This is an article originally posted on the Palmetto Cycling Coalition website. You can view the original story here!

SCDOT is making headway towards a complete streets policy. The SC Livable Communities Alliance (SCLCA) is the advocacy engine moving the needle to help SCDOT change their street Design, Planning, and Process.

Here are some of the highlights of The SC Livable Communities Alliance’s progress:

Coalitions work. When we started this policy campaign, there was whirlwind of grassroots responses. Emotional stories from families of loved ones, vulnerable loved ones killed on our roads, on bikes or foot, were heard by legislators. There were countless responses from citizens desperately wanting some local control of street design.

We are advocating both inside and outside of SCDOT. This is necessary to secure SCDOT’s commitment to improving the death and injury rate of people walking and biking in our state.

SC has neighborhood streets with highway designs, and it’s not working. People want their streets back. Back to our families, and not in the hands of traffic violence. Street design must be within our control.

Grassroots response is strong. People want to take ownership of their communities. The way we design our public space resonates with many. Community building and public space are valued and held dear to many, and it wasn’t hard to grow our coalition.

Our main focus is the SCDOT Commissioners. This 9 person body will ultimately vote on whether to adopt our proposed 8 page policy. We made serious progress over the past 2 years with advocating for our policy with SCDOT staff and select commissioners.

In mid-January, Representative Pendarvis in Charleston proposed a complete streets bill (H.3656), and we went full force to support it. The bill simply requires SCDOT to pass a complete streets policy to “…provide safe and efficient accommodation for pedestrians, cyclists, and transit riders”. This will help fulfill their existing mandate to provide for the safe transport of people and goods.

The bill elevated the conversation and our grassroots advocacy, while the real policy still had to happen in the agency itself. SCDOT fought the bill. We fought back and the subcommittee unanimously passed the bill to full committee!

In short, H.3656 pushes SCDOT to adopt a policy while the Alliance’s draft policy pushes 
what should be included in SCDOT’s policy.

After legislative session ended, we returned our full focus to SCDOT. Using the political pressure gained from H.3656, we’re now making headway up and down the chain of command with SCDOT’s leadership and other staff.

Great News Moving Forward With SCDOT

In a meeting with the SCDOT Secretary of Transportation Christy Hall, we found SCDOT is now willing to:

1. Update Their Design Manual

SCDOT is willing to update their design manual with stronger guidance on using bike/ped facilities more often, “where appropriate and based on regional planning by the MPO/COG”.

This is based on the assumption local governments (and their citizens) get bike/ped needs documented and adopted as a Plan in the MPO/COG, “providing a source document that [SCDOT] staff [can] reference when developing a project.” These words come straight from an email we received from the SCDOT Secretary of Transportation. She also stated, “this is the best procedural way to effectively plan instead of trying to chase a paver just ahead of resurfacing.”

Let’s honor this and get the needs of our neighborhoods heard, documented, adopted by the city or county, and then collectively adopted by the regional MPO or COG governing body for transportation policy.

The first half of this process is citizen-led. Citizens can demand that leadership take on the latter steps in either elected bodies (city councils, mayors) or through city managers & planning administrators.

2. Provide More Training For Engineering Staff

This is golden opportunity for a state agency historically trained in highway infrastructure (design for moving cars/trucks faster), rather than street infrastructure (design for making communities more livable). Learn more about the difference between a highway/road and a street here.

SCDOT truly can’t do street facilities including proper walking & bicycling accommodations without the right training. Training will bring true change. We’re excited!

3. Plan for Safety:

Systemic Pedestrian Safety Analysis (SPSA) is critical to both knowing what the problem is and understanding what can be done to fix it. Google this! It’s a fascinating deep dive into data.

SCDOT was previously focused on hotspot mitigation only: Finding the most dense aggregates of crashes, and mitigating those where crashes pile up the most. A full systemic analysis takes the eye way from the map and refocuses on the spreadsheet of crash data, and then attempts to find some causation or the biggest root causes of those crashes.

The result? Fairness.

So far, SCDOT has found there is a larger problem in the rural areas than they previously thought. Of SC’s 46 counties, half of the top 10 counties with the highest pedestrian fatality rate, are rural. Yes, rural pedestrian fatalities. Rural areas don’t have a lot of people, or a lot of pedestrian crashes, but many rural SC counties have a very high number of pedestrian crashes relative to their population (a high rate).

4. Implement a 2 Year Resurfacing List

2 year resurfacing list (compared to the 1 year list we have now) will allow a local government time to incorporate local, public input effectively and more smoothly, especially if there’s a streetscape design that needs altering. Additionally, it may allow the local government time to both find and secure additional sources of funding.

Things are looking up.

These are positive efforts moving forward, by SCDOT, with assistance by the SC Livable Communities Alliance.

The ultimate goal is to nail down a policy to put these changes onto paper and into standard process. Stay current on our progress by following us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram! You can also subscribe to our newsletter here.

Questions? Want to get more involved? Drop us a line at sclivable@pccsc.net or call us at 803-445-1099.