Community members outraged over new bike lanes on Farrow Road

Community members outraged over new bike lanes on Farrow Road
Published: Jul. 2, 2018 at 8:52 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 3, 2018 at 8:51 AM EDT
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The City of Columbia is facing major backlash from after adding three miles of bike lanes along Farrow Road.

The lanes extend from Columbia College Drive to East Campanella Drive and run in both directions.

On Monday morning, city officials held a public input meeting to allow community members to express their concerns and opinions related to the project. Hundreds of residents attended the meeting and all spoke out against the work that's been completed so far.

"If it's not broken, don't try to fix it," resident Mazie Lewis said. "We need four lanes on Farrow Drive. It's as simple as that. This project has reduced it to two lanes and it is so much more dangerous for drivers and bicyclists."

City officials said it was approached by the South Carolina Department of Transportation about its plan to repave Farrow Road. Believing it would be cost efficient, officials said it wanted to stripe the pavement at the same time.

"I don't think the City jumped the gun, I think, as we always do, we're very responsive to the public as far as having public meetings and having public input," City Manager Teresa Wilson, said. "I think we were focusing on DOT's timeframe and that they were ready to begin and so we should have slowed them down, or asked if we could slow down in order to have some additional meetings."

Community members said there were no public input meetings held as it pertained to the buffered bike lanes and the City admits that was a mistake.

"What makes sense and the reality of communicating and the public understanding what's going on are two different things," Wilson said. "I think because, obviously, DOT is on certain timetables they have to follow, we agreed to move forward with the project. In hindsight, I think we needed to slow down a little bit and give the public a chance to give input before we even got started."

Many of the residents who spoke out at the meeting want to see the project scrapped and Farrow Road return to four lanes. Whether the bike lanes remain as a result, many are indifferent.

"Bike lanes may be needed but not at the cost of us giving up those two lanes in each direction," Lewis said.

"People don't know what to do with them, they don't know what they're looking at…trying to drive on them. It was just dumb all the way around," resident Gloria Woodward, said.

The City said the new bike lanes are part of its 2015 Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan. It cites extensive traffic studies as the reason behind reducing Farrow Road from four lanes -- two lanes in each direction -- to two lanes total.

"If you go to one of the major intersections like Fontaine and Farrow, as you approach coming from Columbia out this way, the cars have to go across the bike lane and the bikes come over, it's very confusing," Lewis said. 

Wilson said the project is currently on hold as officials hear more feedback from residents. She said the City could decide to get rid of the new bike lanes and return the road to four lanes. However, she said that would require milling and repaving the road. While she couldn't give an approximate price tag, she said that would be paid for by taxpayer dollars and the city's contingency fund.

Signage detailing a change in traffic flow can be found at the ends of the project. Wilson said crews have not yet placed bicycle decals within the bike lane to make it more obvious to drivers. With the project on hold, she does not anticipate that taking place unless it moves forward.

A second public input meeting is being held Monday night at 6 p.m. at Greenview Park.

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