I referred to earlier, Scott and his son Nathaniel are among them. These guys love to talk bikes, bike commuting and Greenville’s strides toward being a bikeable community. Scott bike advocacy extends to his work with Bikeville, the city's Bike Friendly Community Initiative.  For 4 years running, the League of American Bicyclists has awarded Greenville with its bronze-level designation as a Bike Friendly Community.

As regular readers might recall, I’ve been considering getting a folding bike for quite a while to use primarily for trips out of town. My husband and I usually use public transportation when we visit other cities and having a bike that I can easily load on a bus, trolley or urban rail would help us fill in those occasional “missing links” and add to the fun and freedom of experiencing a community the way the locals do as opposed to being confined in a car. Greenville’s public transit system, like Flagstaff’s, is not particularly strong compared to what I am used to in other communities but since we spent virtually all our time in the old City, I could have made all of my trips during last week’s visit by bike.

Here I am on my test ride outside TTR Bikes.  I was grateful for quiet side streets in order to test the Eco 3 since I was a little concerned I'd be shaky with the little bike's geometry, especially when taking a hill.

The ride on the 8-speed Eco 3 was a success so into the shopping cart it went. The McCrarys are shipping my Dahon to Flagstaff via UPS and with any luck I’ll have it in time for my trip to visit my friend Angie in the Valley on Saturday.  Bob and I have already decided we know one of our second biking destination the next time we're in Greenville (after TTR Bikes, of course):

Spero's Original Pete's (it's a landmark!) at Pendleton and East North Street, near downtown.  It has a bike lane and really great hamburgers, because, as we all know, when you are a regular bike commuter you can splurge on a really great hamburger.

When you buy your wife a bike you are also allowed a chili dog, as well.
Blue cheese burger.  The cole slaw has cinnamon in it!



Trisha said...

Looks like fun! I am definitely intrigued by Greenville. Nashville's downtown had a similar transformation, albeit a few years later and sadly without the bike lanes. Looking forward to reading about your adventures on the new bike!

burrito said...

I've got a Dahon too (Curve SL - smaller wheels) - I'm sure you'll love yours!

Amanda said...

Wow, that downtown looks amazing! Desperately jealous and hoping my city could turn around the same way.

I have a Dahon as well and just love it! They are darn good bicycles, and the folding never fails to impress! :)

Chennai said...

Hi there

Nice blog. I am a recent convert to biking. I was wondering if you will add my blog to your blogroll. The website is

2whls3spds said...

Hmmm time to revisit Greenville. I haven't been there since 2007 looks like they have made even greater strides into being bike friendly.

TTR is a great shop, I bought some bits and bobs the last time I was there.


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