There is a new innovative approach to healthy living being planned that aims to create a new ideal in urban planning – Bicycle City. The developments stated mission is “to create great sustainable places where people can live, work, and visit”. According to co-founder Joe Mellett, "Bicycle City is holistic. We'll address climate change, childhood obesity, and alternative energy—and hope to have a great diversity of people and ideas." The first approved Bicycle City is planned just south of Columbia, SC and will be one of the first car-free communities in the United States, modeled in part after car-free towns in Europe such as Zermatt, Switzerland and the Car-Free District in Freiburg, Germany.
The first phase of the South Carolina development will utilize 160 beautiful acres to construct a small housing development comprised of 9 LEED Certified homes with miles of multi-surface walking and bike trails. An additional option for 628 lush acres with a lake will enable the development to grow to include eco-friendly homes, lake recreation, business space, a school, and multi-use community center/market with local organics. Additional bike trails that will connect the development with a high-speed road-bike course are planned for future use as well.
A series of riverfront paths called the Three Rivers Greenway enable a scenic seven mile bike ride south from Columbia, SC, which lies twelve miles north of Bicycle City. Rail and bus transportation is also available via low traffic routes nearby. Residents and visitors with cars will be invited to park their cars on the perimeter of the development and utilize designated carts and bike trailers to cart their cargo to their respective homes and businesses. The first nine homes will have vehicle access 400 feet away. Residents that are interested in a quieter lifestyle are advised to live closer to the center. Either way, every home will be accessible if emergency vehicles are needed.
The developers are committed to a plan that includes environmental preservation, animal protection, and abundant options for outdoor activity. According to Mellett, "People have told us they want real green amenities not just a few energy saving appliances, windows and insulation. All homes in Bicycle City will have: an environmental certification, some form of alternative energy generation, use natural building materials, will be connected to bike/walking trails, and be a short bike/walking distance from a community center/market."
In addition to emission-free living, residents will benefit from many amenities both within Bicycle City and nearby. Residents will be able to enjoy kayaking on the Congaree River and exploring the Congaree National Park, South Carolina’s first and only national park, which is known for its old-growth floodplain ecosystem. For residents interested in organic food, the South Carolina Farmers Market is nearby and two plots of land within Bicycle City have been proposed for organic gardening. Educational opportunities abound as Columbia is home to 8 colleges and universities including The University of South Carolina. The “City” will be anchored by a community center/market which plans to offer a central park area with a playground, entertainment gazebo, café, bike rental and repairs, and additional educational opportunities such as a bike mechanic institute.
Although Bicycle City offers abundant options for bicycle enthusiasts, Mellett is quick to point out that the development is generally designed for residents that are looking for a solution to a number of environmental and health issues facing ourselves and our children. He poses the question, "Does a green car solve our energy problems if you have to drive everywhere? Bicycle City is a holistic integrator of energy, health, transportation and other critical issues." Home sites cost $30,000 and include a discount if you walk or ride your bike to work. The developers estimate that home costs will range between the $100’s and $200’s, more or less depending on materials, design, and green features.
The developers are open to ideas and seek a collaborative effort with the residents as Bicycle City evolves. For more information and to reserve a spot, visit www.bicyclecitysc.com. As a key model for low-impact development that stresses less pollution and healthier lifestyles, Bicycle City is blazing a trail that is sure to be emulated.
by Brian J. Mellett